After reading a post on the fabulous blog Belle of the Library, I realised that I’ve been neglecting the literature that lead me to study English at university and the reason for my continued love of books. Young Adult fiction might not be fancy enough to impress my seminar leaders, but it was the starting point for my love of literature. So, here are my favourite 5 YA books!
Dreamland – Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen deserves first mention in this post because she was one of the first authors that I fell in love with. The first author who didn’t make me feel like I was reading trash when I picked up a YA novel.
Dreamland focuses on Caitlin and the events after her sister has run away, leaving her mother distraught and Caitlin alone. After meeting Rogerson Caitlin trades the problems at home for a problematic relationship.
(Sort of spoiler, but also major part of the plot) Dessen doesn’t shy away from the issue of domestic abuse, instead it is handled expertly. This isn’t sensationalised, Caitlin’s reasons for not leaving and her self-blame for what happened are realistic and raw. As a reader all I wanted to do was save Cailtin not only because it was a terrible situation that you’d want to take anyone away from, but also because Dessen makes you friends with her characters.
Why I love it: Dessen wrote this story so well I didn’t feel like it was a YA novel. The events are dramatic, but not dramatised.
Favourite lines: ‘I wasn’t able to tell my parents anything in that first twenty-four hours. I couldn’t say I was sorry, or explain how I’d let this happen’.
We Were Liars – E. Lockhart
I read We Were Liars on a coach back from Wales, the story was so gripping I completely zoned out and was back in London in no time.
The Sinclair family are wealthy, good-looking and privileged. Cadence, one of The Liars, runs a little wild on the family holiday Island, but The Liars don’t really do any harm. After Candence loses her memory at 15 after an ‘accident’ on the island she isn’t allowed to return for a few years, and whwn she does return the island and its houses are almost unrecognisable to her and the other Liars act strangely. Slowly Lockhart expertly reveals the horrifying events of the summer Cadence lost her memory, and what exactly happened to The Liars.
Why I love it: Honestly I couldn’t figure this book out. The sense that something aweful had happened was there, but was kept so well hidden it made me unable to stop reading until I finally knew.
Favourite lines: ‘There is not even a Scrabble word for how bad I feel.’
Guitar Girl – Sarra Manning
Guitar Girl follows Molly through the increasing fame of her band The Hormones, and all the pitfalls of the music world.
I enjoyed the transition from light-hearted to serious within the novel. The relationships between the bandmates are also realistic, and her parents dislike of her lifestyle is understandable. I admire the way Manning handles the relationships teenagers have with those around them – Manning demonstrates her ability to explore relationships in Let’s Get Lost, where the he parent/child relationship is heartbreakingly brilliant.
I also credit this novel with my fascination with the music industry – I loved Cherie Currie’s real account of her time in The Runaways in her novel Neon Angel.
Why I loved it: Manning does a great job of exploring the music industry, without making it too seedy for the YA audience.
Favourite lines: I don’t actually have any favourite lines from this novel, but it really is a great story.
Before I Die – Jenny Downham
Before I Die is a morbid but fantastic story. Tessa, the main character, is desperately trying to live her life before her cancer takes over. However, Tessa is often stubborn and is distant from her father. Her father’s struggle to allow her to live out the rest of her life as she chooses, and remaining an authoritative figure in his daughter’s life, is well written and one of the most heart-breaking parts of the story. I can’t deny that I enjoy novels that explore the parent/child relationship and it’s difficulties at times of tragedy.
Downham writes brilliantly, although the character of Tessa can become a little trying at times.
Why I loved it: Like Guitar Girl it was the relationships. Tessa’s relationship with her family was interesting and I preferred it to the parents that are pretty much absent from novels and allow their children to do whatever they want, and then pop up to offer some helpful advice or help them out in someway.
Favourite lines: ‘Keep breathing. Just keep doing it. It’s easy. In and out.’
Looking for Alaska -John Green
After trying to read The Fault In Our Stars and giving up half way through (I’m sorry, I know so many people like it) I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read more Green, but the blurb for Looking for Alaska made me hopeful that I could enjoy this novel – and boy did I!
Miles, The Colonel, Alaska and Takumi are the group of friends that I’d wished I’d had when I was younger – the cool outsiders who seemed invincible. Their shenanigans at boarding school remind me of the stories my dad told me of his boarding school days – which included cutting across a field during cross-country only for him and his friends to get their shorts tangled in barbed wire and leaving them behind!
The novel is well written, and the characters work great together. I enjoyed the before/after titles and thought how the characters find their own closure was far better than an easy fix.
Why I loved it: I suppose in places it was just that dream friendship/boarding school experience. There was just something about the whole novel that I really enjoyed.
Favourite lines: ‘But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating.’
Those are my top 5 YA novels, if you have any books (young adult or not) that you love let me know! And if you want some more book reviews check out my Book Club page for a list and links to the full posts!