Tag Archives: My Plain Jane

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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My Plain Jane, by Cynthia Hand, &c.

My Plain Jane audioJane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë are students at Lowood School, where they are, naturally, cold and starving. Charlotte, who is continually scribbling in her notebook, thinks that Jane is somewhat odd, since she talks to herself at times. In actuality, Jane is talking to her friend, Helen Burns, who died a short while ago. When Jane hears that the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits is coming to a local pub, she runs in to observe, and the star agent— the handsome Alexander Blackwood— realizes that Jane can see ghosts, just as the Society members can. It turns out that Jane is a “beacon,” one of the few people in each generation who can draw ghosts to themselves. Most people think that Jane is quite plain, but to the ghosts, she is incredibly lovely.

Once the head of the Society finds out that Jane is a beacon, he orders Blackwood to bring her to London to work with them—spare no expense, whatever it takes. But Jane has never had a normal life, and so she decides to take a nice, quiet governess position at Thornfield Hall, in the employ of one Mr. Rochester. While her boss is tall, dark, and brooding—everything a young woman could desire—Mr. Blackwood will not give up on wooing her to a position with the Society, and Miss Brontë has agreed to help him. Meanwhile, Helen sticks with Jane and continually offers stubbornly sensible but hilarious advice that is generally ignored.

If all this sounds familiar, but just a little off, that’s because Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have taken the classic Jane Eyre and tossed it in a blender with a ghost story, a spy thriller, a dash of romance, and a cup or two of humor. This is a rollicking tale of wild goose chases, mistaken identities, and brilliant satire. For those who missed the first book in this series, My Lady Jane, it is not necessary to read them in order. Let’s hope that the authors have many more Janes in store.

I listened to the downloadable audio version of this book, which was fantastic. Fiona Hardingham brought all of her comedic talent to bear on this story. My favorite voice was that of Helen Burns, a petulant ghost who sounded very much like Shirley Henderson’s role as the weepy friend with a high voice in Bridget Jones’ Diary who lisped, “Bwidget.”

Teens and adults will be completely entertained by this fast-paced and fun mash-up. During the very worst part of Hurricane Florence, when I thought that trees were going to fall on the house any minute, I sat on a kitchen chair in our pantry under the stairs with my phone balanced on the spice mixes and listened for a couple of hours. I barely heard the storm. I can’t think of a higher recommendation than that!

Disclaimer: I listened to our library’s downloadable audio version of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else. (Although I have talked to several colleagues and they completely agree. But don’t tell anyone.)

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