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Favorite Young Adult Series and Titles

The next installment of The Best of EatReadSleep’s 10th Anniversary series!

For about fifteen years, I either worked with teens in a library or, later, selected teen books for the library system, and I really enjoyed this collection. Young adult literature is a thriving subculture. At conferences, these authors are rock stars, and their fans are not only teenagers, but plenty of adults, especially librarians and teachers. Young adult books are where all of the latest headlines go to live through stories, and there is some great and undervalued writing going on in this space. Some of my selections are a few years old, but definitely stand the test of time.

Beloved Series

If you’ve read EatReadSleep for any number of years, you know that I have covered some YA series every time a new volume comes out. Here are some of my favorites, although I am sure that I’m leaving out something fantastic. Click on the titles for the full reviews, and search the authors for more reviews in the series.

Megan Whalen Turner’s “Queen’s Thief” series starts with a teen-appropriate The Thief and then moves into complex and subtle intrigue with a hint of fantasy.
I will read anything by Maggie Stiefvater, but her “Raven Cycle” is a favorite fantasy series. It starts with The Raven Boys.
Another winning series is “The Lumaterre Chronicles,” by Melina Marchetta, which starts with Finnikin of the Rock, but I reviewed the second volume, Quintana of Charyn. High fantasy with some adult content. The writing is exquisite.  
My Plain Jane and others by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows are hilariously reimagined classics. These are delightful audiobooks, too, narrated by Fiona Hardingham.

Favorite Authors and Single Titles

Jason Reynolds has been the author of many of my favorite kids’ books. The first teen title I read by Jason was the stunning Long Way Down.
John Green had a lot of hits, such as Turtles All the Way Down, although his last work, The Anthropocene Reviewed, was for adults. His teens were always precocious and witty, like the kids I worked with in our library book groups.
Ruta Sepetys is another author who is consistently a winner, especially her first, Between Shades of Gray, and my favorite, The Fountains of Silence.
The Downstairs Girl, by Stacey Lee. A young Chinese woman in reconstruction Atlanta is determined to make it as a writer.
Everything Sad Is Untrue, by Daniel Nayeri. A true story about the Christian author’s family fleeing Iran, humorously told in the style of Scheherazade.
Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell. A brilliant teen romance made agonizing by family secrets and the helplessness of the young and dependent.

There are some excellent LGBTQ+ writers in teen literature, and they’ve been winning awards for decades. A few of my favorites include:

Darius the Great Is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram. Take a trip to Persia—Iran—with this vulnerable and sweet young man and his family. It won the Morris Award for debut novels.
I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson. A brother and sister work through dark secrets to live into the meaning of art. A Printz and Stonewall winner.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz. In 2013, it was the first LGBTQ romance I ever read. This beautiful and heartbreaking book won the Stonewall Award, a Printz honor, and the Pura Belpré Award.
I read the mind-bending We Are the Ants on my way to a Baker & Taylor conference in Orlando, where I met the kind author, Shaun David Hutchinson, and we wept together over the loved ones we had lost to Alzheimer’s.

In our next installment, we will venture into favorite children’s titles from the last ten years!

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I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You the SunJude and Noah are twins. They are so close that they finish one another’s sentences. They can communicate without talking. When they play Rock-Paper-Scissors, they can never make a decision, because they always choose the same thing. They are NoahandJude.

Their parents are both professors, but their mom is the artistic one. Noah pictures her walking on air all the time. Their dad is a jock, and Noah believes that Dad is disappointed in him because he is not interested in sports at all; he’d rather be drawing or painting. Above all, Noah does not want his father to find out that he’s gay.

Jude is so close to her grandmother that when she dies, Jude hangs onto the book of superstitions and sayings that she assembled and calls it her bible. As life starts to unravel for the twins, Jude works hard to rearrange the world by carrying an onion in her pocket or arranging shells on her windowsill.

When their mother decides that the twins should apply to the local arts high school, Noah and Jude experience competition and jealousy as they never have before. Both are sure that the other will be accepted, and their dark emotions come into play as they go through all of the struggles of growing up. As the story jumps three years into the future, we see how the twins’ lives have been changed by the tragic mistakes they made in the past. Told in alternating chapters by each sibling, readers experience both perspectives first-hand.

I’ll Give You the Sun won the Printz Award this year, and since I’ll be attending the Printz reception and hearing Jandy Nelson’s acceptance speech in San Francisco this June, I put it at the top of my list. I read her debut, The Sky Is Everywhere, several years ago when it was first published, and I remembered how sad it was. When I’ll Give You the Sun came out, I wasn’t sure that I could bear to experience that much sorrow again. It is the mark of a good writer that you do feel all of the emotion that they intend, so I will say that Jandy Nelson is a very good writer! Noah and Jude’s story is absolutely tragic most of the time. Both of them make choices that cause the reader to cringe and then dread the consequences. There are wonderful secondary characters, too, who also lead lives filled with sorrow. Thankfully, since this is a coming-of-age novel par excellence, everyone learns from the past and moves forward with greater wisdom—scarred,  yet all the more beautiful for it.

I’ll Give You the Sun is compelling and absorbing. I could not wait to get back to it at the end of each workday, and I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of the artistic process. However, as a realistic teen story, there is quite a bit of sexual content from different orientations— wondering about sex, wanting to have sex, having sex, sexual regrets, and on and on. So, not for tweens. Rather, this one is recommended for older teens and adults.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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