1. Born Confused
by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Oh my bloody guts, this is only one of the greatest books I have ever read. Seriously. It's hilarious, it's dramatic (and dramatical), it's full of witty wordplay, it's full of such vivid imagery that even the laziest reader in the world would be able to picture every detail so clearly they're basically watching a movie in their minds, and the protagonist just happens to be a photographer whose family doesn't understand her
It's positively littered (hee, positive litter) with quotable passages, one of which is: "Black was only a few steps from white, negative to photo. A song was only a notch off silence. A black hole was an inside-out star. Suitability -- two letters away from unsuitability. End a mere three letters from friend."
by Robin McKinley
With zero exaggeration, I can assure you that, if Harriet the Spy
had never been written, this
would be my favorite book of all time. Seriously.
Basically, Robin McKinley (please drop everything and read the book that put her on the map, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
, unless you absolutely hate this fairy tale - you monster - because this is really just a novel-length retelling written by someone who casually claims it as her favorite fairy tale of all time) wrote a book about a baker who gets kidnapped by vampires. Saying any more than that would inevitably be somewhat spoileriffic, re: what makes the story so great, but I will tell you that it gave me this
mantra: "It is the strength of the element in you that makes you more able to resist - and simultaneously embrace - its opposite. You are not consumed by the darkness because you are full of light."
So, yeah, this book is kind of a big damn deal.
3. The Princess Diaries
by Meg Cabot
Despite (or because of) being set in New York City instead of San Francisco, this book is 157,000 times better than the movie. And that is saying something, because it would be one of my favorite live-action Disney movies ever even if it hadn't given us all the gift of Anne Hathaway. Which it did.
Anyway. How is it funnier than the movie? Let's see . . . Grandmere is a conniving bitch (think Emily Gilmore, but European fucking royalty
and not a witch
) who considers it "vulgar" to converse in English; Mia's dad is very much alive, and only tells her she's a princess after learning she is definitely his only heir, as he has just had a cancerous testicle removed, which grosses her out to no end, by the way; the Drs. Moscovitz (parents of Michael & Lilly), WHO DID NOT EVEN APPEAR IN THE MOVIE; Mia will not shut up about the hotness that is Michael's body; Mia's mom (who, by the way, is an insanely successful artist who can afford to live in a quite spacious loft even though she regularly does things like, for example, throw away bills if Mia doesn't remind her to pay them first) starts dating her Algebra teacher, and Algebra is Mia's very worst subject, which might just make her flunk the first semester of ninth grade . . . need I go on?
by Laurie Halse Anderson
How do I even begin to describe this book, y'all? Well, let's focus on the main character for like one second: Lia is an anorexic girl (with a history of cutting) whose best friend, Cassie, has recently committed suicide. They hadn't spoken in months, but Cassie called her thirty-something times that night and reminded her of a bet they had made when they were younger to see who could be the skinniest girl in the whole school. In her words, Lia won.
Obviously, it's some heavily
depressing shit. I probably wouldn't have given it a second glance if it wasn't written by Laurie Halse Anderson, so I'm glad she did.
Contains several scenes of chilling imagery, such as:
"We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest, blood dripping from our fingers. We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us into wintergirls, and when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone."
If I really want to die, right now, this minute, in this empty place, I could stab myself in a vein; they're easy enough to see. I could walk into the blizzard and lie down in the snow and bleed out. Hypothermia and blood loss is like going to sleep, like pricking my finger on a thorn or a spindle.
"The light beyond my eyes flashflashflashes with a hundred futures for me. Doctor. Ship's captain. Forest ranger. Librarian. Beloved of that man or that woman or those children or those people who voted for me or who painted my picture. Poet. Arobat. Engineer. Friend. Guardian. Avenging whirlwind. A million futures -- not all pretty, not all long, but all of them mine.
'You lied!' I say. 'I do have a choice.'"
"The nasty voices are always on call, eager to pull me back down
but I do not let them."
"When you're alive, people can hurt you. It's easier to crawl into a bone cage or a snowdrift of confusion. It's easier to lock everybody out.
But it's a lie."
"Her hug makes me strong enough to carry the entire world on my shoulders. She wants me to come home soon. I'm almost ready."
"I spin and weave and knit my words and visions until a life starts to take shape.
There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn't matter anymore.
I am thawing."
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Yes, this bitch again. Deal.
Laurie Halse Anderson is a writer who refuses to limit herself to one genre --- her books range from historical fiction to picture books to an American Girl
series set in an animal clinic, seriously --- but most of her (excellent) YA fiction tends to be about horrifying and/or painful and/or just awkward circumstances that people don't like to talk about because that would be uncomfortable, and this is no exception. It's about a high school senior, a brilliant student who particularly excels in Chemistry, who applies to MIT because it is her dream school. Unfortunately, she doesn't apply anywhere else. Which turns into something of a problem, because she waits and waits and waits and waits and waits some more . . . for what turns out to be a thin letter.
And I haven't even alluded to the tragedy that comes out of nowhere and changes the whole story.
6. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
by Mindy Kaling
Because she's straight-up crazy (and funny and, occasionally on purpose, smart), and I love that about her. Seriously, I love her so much that I want her to become my new BFF sometime in my mid-thirties.
7. A Hat Full of Sky
by Terry Pratchett
Well, obviously I am going to love it when Terry fucking Pratchett writes a book about a girl growing up to be the most powerful witch alive (after the current one dies). This is technically the second in a series of four books about Tiffany, but it's definitely
my favorite because it contains this wisdom nugget:
"Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It's a feeling inside that can hardly be contained."