If you know me in real life you know I’m an avid reader. My goal on Goodreads last year was 110 books and I read 125, so my goal for this year is 125, we’ll see if I can make it again. I’m lucky enough that I get to review books for several publishers and tour companies and I absolutely love it. The most frequently asked question I get is, “Wow! How do you get to do that?!” and I feel bad when I say it was an absolute fluke.
It started about eleven years ago when I read The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian, and I wrote a review of it on my brand new blog. It was a glowing review because I absolutely loved the book. A few months later, I received a random email from his publicist who thanked me for the review and wanted to send me a box of books in appreciation. I’m not going to turn down a box of books and when she sent them, I promptly read and reviewed them all.
I started reviewing every book I read and, over time, I started getting requests for reviews from numerous authors and publishers. I’ve said yes to everything and I’ve read some great books… and some that were so questionable I wondered if I was being pranked! Now I mostly get lists of books so I can choose what to review. It’s great (although my husband would disagree because he’s sick of putting up more shelving to house my books)!
One of my favorite genres to read is Young Adult. I’ve found that young adult books have really interesting, imaginative story lines and characters with big feelings. I am always so impressed with the complexity and want my children to know big feelings are okay and normal. The best part of having a teenager and a tween is that they are now into these books so when I get a new book, they are also clamoring to read it. I also know how challenging it is to buy books for a teen because you might not know what they enjoy or what is an interesting story, so I’m here to give you a couple of ideas.
The Speed of Falling Objects – Nancy Richardson Fischer
In this story we have a girl, Danger Danny Warren, who lives with her overworked, stressed-out single mom. Her father is a legendary nature survivalist with a TV show (think Bear Grylls) and Danny feels fairly abandoned by both of her parents. For her seventeenth birthday her dad invites her on a special episode for his show and it is revealed he had ulterior motives though Danny makes the best of it.
The duo’s subsequent trip goes wrong and suddenly they find themselves lost in the Amazon Rainforest struggling to survive. I read this in one night and my oldest (14) read it in school as part of her silent reading and kept texting me when she had to stop because she wanted to know what happened next! I will tell you that some of the characters die in this book and the theme of wanting to make a connection with an absentee parent is strong.
The Final Six – Alexandra Monir
I’m not usually a fan of the space/sci-fi genre but I reviewed this book last year and I am still thinking about it because book two comes out soon and I can’t wait! The plot is a combination of The Hunger Games and a little bit of Divergent in that kids are chosen for this mission. Earth is becoming inhabitable so they are sending the best and brightest teenagers to a colony on one of Jupiter’s moons.
Several kids are selected and they go through several “tests” to narrow participants down to the final six. Nothing is as it seems and several “accidents” happen and it makes you wonder if someone is trying to sabotage the entire trip, and Naomi (the protagonist) knows the propaganda being fed about this mission is nonsense yet she’s in the running for one of these spots and she doesn’t know what to do.
House of Salt & Sorrow – Erin A. Craig
I am a big fan of novels that are retellings of classic stories and this one presents readers with a darker version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
I will tell you that people die in this book and there are ghosts (but are there really?) The story revolves around Annaleigh, one of the King’s teen princess daughters, and her quest to find out what is really behind the untimely and strange deaths of her sisters. The closer she gets to the solving the mystery, the more she doubts that what she knows is even real. I loved this one and had no idea what was going on, and it kept me on my toes!
Every Stolen Breath – Kimberly Gabriel
Although I just finished this, it will easily be on my Top Books of 2020 list. No question. Here we have teen Lia, who struggles with the death of her father at the hands of a vigilante teen mob called The Swarm. They seemingly commit random acts of violence but Lia just doesn’t believe it, so she is out to crack the case.
I loved this one because it focused on technology and how smart teenagers actually are. It also leads teen readers to make the comparisons to modern day, real-life things that are are fueled by a mob mentality. The novel does feature death, but it also touches on the loss of a parent and how parental relationships can be strained or changed afterward tragedy.
Sugar – Deirdre Riordan Hall
Have you ever read a book that feels like a ghost–a shadow that’s softly ever present? It breaks your heart and stays in your soul for ever? That is exactly what Sugar did for me. A teen girl, named Sugar because of her larger body size, grows up in a fairly abusive home, feels ostracized, and has a hard time fitting in at home and school. She has non-existent self-esteem and low self-worth and she is really barely getting by.
She finally meets a boy named Even (not Evan) and he hails from an equally awful home, and they become friends. Even does everything he can to show Sugar how valuable she is, how her appearance doesn’t dictate her worth, but that she is beautiful just the way she is. You guys, what a tear-jerker. As a mom, I just wanted to snatch Sugar up and call her my own.
We Were Beautiful – Heather Hepler
Fifteen year-old Mia is a survivor of a car crash that killed her sister. She’s left horribly scarred on her face and body, her parents have split up and are struggling, and she blames herself while missing her sister fiercely. Not knowing what to do, her dad sends her to New York City to a grandma she doesn’t know to maybe “clear her head”.
She soon meets a group of friends including Cooper, who also is scarred, and tries to show Mia there’s more to life than what you look like. I loved this book because it shows kids that you can be gentle with yourself, come back from trauma and that there are people who want to help you along your journey.
Shiver – Maggie Stiefvater
In full disclosure, there are four books in this series and Shiver is the first one. I guarantee that once your kiddo reads it, he/she will be itching to get their hands on the other three!
In it, we have teens who change into werewolves and a young girl who forms a bond with them but she doesn’t understand why. It does have a theme of teenage romance with all of the big feelings that accompany first love. The romance is denied to them via disapproving parents. Ahh, young forbidden love, am I right?
The coolest part? It’s setting takes place in Minnesota and Duluth is mentioned!
In An Instant – Suzanne Redfearn
Although this doesn’t officially come out until March 1, I flew through this book in one night because I couldn’t stop reading it. It’s about Finn (our teen narrator) who is telling us about her family and her best friend, and they are all gathering up into a rickety rented van to drive to a winter ski vacation.
The family stops to pick up a hitchhiker and soon after experience a car accident. The van goes over the side of a cliff. We have a death right away and we see how the remaining nine act in order to save themselves. Phew. I have to tell you, my daughter read this and she had VERY different feelings about it and some of the characters than I did, and we had some really interesting discussions on what she would do in that situation. It was my favorite book of 2019.
I am a huge proponent of reading to and with your children, of all ages. Don’t quit just because they read in school, reading together as a family is fun but also helps you learn more about your child and get a glimpse into the way they think about things. Despite what my husband says, your home can not have too many books. I believe every child has the potential to become a reader, they just have to find the genre that speaks to them. Having a wide variety of genres and topics, but also reading-level appropriate books is key. If your child or teen seems bored with what they are reading, challenge them. Bring out a larger book, take them to the library and have a librarian help you find a topic they are interested in. The best way to raise a reader is to be a reader yourself, so don’t hesitate to grab a few books at the library, too!