Guest blog posting by Amber Kizer
I’m a reader first and foremost. I love books, so I thought I’d share my favorites of the moment. One of the best things about YA right now is that the quality of the content in the books rivals anything in the “adult” section—so these are also my recommendations for parents, grandparents, teachers and other “over eighteens” that might want to check out the section but don’t know where to start.
I read 20+ books concurrently. I read pages and then switch books like some people channel surf. There comes a point where I absolutely have to finish a book, but I read everything and anything. Okay, I’m lying. I don’t read computer programming or math theory. I’d rather run streak a crowded football stadium than try to untangle either of those! But, I’m huge reader of nonfiction as well—I never know where an idea might germinate from so I keep my mind open to anything that might strike my fancy. I find some of my best books in airport bookstores—I don’t know if it’s the selection or because I’m just in a survival gut mode and make unusual picks based on sleep deprivation or too much caffeine. Don’t know, don’t care, will keep buying books when traveling!
My monthly newsletter always has my current favorites plus bits of my opinions—readers can sign up for that on http://www.amberkizer.com/ if they want to follow my recommendations. Here are my top ten favorites of the moment—liable to change at any time!
Daniel Waters Generation Dead, I love the subtext in this book. It’s a very entertaining zombie, or shall I say “Living Impaired,” story, but it also has great discussion points for racism, homophobia, gender discrimination. The second one is out and I can’t wait to read my way down to it! Elizabeth Scott’s LIVING DEAD GIRL, was creeptastic. So beautifully written and so horrible at the same time. I couldn’t put it down. It’s not a feel good book by any stretch of the imagination, but the ending is completely satisfying and I think will speak to teens in a way that other books might not. Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. This is the book I tell any adult who works with kids or who wants to write YA to read. I think as we get older (speaking from a ripe age of 31 here!) we get enough experience under our belts that little things don’t seem so big anymore. I think it’s easy to lose the understanding of the magnification everything takes on as a teen. This book brings it right back front and center. Plus it’s a great book for teens, again definitely could start a few family conversations that might be hard to have otherwise.
The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry is a story that can be read as is, but is so much more if you’re familiar with classic children’s books—orphans, nannies, adventures, etc. Very funny in a subtle way but it totally works if you don’t know anything, like if you’re a nine year old and haven’t read any of those other classics. Laura Resau What the Moon Saw, beautiful writing but also a lovely story about culture clash and immigration. Wonderful word choices and imagery. Jenny Downham Before I die, I have always loved death books—that genre I’m fairly certain Lurlene McDaniel invented of kids getting cancer or working in hospitals with other kids. They take on taboo subjects and help kids deal. I always know I’m going to cry, but feel satisfied when I pick up one of Lurlene’s books. This debut novel by Jenny Downham felt similar to me, but also had a strength and purpose I appreciate.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox Mary Pearson is realistic science fiction. You don’t have to be a fan at all of the genre to like this book. It’s a wonderful, unfolding story about coming of age and learning about family secrets. The end is priceless. On of my all time most cherished books is THE STAND by Stephen King. I’m a sucker for dystopian and survivalist type stories which is probably why I love Life as we knew it and The Dead and the Gone by Susan Pheffer.
WHAT IT IS by Lynda Barry is an incredible visual feast. I can’t explain the book, but anyone interested in story, art, writing, journaling or edgy, uncategorizable work should find this book.
I became fascinated by the Holocaust when I was in middle school. I ended up winning awards for state projects and poetry so I’ve read a lot of books about the time period—both fiction and non. Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli is masterful. The voice, the characters, the story—are amazing. A must read. Which makes me think of THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak, again fabulous story told by death which could be really hard to pull off, but somehow works in a way that is utterly artistic and entertaining.
Impossible Nancy Werlin’s , is a great modern day fairytale slash riddle slash realistic fiction about finding your identity and strength. And lastly, I’m not usually impressed with short stories—probably having to read too many bad ones in high school. But I love Black Juice by Aussie Margo Lanagan. Fantastic!
Okay, okay, so that’s more than ten and that’s not even adult titles or nonfiction…I also feel like I should point out that I’ve only met one author on this list—so if they’re here it’s because I really love their work and not because we’re BFFs, or I get a kickback or anything! Happy reading! Amber
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