I present to you one reader’s best contemporary YA titles for 2010. These are books teens are actually reading by the way. I see these titles check out regularly at my library. I hate to say it, but Will Grayson, Will Grayson? It has barely circulated three times. These titles are a little girl heavy but several of them will work just as well for guy readers. And if anything this list will encourage me to seek out more guy-centric contemporary YA reads.
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. This is my favorite book of 2010 hands down. It is a road trip story with a little romance, a lot of heartache and a great trip throughout the country. Teens will easily relate to Roger’s girl troubles while they will be pulled into Amy’s story of sadness over her father’s death. Postcards, receipts, and definitely the most amazing road trip play lists ever created grace the pages of this story along with the main narrative. This one is for music fans, teens who love a romance with drama, and who need a grand adventure. I guarantee this is going to be a hit.
Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian. This book actually made Kirkus’s 2010 Best Books for Teens and with great reason. This story is intelligent, sad, and above all, plays so well into the drama that encompasses high school life. Natalie has always felt a bit different from her classmates and it shows on the pages. Here is a teen dedicated to her education, to getting ahead. Most librarians know teens like this and they will immediately empathize with her. She may be book smart but has a lot to learn about human emotions. Natalie is an amazing protagonist for female teen readers. She is strong, vulnerable, smart as hell, but yet manages to be the every girl. There is a lot to discuss and appreciate.
A Blue so Dark by Holly Schindler. Mental illness. More teens than I can name deal with this topic with their families, and even themselves, on a daily basis. Holly Schindler delicately balances the harsh realities of schizophrenia with everyday tasks. Aura must go to school. She loves art but yet fears it. She has a crush on a boy but that does not fit into a world of schizophrenia. Her isolation leaps off the pages, as does her care of her mother. Teens today are unfortunately put in that caretaker position too often and this book definitely showcases how difficult that role can be for teenagers. Heart wrenching certainly but this book will do well with teens who need to see themselves in someone else, know they aren’t alone. It is a powerful book, short enough to hold attention and pull you into Aura’s life.
The Cardturner by Louis Sachar. Now, I haven’t seen this book talked about nearly enough but I think it is a fantastic guy story. It is one that may be a little bit harder to get into and difficult because of the bridge terminology but it is well worth pursuing. Alton has no desire to chauffeur his grandfather around nor watch him play bridge. But with nothing better to do, he gets involved in his grandfather’s world. This book is for dedicated readers, both guy and girl. It has a slightly eccentric family and boy friendly romance. Alton and his grandfather may be different generations but their shared wit comes across very well in this story.
Hothouse by Chris Lynch. Heroes, what does that mean? For Russ and DJ it means being honored by the town after their firefighter fathers die during a rescue. But celebration quickly turns to nastiness when it is revealed that the fathers were in fact no heroes. This book is short, with quick-moving dialogue and plenty of guy language. Chris Lynch gets the guy friendship angle exactly right and a story that starts off about heroism turns into something broader. Chris Lynch is a contemporary favorite and this book will work with a wide spectrum of readers.
Forget You by Jennifer Echols. This author does not get nearly enough credit for creating exciting romances. This is definitely for your upper grade teens as sex and alcohol play a large part in the story. However this is far from a story about a bad boy falling in love with the good girl. This is the page-turning story of Zoey, who suffers from amnesia after a car crash, and the guy who helps her heal. In the process, Zoey is dealing with a mother that is falling apart, a father who is marrying someone not much older than she is, and the realization that something is up with her “boyfriend.” It has the bad boy angle but it goes much deeper. This book flies off my shelf, as do Echols’ other stories. If you haven’t found her yet, you are missing out.
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers. You know all that bullying that is going on across the nation? The bullying that is becoming a national epidemic? Well Summers has a story that is going to resonate with teen readers experiencing bullying, insults, and the dread of going to school, knowing only abuse awaits you. Courtney Summers is a powerful and hard-hitting writer and she does not shy away from the cruelty that teens deal with. This book is an authentic look at what it can be like being a high school student today. This book will get teens talking, reading, and seeking out her first novel, Cracked Up To Be.
Stolen by Lucy Christopher. Sixteen year old Gemma has been kidnapped and taken to live in the Australian outback with her captor, Ty. She discovers to her horror that Ty has been watching her for years. She hates him, longs only for escape but finds it impossible. This is both a sad and oddly breathtaking story. Given Gemma’s situation, it would seem impossible to ever understand Ty but teens will find him as multifaceted and evilly likable as the infamous cast of Watchmen. He is a bad guy but yet there is something to his story, and to Gemma’s kidnapping, that will hold you on the edge of your seat.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. France, boarding school, an extremely cute new guy all make this debut novel from Stephanie Perkins a guaranteed girl friendly read. But what makes it even better? It’s Anna herself and how she overcomes the challenges of living in a foreign country, making new friends, exploring new locations, and dreading studying French. It’s high school with a French flair, a definite touch of French romance, and a guy-girl roller coaster friendship that will make female teens asking for readalikes immediately.
The Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante. This gem of a story may have passed you by this November but no worries, you still have a chance to read it! This is a family centric story, with its star Julia, a recent high school valedictorian. She has her summer all mapped out but when her sister asks her to visit, it turns into more than a visit. It is a summer of sisterly understanding and sisterly anger, family drama, and family secrets. This is the perfect book for all those who have somewhat crazy family lives, whether for the good or bad. There is never any easy answer with family and that message comes through in this fast read.
So, there you have it. Just a few of my favorite contemporary YA titles of 2010. I could go on and on really. Have you read Jenny Han? What about Charles Benoit, Kristina McBride or Holly Cupala? From pregnancy to date rape, the appeal of contemporary YA is wide and is growing stronger with each book being published.
Do you have a favorite contemporary YA title from 2010? Any must-reads that need to be in the public or school library?