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Bookworm picks: youth novels

Thu 30 May 2013 In: Books View at Wayback View at NDHA

Winter’s icy fingers are starting to wrap their way around the country, so what better thing to do than stay at home by the heater and devour some books?! To get you started, readers have shared some of their favourite youth novels, and we have picked a few. A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner Recommended by NY Times Book Review Cassie is in grief over the death of her best friend, Julia, who died behind the wheel in a road accident. She had unrequited romantic feelings for her friend, and now she is determined to cycle from Illinois to California with Julia's ashes, so she can scatter them in the ocean that Julia never managed to see. Over the course of her trip, through various experiences and encounters, Cassie confirms to herself that she is gay. And then, when her bike and most of her money is stolen, she discovers her true friends and a sort of unhoped-for salvation. Interspersed through the narrative is the unfolding love story between Heather and Cassie, as Heather slowly reveals to Cassie her true feelings, and Cassie begins to open up to the possibility of reciprocal romance. Annie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden Recommended by reader Leah Porter This ground-breaking book, first published in 1982, is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings. Of the author and the book, the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee said, "Nancy Garden has the distinction of being the first author for young adults to create a lesbian love story with a positive ending. Using a fluid, readable style, Garden opens a window through which readers can find courage to be true to themselves." The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson Recommended by Goodreads users What happens when your two best friends fall in love...with each other? "Their friendship went so far back, it bordered on the Biblical -- in the beginning, there was Nina and Avery and Mel." So says high school senior Nina Bermudez about herself and her two best friends, nicknamed "The Bermudez Triangle" by a jealous wannabe back on Nina's eleventh birthday. But the threesome faces their first separation when Nina goes away the summer before their senior year. And in ten short weeks, everything changes. Nina returns home bursting with stories about Steve, the quirky yet adorable eco-warrior she fell for hard while away. But when she asks her best friends about their summer romances, an awkward silence follows. Nina soon learns the shocking truth when she sees Mel and Avery...kissing. Their friendship is rocked by what feels like the ultimate challenge. But it's only the beginning of a sometimes painful, sometimes funny, always gripping journey as three girls discover who they are and what they really want. Boy meets Boy, by David Levitihan Recommended by reader Leah Porter This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance. When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right. This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world. Deliver Us From Evie by ME Kerr Recommended by After Ellen Told by her brother Parr, this is the story of 18-year-old Evie, her Missouri farm family, and the turmoil created by Evie's love for the local banker's daughter. After Ellen says: “There are few enough young adult novels that deal with lesbianism at all, but almost none that take on complicated issues like butch and femme and passing the way Deliver Us From Evie does.” Hero by Perry Moore “Every Superhero has a secret,” – reader Michael Hudson. The last thing in the world Thom Creed wants is to add to his father’s pain, so he keeps secrets. Like that he has special powers. And that he’s been asked to join the League – the very organization of superheroes that spurned his dad. But the most painful secret of all is one Thom can barely face himself: he’s gay. But becoming a member of the League opens up a new world to Thom. There, he connects with a misfit group of aspiring heroes, including Scarlett, who can control fire but not her anger; Typhoid Larry, who can make anyone sick with his touch; and Ruth, a wise old broad who can see the future. Like Thom, these heroes have things to hide; but they will have to learn to trust one another when they uncover a deadly conspiracy within the League. To survive, Thom will face challenges he never imagined. To find happiness, he’ll have to come to terms with his father’s past and discover the kind of hero he really wants to be. I am J, by Cris Beam Recommended by reader @youngqueerbroke, who says it’s “an amazing coming-of-age book about a young trans* man, definitely recommend it.” J had always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was: a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a "real boy" and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible -- from his parents, from his friends, from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding -- it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost. Cris Beam delivers a powerful and inspiring story of self-discovery as readers share in J's struggle to find his own path and to love his true self. Keeping You a Secret, by Julie Anne Peters Recommended by Goodreads users With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaeger. At least it seems to be. But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship? This moving love story between two girls is a worthy successor to Nancy Garden's classic young adult coming out novel, Annie on My Mind. With her characteristic humor and breezy style, Peters has captured the compelling emotions of young love. The Misfits, by James Howe Recommended by Publisher’s Weekly What do a 12-year-old student who moonlights as a tie salesman, a tall, outspoken girl, a gay middle schooler and a kid branded as a hooligan have in common? Best friends for years, they've all been the target of cruel name-calling and now that they're in seventh grade, they're not about to take it anymore. In this hilarious and poignant novel, Howe (Bunnicula; The Watcher) focuses on the quietest of the bunch, overweight Bobby Goodspeed (the tie salesman), showing how he evolves from nerd to hero when he starts speaking his mind. Addie (the outspoken girl) decides that the four of them should run against more popular peers in the upcoming student council election. But her lofty ideals and rabble-rousing speeches make the wrong kind of waves, offending fellow classmates, teachers and the principal. It is not until softer-spoken Bobby says what's in his heart about nicknames and taunts that people begin to listen and take notice, granting their respect for the boy they used to call "Lardo" and "Fluff." An upbeat, reassuring novel that encourages preteens and teens to celebrate their individuality. Pebble in a Pool, William Taylor (NZ) Recommended by Jayne Scarlet Two tragic deaths are handled very differently by school administrators. A drunk driving accident paralyzes Adrian Vanderlaar and kills his girlfriend. The outpouring of grief is starkly contrasted with the muted response to a gay-bashing murder, causing Paul Carter to speak out. Paul's growing awareness of his sexuality and Adrian's return to school play out artfully in a book brimming with emotion, humour, and humanity, and bravely unsentimental in its treatment of both young men, Pebble in a Pool is a complex yet sparely written account of actions, reactions, and consequences. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (Recommended by, and it's also a great film!) Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up. While we love the main character Charlie, his hilarious and sweet gay friend Patrick is our favourite! The Rainbow High Series, by Alex Sanchez “I loved that when I was a school kid” - reader Jordaniel Verchiel Malendine. Rainbow Boys, Rainbow High and Rainbow Road are a trilogy which follows three high school students who go to a meeting for gay youth: Jason Carrillo is a jock with a steady girlfriend, but he can't stop dreaming about sex...with other guys. Kyle Meeks doesn't ‘look’ gay, but he is. And he hopes he never has to tell anyone - especially his parents. Nelson Glassman is "out" to the entire world, but he can't tell the boy he loves that he wants to be more than just friends. Three teenage boys, coming of age and out of the closet. In a revealing debut novel that percolates with passion and wit, Alex Sanchez follows these very different high-school seniors as their struggles with sexuality and intolerance draw them into a triangle of love, betrayal, and ultimately, friendship. Another Alex Sanchez book to check out: The God Box Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levitihan Recommended by, we reviewed it in 2010: Can you even imagine being at high school and having your incredibly giant and incredibly gay best friend writing a musical with you as a feature character? This is the reality that faces Will Grayson #1 in the book Will Grayson, Will Grayson, a cute piece of gay teen fiction which looks at the very different lives of two teenagers who share the same name. The book is written by John Green and David Levitihan, and the co-authors are effective in giving the two Will Graysons very different, but very strong and plausible voices. The first Will Grayson is an adorable straight music-nerd. He has a substantial attention-grabbing gay best friend, with the perfectly unfitting name of Tiny, who is described with the following: "he may be the world's largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world's gayest person who is really, really large." The second Will Grayson is rather subdued gay type, whose life changes drastically after a chance meeting with his name-sharer in a Chicago porn store. It may all sound a little confusing, but that's probably a reflection of the gay-friendly teenage world the book is based in. The story contains all the same teenage issues we all dealt with – with plenty of added gay spice and drama, chiefly in the form of song and dance. While it canvasses many issues, the true heart of this book is the friendship between the first Will Grayson and Tiny Cooper – a sweet, straight teenager and his incredibly camp, larger than life best friend. The unlikely pairing beautifully expresses what I wish I knew when I was a teenager – who cares if you're straight, gay, fat, nerdy, musical or whimsical - as long as you have true friends who have your back no matter who you are. Or as Will Grayson #1's father succinctly puts it "Will, you can pick your friend, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose." Says it all really! Actually I don't know what that says, I just thought it was funny. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a hilarious, sugary, easy read that makes me wish I went to a gay-friendly high school ... oh, and that I had Tiny Cooper as my best friend. Kamikaze Boys by Jay Bell If the world is against you, don’t give up. Find yourself a kindred spirit. Then you can start fighting back. They say Connor, the one with the crazy eyes and creepy scar, tried to kill his old man. Lately he’s been seen hanging out with David, the gay guy who always eats lunch alone. They make an odd pair, the loser and the psychopath, and bad things happen to people who mess with them. Not that Connor and David are looking for trouble. Even when taking on the world, they seem more interested in each other than fighting. Kamikaze Boys is a story about breaking the chains that bind you and using them to beat down anyone that gets in your way. Better yet, it’s about holding hands with the guy you love while doing so. Compiled by Jacqui Stanford - 30th May 2013    

Credit: Compiled by Jacqui Stanford

First published: Thursday, 30th May 2013 - 11:25am

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