Friday Favorites: Young Adult Books

Friday, January 4, 2013

One of my goals for 2013 was to read more. Although I quantified the resolution, reaching that number isn't nearly as important as keeping my mind full of ideas, stories, and new vocabulary words. Besides, keeping current on what's hot is part of my job! However, sometimes it is useful to reread beloved classics. Full disclosure, with the exception of two books, I did not read any of these works of fiction until I was a legal adult. Fortunately, YA books fluidly cross age demographics and are enjoyed equally by young and old. Sometimes, particularly when I am in a reading slump, I’ll reach for something from the YA shelves and renew my love of this genre. That AND I have a particular affinity for young female protagonists. 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
My sixth grade teacher gifted me this book when I graduated from college. It was one of those books I recommended to everyone after I finished reading it. The coming-of-age story of Francie Nolan is peppered with poverty, heartache, and a difficult home environment, yet as unfamiliar as her life is to most of us, her story resonates on a raw emotional level. Little details like penny candy and New York neighborhood sounds make this book memorable. In truth, I’m probably due for a reread.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

When young Opal goes to the grocery store she leaves not with the groceries her father sent her for, but a new canine companion. This heartwarming tale weaves the hope of loss into the optimistic reality of creating new relationships (even with hard to crack folks, canine companions, and misunderstood people). While the public library is prominently featured in this book (yay!), the most dramatic moment comes courtesy of an outdoor summer party and unexpected storm. I read this just two months ago and promise you won’t regret picking up this award-winning book.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Sometimes books shake your paradigm of justice and morality in such a way that your own reality is forever altered. This is one of those books. Jonas, a twelve-year-old, lives in a utopian community, but when given his life assignment as Receiver of Memories, he is exposed to the dark truths on which his community operates. I can’t help but think how profoundly important this book is, not only because I have included it on this little list, but because it has been challenged, and yes, even banned, in school districts across the nation.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

For anyone who has a penchant for reading aloud and delights in wordplay this classic tale has amused readers for generations. With the unsuspecting arrival of a mysterious tollbooth in his bedroom, young Milo embarks on an adventure with Tock, his furry friend. They travel through exciting lands, meeting memorable characters along the way. The illustrations add to the book’s charm and proves to be the perfect antidote to rainy day boredom. (While you’re at it, be sure to pick up The Dot and the Line, also by Juster.)

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

This book might fall in the category of Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows, since the story lines are strikingly similar, however I think this Pulitzer Prize winning book is more compelling for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s the writing style, with vivid descriptions of nature (plants and trees), but I fell in love with Jody Baxter from his first boyhood moments of romping through swamps and fighting off invading predators. I delayed finishing this book simply because I could not bear to have the story end. Which, is my mind, is the ultimate indicator of a good book.  

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I went back and forth about whether to include this title on my list. In the end my heart won out. With all the accolades, awards, and controversy this book has produced over the past five decades I’m sure you are well-aware of the plot. I've read this book every August since 2002 and still cry in certain passages. I have two copies in my personal library. A couple years back, when I was reading it for a book club selection, I was struck by how many literary themes emerged in my well-worn pages. There isn’t much to say about this book other than you should read it. Let me say that again: you should read this book! Read it for the first time or the 50th time. Read it for passages of silent courage and reminders of human goodness. Read it. And be sure to report back.

Certainly there are other notable and worthy books that have been omitted from this list. I’m curious, what are some of your favorite YA books?

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