My Best YA Books You've Never Read:
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Set in the deserts of Pakistan, Shabanu is an 11 year-old girl who is coming of age more quickly than she would like. She is forced into a marriage with an older man in order to support her family, but Shabanu has hopes and dreams of her own that she is loathe to sacrifice.
One of the first YA books I read - emotional, heart-breaking, and a window to another culture. I love it. With sequels: Haveli and The House of Djinn
What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
Written in verse, this is Sophie's account of her relations (or sometimes lack thereof) with boys. At times a bit frank, Sophie's voice is acutely adolescent, which allows for teens to easily relate.
I recommend this book to just about every teen girl. I've often seen groups of girls clustered around the book reading it together. It's light, quick, and fun. I love all of Sones' books, including One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies; Stop Pretending; and What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know
The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
Forget vampires, werewolves, or faeries, and instead venture into the world of goblins and trolls. Orphan sisters Kate and Emily move to Hallow Hill, an ancient estate of the family, where women have been disappearing for ages. King of the Goblins, Marak, might have something to do with that and just may be looking for a new bride.
It's a trilogy, what can I say? So much love. Continue the series with Close Kin and In the Coils of the Snake
The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
I just raved about The Demon King, so now I must properly introduce you to what got me hooked on Chima. The Warrior Heir is a work of such originality and creativity that I was immediately captivated. Jack (a male protagonist! woo!) lives in small town Ohio, where he's had to take heart medicine all of his life. But he finds that there isn't actually anything wrong with his heart, and that instead he is Weirlind, a group of magical people who have a society of their own, unbeknownst to mere humans. Adventure! Intrigue! And tons of action.
Did I mention it's part of a trilogy? :) Next: The Wizard Heir and The Dragon Heir
So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
We all know and love Mr. Westerfeld, right? Of Uglies fame with Leviathan recently released and a score of other science fiction novels that deserve loads of attention. Well, I have to confess. So Yesterday is my favorite of his. Set in New York City, this novel follows 17 year-old Hunter, a Trendsetter, who is constantly on the lookout for the next big thing. How does cool become cool? He'll let you know.
Side note: I recommended this book to an adolescent boy, and it instantly became his favorite book. Oh, happy librarian moment!
Girl, 15, Charming But Insane by Sue Limb
Hilarious chick lit. Jess is a bit of an ugly duckling with a gorgeous best friend and little hope of attaining a boyfriend. But she deals. Through humor and self-deprecation, mostly. This is a fun, light read - would be great on audio.
Next: Girl, (Nearly) 16, Absolute Torture and Girl, Going on 17, Pants on Fire
C'mon, the titles alone makes you want to read them!
House of Stairs by William Sleator
One by one, five sixteen-year-old orphans are brought to a strange building. It is not a prison, not a hospital; it has no walls, no ceiling, no floor. Nothing but endless flights of stairs leading nowhere —except back to a strange red machine. The five must learn to love the machine and let it rule their lives. But will they let it kill their souls? This chilling, suspenseful indictment of mind control is a classic of science fiction and will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.
Elsewhere by Will Shetterly
A novel set in Terri Windling's Borderland, a place between our real world and the world of faerie, this book follows Ron, who runs away to Bordertown in search of his older brother. Elves abound! The strength of this novel is in the setting, hands down. Ron encounters fellow runaways, flying motorcycles, and a gang of elves, among other unusual things.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
My first foray into LGBTQ literature, and it couldn't have been better.
In this school, the gay kids and the straight kids all get along just fine, the quarterback is a cross-dresser, and the cheerleaders ride Harleys-- yet the road to true love is still a strange and winding path, as Paul discovers when he meets the boy of his dreams.It's been awhile since I've read it, but I do remember how much I felt for Paul. A must read.
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
Creel is selfishly sacrificed by her aunt to the local dragon in town with the hope of a prince coming to her rescue and making her his bride, bestowing wealth on her family. Except that Creel is poor and a nobody, and she is not about to be rescued by a prince. Instead, she befriends the dragon and wins her freedom along with a parting gift, a pair of slippers. She then sets out on foot to the city, where she hopes to find work as a seamstress. And then there's some trouble with the dragons...
Jessica Day George is one of my new favorite authors. She has a beautiful way with words. Continue Creel's adventures in Dragon Flight and Dragon Spear
A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
A Rumpelstiltskin retelling. Charlotte Miller is now the owner of Stirwaters, her late father's mill. She must learn to manage the business, pay back debts, and avoid the curse that has plagued the mill for generations.
Truly lovely with a strong female protagonist. Although Charlotte makes some questionable decisions, she is fiercely independent. An easy marriage may solve all her problems, but Charlotte is not taking the easy way out. She will resolve this curse, once and for all.
Sold by Patricia McCormick
This is one of the most difficult books I've ever read - difficult in subject matter, in reading about something so foreign to my own experience and so completely awful. Told in sparse verse that makes it all the more powerful.
Lakshmi is a 13 year-old girl tricked into leaving her home in order to get a job to provide for her family. Except that the job that is lined up for her is to live in a brothel. Where she is auctioned off to male suitors for a night. She lives under Mumtaz's rule, where her earnings are withheld as they are seen as payment for her family's debt. Will she ever be able to leave?