And I’m back with even more Young Adult titles! Somehow, there’s been an explosion of good, contemporary realistic fiction, and I’m not sad about it. Some subject matter has been quite heavy, but other books have been like candy. I basically spent the first half of the year reading young adult because my work life is so busy that time of year. I needed to read books that revolved around story, were quick page-turners, and provided some level of comfort. Sometimes, those great big literary novels are draining, and to be frank, if I’m not finishing books, then I’m not reading much.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Lara Jean lives her life a bit on the periphery. She’s the middle sister of a capable, organized older sister, Margot and the active, affectionate little sister, Kitty. Lara Jean is trying to navigate high school, driving, and maintaining the house in Margot’s absence at college. But life throws her a wrench when letters she has written to the boys she has loved, meant for her eyes only, like diary entries, end up in the mail and out into the hands of those particular boys. What I loved about this story was Lara Jean’s relationship to her sisters, her very teen self, and the realizations she comes to without having much guidance. The sequel P.S. I Still Love You was just released and I’m waiting for the library to let me have my hands on a copy. 4/5
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Jam has been sent to a school for students dealing with issues of mental health and depression. Jam has been dealing with the death of her boyfriend, and has not been able to snap out of her funk. She needs to be away from home where the isolated environment will help her heal. One of her classes is Special Topics in English, an advanced and exclusive class with only five students total. The class is competitive to get into, and students are hand-picked by their teacher. The class is studying The Bell Jar and other works by Sylvia Plath. In their studies and through journals, Jam and her fellow students are able to face their experiences and start to deal with the world around them. Wolitzer has made a name as a popular literary author for adults, but I’ve heard mixed reviews from the people I trust with books. This story was ok, but I couldn’t connect with Jam. It mostly made me want to read The Bell Jar again, and explore more of Plath’s work. 2.5/5
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Theodore Finch is categorized as the school freak. Violet Markey lost her sister in a terrible car accident and doesn’t know how to go on. When they meet at the top of the school bell tower, they both stop each other from demise, without saying much. They end up working together on a year-long assignment for geography class, and go one little adventures throughout Indiana. Finch is out there and is drawing Violet out of her shell, but he is beginning to internalize. This book was lovely and heart-breaking. It portrays mental illness with subtlety and gives you as sense of what it is like to be inside someone’s head when they’re dealing with it. This book brought me to tears, and was an excellent example of the best in Young Adult novels. 4.5/5
The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Paige is a little lost. Her boyfriend died in a freak accident last year, and she has been labeled “The Girl Whose Boyfriend Died,” but she is determined to start living in the now and to come back to reality for this school year. She decides that she is going to pursue Ryan Chase, a popular nice guy who is now available. She also decides she is going to join a club. That club ends up being the Quiz Bowl, and Ryan’s cousin, Max is on the team, back in public school after a stint at the private school in town. He’s sweet and nerdy and likes Tagalongs more than Thin Mints. With the help of her best girl friends and her grandmother, Paige reclaims her year, and maybe even figures out that boy situation. This one tug at my heartstrings. I really identified with Paige. I once was on the Quiz Bowl with a cute, nerdy boy, too, and you can guess how that turned out. 😉 I love her relationship with her grandma, because I also had a very close relationship with mine. I just got her, and loved every second of this book. Plus, I know the author and I can’t resist plugging a fellow Weddingbee, especially one who writes so well. 4/5
Whew! That’s a wrap on my YA book reviews so far. Thanks for hanging with me!