It’s #IreadYA week over at This is Teen, and while I can’t participate in the whole week of activities, I really wanted to complete today’s post. Today, they ask people to make some recommendations for YA reads for others to consider, and to explain why you as a reader choose YA books.
When I was a teen, there really wasn’t a strong YA presence on the bookshelves of my local library or bookshops. To be honest, there wasn’t really a strong YA presence in literature period. As a result, I started reading adult books – probably far earlier than I should – and I developed some pretty strong opinions about what I liked and didn’t like in my books. Over time, the YA market has grown, and I’ve discovered that my reading tastes are often fulfilled by these books.
YA books give us the experience of becoming an adult, of striking out on our own, of discovering who we are. When you read YA, you are immersing yourself in someone’s life, and you travel with them as they try to figure out just how to make it out the other side into adulthood. YA novels also give us an alternate world, much like the world of Mystery or Fantasy novels – it’s why dystopian novels are so popular, and why so many readers go on to explore these genres. At the end of the day, the books that stay with us are the books that speak to us, entertain us and keep us thinking about them long after we’ve closed the covers. I’ve had as many “Permanent Collection” moments with YA books as I have with adult fiction, and I can’t see that changing any time soon.
So … on to my recommendations! My first recommendation is one from my teaching days in a multicultural middle school in Ontario. Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (@RandaAFattah) is the story of an Australian-Palestinian Muslim high school girl living in Melbourne who makes the decision to wear the hijab full-time. This book is equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious, but it’s also an honest account of the struggles many teens feel as they are caught between social pressures and their own religious faith. I loved how the main character, Amal, questions her decision at various points in the novel, because making huge decisions will lead to unexpected consequences, both good and bad. I also love this novel because there’s no preaching here – while Amal does decide to wear the hijab, another of her friends does not, and both girls are portrayed in a positive light. This continues to be a very popular book with students, and brings up great discussion questions in a very natural way.
My second recommendation comes through my book brunch club with Michele at Just a Lil’ Lost. We were new to the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa (@Jkagawa), and were blown away by the depth of the story line and the strength of the characters. The world-building is magical, but there’s an undercurrent of danger from the very beginning that is unsettling and leaves you on the edge of your seat. Meghan, Puck and Ash are well-developed and interesting to read about, and although there’s a triangle, we never felt as if it was the all-consuming focus of the story. It’s so refreshing to see characters making rash decisions and suffering the consequences, and furthermore growing as individuals as a result of the whole experience! The blend of current day language and situations with mythical characters and settings works extremely well, especially with the rising conflict. I won’t speak for Michele, but I enjoyed our book club pick (The Iron King) so much that I purchased all the rest and have been leisurely working my way through them. I treat each book as a reward after my ‘scheduled’ reading needs have been met.
There are so many more books out there that are worth reading – this is just the tip of the YA book iceberg, but hopefully it’s enough to get you started. Remember: as I tweeted earlier, great books go beyond a category definition to stay in our thoughts. Don’t let a label hold you back from reading something truly wonderful.
What are your favourite YA reads? What am I missing that I need to be reading? Leave your suggestions below!