Friday, November 21, 2008

PiLibrarian's Best YA Novels for Adult Readers (Part 1)

During a conversation with author Alex Sanchez in September, he mentioned several authors I hadn't heard of. I was beginning to feel quite out of things until I asked, "Are these authors for grownups?" Ahh, no wonder . . . it's all I can do to keep up with reading for my teenage audience.

Adult readers, do not dispair. I do have recommendations for you too! Every year, dozens of books are published and marketed to teen readers that many adults would enjoy, if they ever found them. Everyone knows about Harry Potter and Twilight: here's my list of Young Adult Novels for Adult Adults. Give one to yourself, or to any book-loving adult (or even a young adult reader). You may find yourself wondering why you never tried YA before.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation:
Volume 1: The Pox Party
Volume 2: The Kingdom on the Waves
by M. T. Anderson

This 2-volume tale of a boy raised in pre-Revolutionary Boston as an experiment (only slowly to realize that he and his African-born mother are, in fact, slaves) is dark and complex, told by multiple characters and writing styles in 18th century English. From a boyhood of violin and Greek lessons, to
betrayal, escape and counter-revolution, Octavian's life is stunning and disturbing history and fiction.
For more, read this Washington Post interview with the author, or the New York Times reviews: Vol.1 & Vol. 2.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

High school junior Hannah Baker gives a narrated city tour on 13 cassette tapes. On this tour are locations of events, both small and large, that led Hannah to her decision to kill herself a few weeks before the story opens. Fellow junior Clay Jenson is listening to the tapes and wondering why he is among the 13 people on Hannah's list to receive them. For anyone who works with or parents teenagers, 13 Reasons Why shows how the accumulation of hurts, bullying, petty behaviour and thoughtlessness can push a seemingly ok teen over the suicide brink.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

A fast-paced, snarky, funny, educational, subversive diatribe against Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, Internet censorship and lots of other things. In the wrong place at the wrong time (and skipping school, no less), 17-year-old Marcus is arrested and interrogated for days as a suspected terrorist. When he's abruptly released into the police state that had been San Francisco, Marcus uses his hacking talents and an old Xbox to create an alternate Internet, rallying teens across the city to action, and ultimately bringing down Homeland Security. When Big Brother starts watching, Little Brother stares right back.

Doctorow is a novelist, Creative Commons proponent, and co-editor of the popular BoingBoing weblog.
Little Brother has been used as the base for at least one secondary school course on civil liberties and tech literacy. Here's the New York Times review of Little Brother.

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes and almost immediate climate change occur when an asteriod collision permanently alters the orbit of the moon. Miranda's journal captures her Pennsylvania family's first year of transition to a new world -- a year of no electricity, sporadic communication, dwindling medical care and rising famine. A companion book, The Dead and the Gone (review), is equally powerful.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Miles goes off to boarding school looking for Rabelais' "Great Perhaps." His quest shifts to "Why" after his close friend, the magnetic, enigmatic, elusive Alaska, is killed (or kills herself) in a drunken car crash. A coming-of-age novel that I won't compare to (but which is possibly as good as) any.

John Green is an author to watch, not to mention smart, funny and tech-savvy. He also has a blog (start with this speech he gave to ALAN), a one-year-videoblog
with his brother Hank (Brotherhood 2.0), where they pioneered the word "nerdfighter."

More fiction and non-fiction titles to come . . . stay tuned.

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