Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday Thirteen: Young Adult Novels

What was your favorite novel when you were a kid? Was there one that you read over and over again? One that sparked your imagination…and made you become the main character? A novel so good that made you say “I want to be a writer when I grow up.”

I remember reading “Harriet the Spy” and then needing to keep a journal of my observations. I remember reading all the books by Ruth Chew – and so desperately wanting something - anything - magical to happen to me. I remember reading Paula Danziger and Judy Blume and feeling a tad closer to whatever normal might be. I tried my hand at writing – but I never had the focus to finish anything that I started.

But that love of reading has always been a part of who I am. I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I used to be able to read a book a day. Until I started blogging. And I will read just about anything. I read the newspaper. I’ll pick up a magazine. I love novels – all kinds – as long as they hold my interest. If I don’t have something to read, I’ll pick up whatever is closest – which just might be a box of cereal – or sometimes, unfortunately, my husband’s “Car and Driver” magazine.

One of my favorite genres is Young Adult literature. And I must thank JK Rowling for making this niche what it is today. She allowed the powers that be to see that novels for children do not have to be dumbed down. To realize that kids could handle difficult concepts and big words. And allowed all of us to see that even though Harry Potter lives in a fantasy world of witches, wizards, and magical creatures…at its heart…it’s about real things – like bullies, friends, teachers, fitting in, and love.

And thanks to JK Rowling…so many authors have found their niche within the world of young adult novels. Including some of my favorite “adult” writers. So…if this is a place you haven’t tried because you didn’t realize that this genre would include you…let me tell you that a good book is a good book…no matter the “intended” audience. To get your feet wet…here are some suggestions:


1. With stories of princesses and princesses in training, it might be easy to dismiss Shannon Hale’s books as “fluff.” BUT…Hale’s take on these somewhat tired themes is exquisite, lyrical, and eloquent. Titles to look for: “The Goose Girl;” “Enna Burning;” “River Secrets;” “Princess Academy” – which also won the Newberry Honor award; and “Book of a Thousand Days.”

2. “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart is a great book filled with mysteries, puzzles, and clever twists. And I love the messages of this book – in that it shows the power and control of the media in what we “believe” – and the value of an education in being able to “see” what is real. There is also a sequel that was just released in May: “The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey.”

3. All of Cornelia Funke's work, including: “Inkheart;” “Inkspell” and the finale to be released in October of this year “Inkdeath;” “Dragon Rider;” “Igraine the Brave;” “When Santa Fell to Earth;” and “The Thief Lord.”

4. I am also a huge fan of Nancy Farmer – who tackles some big issues including cloning, drug lords, kidnapping, and Viking Legends. Some favorites: “House of the Scorpion;” “The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm;” and “The Sea of Trolls.”

5. “Holes” by Louis Sachar is a modern classic. What I love about this book is that it does not hand you all the information and mystery on a platter. Sachar allows the story to build. All the information he give is pertinent. But you just don’t know how until the very end of the story.

6. The entire “Series of Unfortunate Events” – all 13 of them – by Lemony Snicket. Many parents think this series is too dark and gothic for their children – but I found it hilarious. I just love the way Daniel Handler (aka Snicket) writes. He has “editorial” side notes about much of the action – and I *love* the way he defines words throughout the series. These are a must read…or even better…a must listen…as the audio books are narrated to great comic effect by Tim Curry.

7. Carl Hiaasen is one of my favorite authors. He writes a great mystery – usually with an ecological bent – and always with a sick twist. You have to know that at his heart, he is a twelve year old boy…and thus his jump into this genre makes so much sense. His two books “Flush” and “Hoot” follow the same patterns of outlandish situations and characters (one of my favorites is a buffoon adult named Chuck Muckle) but where the kids can see and solve what the grown-ups cannot.

8. My two favorite books by Lois Lowry could not be more different. “Number the Stars” is about a Danish girl sheltering her best friend from the Nazis during World War II. And then there is “The Giver” about a 12 year old boy who becomes disillusioned with his utopian society. Both are Newberry Medal winners. Both are impossible to put down – and impossible to forget.

9. “City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau is another of the post-apocalyptic novels that I am endlessly drawn to. DuPrau has a fresh voice and a new take on this theme. I wasn’t as impressed with its sequel “People of Sparks.”

10. I have never been able to read Tolkien. I’ve tried. But I was bored. So, when I heard about “The Naming” by Alison Croggan, I was a bit skeptical. All reviews state that it’s following Tolkien tradition. Well, I’m so glad I decided to give this book a chance! In the Tolkien tradition, it is the tale of a humble person being sent on a quest by a wise being for what turns out to be a fight against good and evil. Croggan has created a rich and alluring land described in lush prose…with an amazing female protagonist. In what is intended to be a quartet, also check out “The Riddle;” and the soon to be released “The Crow.”

11. I love author Kate DiCamillo. She writes such enchanting tales of friendship, loneliness and perseverance against all odds. My favorites: “The Tale of Despereaux;” “Because of Winn Dixie;” and “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.”

12. My absolute favorite young adult novel is “Summerland” by Michael Chabon. Chabon is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay.” “Summerland” has it all. There’s baseball. Tall Tales. Norse mythology. Adventure. Mystery. And Faith. Just a little faith. Faith that is realized when you can create a hairline crack between that wall between worlds. That wall between you and God. In that place where miracles can and do occur.

13. And then…what would be a list of young adult novels without mentioning a mommy favorite. A tale of romance. A romance so intriguing and addictive, it is likened to crack. Yep…The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. This is such a book for the senses. From the beauty of the characters – to the feel of the cold and stoniness of Edward’s body – the scent of the rain drenched landscape – and of course the scent of blood – to the ability of Edward to hear thoughts except those of the girl he loves – this evocative tale is one you can truly sink your teeth into. (Sorry, I just could not resist. Fangs for your forgiveness. Sorry. Really.)

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44 comments:

One Wired Woman said...

Cool!! Great recommendations. ~Jill :) Happy Thursday!

Rhea said...

Fun Thursday Thirteen! I love the young adult genre also. Shannon Hale is great!! I really like her. Have you read any of Sarah Dessen's novels? They're really awesome.

Great list! Have you been by my site yet? I have a surprise!

Kat said...

Rhea--I have not read Sarah Dessen. What would you suggest to start with? Oh...I love finding a new author.

And, what no comments on my musical pairings? Perhaps I am the only one that likes Nirvana. And finds this pairing amusing. Probably.

Rhea said...

My favs were her newest, Lock and Key or something like that and then Just Listen was really good too.

I didn't have my volume on with my last visit, but I did this time! Great song choice!!!!! Love it.

Teri said...

Do comic books count? :-) Actually I didn't have any time at all to read anything even remotely interesting until the youngest was in kindergarten. That's when we started the Harry Potter books. It is as if my brain cells re-awakened and reminded me that there are books out there for the reading. I have been devoiring books ever since. Especially textbooks for school. While I find those extremely interesting (Kant and Hume especially), I can never find even a spare second to read a "not for credit" book until summer and winter breaks. And it's summer now!

Oh, and I, of course, do indeed get the Nirvana reference. Doug is a HUGE fan. So I hear this ALL the time.

Kat said...

Rhea--I'm about to head out of the house...will have to see if the library has those. Going to get my pedi. Have you seen this you tube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsWrY77o77o

Too funny!

Kat said...

Teri--Well...go and get yourself a teen read! And I know that you like to watch movies - what are you watching these days? Do you still keep your notebook with all your suggestions in it?

SKELLER said...

Kat -
Thanks for the list! I'll be looking for a couple of these at the library next week :-). I completely second your DiCamillo recommendation. I think she's wonderful - each of them modern-classic worthy. And Holes?? Brilliant. (and I might add, one of the few book-movie combos where I actually thought the movie was as good ... nea, perhaps a bit better than the book. And I say that having LOVED the book!)

And your music? I'm afraid I'm one of those freaks who can't read & listen at the same time. I always mute the music. It's enough to try to read with boy noise in the background.... :-}

Kat said...

Susan--You'll have to let me know what you check out - and will they be for you or the boys? The boys would really like Nancy Farmer - and I think "Sea of Trolls" is brilliant. And I understand about the music. I have mine on all the time...but it's on pretty low.

Madeline said...

What a fabulous list. And great timing for my imagination as I am trying to write this young adult novel. I have been meaning to write a very similar post but I had forgotten a bunch of these! I'm glad that you beat me to it. We also love De Camillo, and The Series of Unfortunate Events - Jesse prefers listening to Tim Curry which is unusual for him with books. Tim Curry is brilliant. He also is really into Garth Nix right now, whom I have not read. I loved The Giver and will now have to read her other one that you recommended. Great reviews. Thanks! Oh, and Harriet the Spy had me carrying around a journal in my neighborhood for a year. I also loved The Secret Garden and A Wrinkle in Time, among so many others.

Chubby Mom said...

I just loved The Tale of Despereaux. I read it with my oldest and can't wait until the little ones are old enough.

insane mama said...

I have got to read the saga that everyone is talking about. I think Holes is a fantastic way to introduce younger children to novels.
p.s., I will be in Georgia in a week (near lake blue ridge)

GBK Gwyneth said...

Great list Katrina, thanks for sharing! I will try to remember to come back to it when Camille needs some new material.

I thought I was losing it this week when someone else said "Inkdeath". I swore up and down that the book was to be called "Inkdawn". I finally looked it up, and sure enough, the title was originally going to be Inkdawn and she changed it.

Kat said...

Madeline--How is the book writing coming along? I actually never read Series of Unfortunate events...we listened to them in the car. Tim Curry makes them so memorable. My favorite though is "The Wide Window" which was the one that Daniel Handler himself read.

I was trying to make a list of the more "modern" classics...the ones that a lot of people might not have checked out...or they have seen their kids reading them and hadn't picked them up themselves...

Chubby--Isn't Despereaux sweet? We actually listened to that one as well...and we listened to "Because of Winn-Dixie." I think Cherry Jones, who reads Winn-Dixie is one of the best readers ever.

Insane Mama--Yep, you need to get on the Twilight bandwagon! Have fun at the lake - I hope there is water in it!

Gwyneth--Really? I had always heard it was to be called Inkdeath. You know what I do to keep a list of books? I put them in my cart at Amazon. That way I can "save" books that haven't been released yet - especially when the library doesn't have them in the system yet. Then I just take them out of the cart when I read them.

Monday through Sunday said...

Holes is an all time favorite around here~!

Alice Audrey said...

I've been struggling with what to get for the kids. Thanks.

Nissa said...

I read "Holes" after my son recommended it. He is such an avid reader. He prefers Science fiction; Eoin Colfer and Neal Shusterman being some of his fave authors.
I just ordered him the first "City of Ember" book- I believe there are 3 now- to try out.

I've heard great things about 'Number the Stars".

Like you, I was never able to get into Tolkien. We were forced to read "The Hobbit" in the 9th grade and I detested it. I couldn't even bring myself to go to any of the movies.

As a tween/teen, I liked all of the Anne of Green Gables series (still do), The White Mountains and the Tripod series by John Christopher, each after watching each miniseries on PBS and BBC, respectively. Judy Blume was always great; she talked about such 'grown up' subjects, and I was a big "Sweet Valley High" junkie. :)

Kat said...

Nissa--You really need to give the "Lord of the Rings" movies a chance. They are really good...and this is coming from a Tolkein detester, too. Part of me just thinks you have to be a guy to get into those...but I just know it did not work for me! If Tristan likes sci-fi...you ought to get him to read "The Giver" and two books that follow..."Gathering Blue" is one...and I forget the last one. Neither is nearly as good as "The Giver" but it kind of fills in some questions you have at the end that book.

Sissy said...

OOOOhhh. Sarah Dessen is really good. My favorite from her is "the truth about forever." I loved that one.

I agree with you about most of these authors and titles. My middle school section is stocked with them all. Another author I just discovered is Mark Walden...his HIVE series is really good.

Good job, Kat!

Heather said...

Oh, THIS is a delicious post! I'm going to write these down and hit the bookstore.

Nicole said...

thanks for visiting my blog today. Looks like some good picks. I'm already addicted to the Twilight series. I think I read a three in like a week, I couldn't put it down. I'll have to check out some of your suggestions.

Rhea said...

Kat, how was the pedi? I just watched the You Tube link you sent me. It was HILARIOUS. Loved it. lol

Kat said...

Rhea--My pedi was fabu, thanks! Glad you watched the you-tube...and yes...it's one of the funniest I've seen.

Kat said...

Sissy--Thanks for the other suggestion. I will add it to my list.

Heather--You'll have to let me know what you decide to read. I always wonder if anyone takes my reading suggestions...or cooks from the recipes...

Kat said...

Nicole--Thanks for coming over - and visting me on "your" day! I love your other comment about us being seperated at birth...you know...maybe you were a triplet :-) I always wanted a twin sister...

Lula! said...

THANKS, Kat...this came just in time for our soon-to-come beach trip. Lowis Lowry...sigh...JUDY BLUME...my most favorite ever...sigh...

You know how I feel about Meyer and the Twilight series. I have to stop now, lest I fawn and babble and go all fangirl and drool on Miss Pretty Pink here.

I have 2 authors to add to this list--since finding Stephenie Meyer I have also discovered "Young Adult" authors that are far too good to be kept within the confines of teenagedom. Libba Bray, who wrote the Gemma Doyle trilogy, starting with "A Great and Terrible Beauty." These are BRILLIANT.

And if you're into vamps, like me, read the first 2 in the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz. It's like 90210 gone goth. Oh, SWOON!!!!!!

Val said...

I teach 8th grade so I get recommendations from my students LOL That's where I heard about Twilight which I love. And I had the same experience with Harriet the spy :D
And Lois Lowry-those are definitely two unforgettable books.
Love this list!!!!

Debbie said...

LOVED Holes. I was disappointed when they made the movie b/c it was my go-to book for 6th grade boys who didn't like to read. Which is all of them.

Loved The Giver. I did that one in a student summer book club Before Kids, and the parents were really into that one. It has so many levels and layers, it's a great read for all ages!

Loved City of Ember. People of Sparks wasn't as good, and the third one was just bad. Such a let-down after the first one!

Gary Paulsen is also great for boys, and I love Andrew Clements for fun, easy reads with actual plots.

Mama's Losin' It said...

I like The Giver!!

Firefly mom said...

Great list Kat! My 12 y/o son's favorite is Rick Riordan's The Olympiads series. Think contemporary Greek mythology. Our whole family loves these!

Kat said...

Lula--Oh...Libba Bray is really good. I really liked those books, too - but my list could only go so far. I have not heard of de la Cruz. I'm getting such great suggestions.

Another one to check out is "East" by Edith Pattou.

Val--You'll have to come back by and let me know if you get more suggestions! I'm always on the prowl for more books.

Debbie--I didn't even read "Prophet of Yonwood." I hear that "City of Ember" was made into a movie that is coming out soon. Maybe Hollywood can fix the two sequels?

FM--Katie has read all the Percy Jackson books...but I haven't read them yet. I have them on my list...

Jennifer P. said...

I have been wanting to read Summerland for some time now. Thanks for giving it the thumbs up! I love Margaret Haddox's books "Among the...". The first one, "Among the Hidden" is the best. I read it with my kids last year and thought the concept of government control over the family might be too much for them---but they totally got it. Because they did, we went on to read Orwell's "Animal Farm" together---and they got the just of that one too!

The book I read over and over as a young adult was "Lord of the Flies". It introduced me to the concept of symbolism in a story and I've been a symbol searcher ever since.

And I promise I will read the Twilight Series one of these days. I really want to---but oh! the time required.....I know I'll want to read all 3 as quickly as possible!

Loved the Nirvana to type along to ;)!

Also, you're linked off my blog now--so be ready for me to be here a lot :)!

Alison B. Osborne said...

Oh, I am so excited to have your list! I absolutely love this genre (have even thought about writing one of my own), so more suggestions are always great! I was a pretty big fan of Anne of Green Gables.

Thanks for commenting on the UpTake blog! I agree, Oprah and the AMerican Girl store would be top of my list to visit in Chicago as well!

Angie said...

I almost...almost miss school when seeing some of these titles. Holes, Gary Paulsen, Kate DiCamillo, Carl Hiaasen. He is one of my favorite adult authors so I was excited to see his young adult books come out. Anyone who has a 11ish-14ish boy...you must read the Alex Rider series. The first one is Stormbreaker. (There are about 6 in the series I think.) They are so exciting and suspenseful. My boys LOVED them in class this year (and I did too!)

Kat said...

Jennifer--I'm always thrilled to have a constant. I had forgotten to book mark you the other day (even though I have you in my reader)...but you were easy to find as you are on *everyone's* blog roll :-)

I am going to have to check out "Among the Hidden" - it sounds like something I would like. Katie read "Animal Farm" this year for our homeschooling - we did it in conjunction with our study on Mussolini and Hitler. We also read Todd Strasser's "The Wave." It was cool to compare. And somehow I had managed to get through high school and college without having read that.

And...are we of like mind or what?! "Lord of the Flies" was the *first* novel I read where I really *got* all the symbolism. It's still so empowering to me when I pick up on the symbolism! I love looking for it now. People in my book group think I am nuts.

Alison--Ummm...what happened to your blog? That is some vacation you have taken from updating it! I'm still working on my Atlanta thing. I know...moron *and* slacker. We are going to San Antonio tomorrow...I should have my friend write you one for there. It will be great avoidance behavior from my assigned task. Didn't Rhea tell you I'm a procrastinator? Sorry.

Oh...and from your profile...I see that "Wonder Boys" is one of your favs. Well...Michael Chabon...who wrote my fav "Summerland" wrote that. Go read it...

Kat said...

Angie--I *heart* Carl Hiaasen. I grew up in Florida...and my dad was a fan of his editorial stuff...so it was a natural fit. I hate what they do to his books at the movies though. What was that Striptease movie? So not *anything* like the book. We go to the beach every summer...and one year, we went to meet him when he was promoting "Skinny Dip." I wonder when he'll come out with another YA title...

Sandy C. said...

Oooh! What a great list :) I may have to forward this one off to mom friends I know too :)

Elena said...

Thank you for this list! I was just thinking the other day that it's time to start a great summer novel with my kids. Now I'll have some to choose from. I just bought Stephenie Meyer's Host (for myself) last night. So far it's great.

Kim said...

Thanks for some more suggestions. Denali has been through half of these thanks to your prior list this spring but now she will have even more. One day when I get more than two hours sleep I will go back to reading something other than how to survive and parent. :)
Kim

Debbie said...

I told you you were the literary go to gal!

Erin The Great said...

As a kid, I would read anything that Judy Blume wrote. Now, I'm re-reading the entire works of Jane Austen. They are absolute classics that I haven't tackled in years.

Joye said...

This has to be a record amount of comments! We share several favorite authors and books. You have given me some new directions to check out! Thanks

Storm said...

What a great list. Tfs. Happy TT!

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

All Right Katty-Kins... i've spent the entire day reading your entire blog... and not 2 hours ago you weren't that big a fan of twilight, and now you're loving it??? HMmmmmm.....