Favorite Young Adult Novels by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes
Top Picks from YA Bloggers in the Know, #7
We are excited to have two rising stars in the YA world, authors Kim Askew and Amy Helmes of the Twisted Lit series, visiting The Children’s Book Review today. We’ve been reading their clever blog Romancing the Tome (all for the love of the literary adaptation!) for years. Their irresistible debut novel Tempestuouswill land in bookstores this December and Exposure will follow in January.
Rather than report which novels they’re most anticipating reading, we asked them to describe which books inspired them from their adolescence ( FYI: The Twelve by Justin Cronin will be available on October 16). A big thank-you to Kim and Amy for sharing some of their their favorite YA books with us. We can assure you reading the surprising adventures of their richly drawn heroines, Miranda Prospero and Skye Kingston, in the Twisted Lit series is nothing short of thrilling!
By Dodie Smith
Discovering this charming novel as an adult makes me regret the fact that my teenage self was deprived the pleasure. Coming of age in 1930s England, aspiring writer Cassandra Mortmain lays bare her inner musings in journal form, drawing you in with her descriptions of life with her embarrassingly eccentric family in a castle that’s gone to rack and ruin. Mired in the dreary doldrums of a childhood skin she’s eager to shed, Cassandra treads awkwardly on the threshold of adulthood (didn’t we all?) only to discover that she’s not quite ready to leave her fortress just yet.
Ages 14 and up | Publisher: St. Martin’s Press | April 1, 2003 (Reprint)
I’m obsessed with stories of people surviving (or not) in the wilderness, and this novel was one of my earliest experiences with that genre. Like the peregrine falcon he eventually befriends, city boy Sam Gribley feels compelled to spread his wings. He escapes to the Catskills for a year, relying on basic survival skills and his own wits to get by. (A young Bear Grylls, if you will). As reader, you are the only companion for much of his idyllic (and occasionally, harrowing) journey. You’ll envy his freedom, but gain a newfound appreciation along the way for the comforts and confines of home.
Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Puffin Books | April 12, 2004 (Reprint)
I first read this book on a Friday night while grounded for adolescent crimes I (regretfully) no longer recall. I do, however, remember Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox saving me that night, as surely as if they had beamed down on a spaceship and whisked me bodily away from my bedroom banishment. I’ve never been a sci-fi fan, but Adams’ absurdist satire told with incessantly deadpan humor gave me much more than just “the answer to life, the universe, and everything.” It showed me that parental discipline is no match for the amusement that can be found in the right tome at the right time.
Ages 12 and up | Publisher: Crown; 25 Anv edition | August 3, 2004
By S.E. Hinton
Every girl who’s ever fallen for a “bad boy” has this book to thank (or blame, as the case may be). The saga of the Greasers — a parentless band of brothers loyal beyond measure in the midst of a hellish turf war — has always read like a Shakespearean tragedy to me. I’m not sure what astonishes me more: the fact that Hinton was only 16 when she wrote it, or her ability to make this testosterone-fueled world of adolescent angst manifest through the voice of such a tender-hearted teenage narrator, Ponyboy. Like the commitment he made by the novel’s end to “stay gold,” this book will never lose its luster for me.
Ages 12-17 | Publisher: Viking Juvenile; 40 Anv edition | September 6, 2007
I recently reread A Wrinkle in Time, and the story of brainy misfit Meg Murray’s search for her missing scientist father still thrills. It’s reminiscent of The Chronicles of Narnia thematically, but more adult and multi-dimensional (pardon the pun), including space and time travel, telepathy, a love story, and science lessons. Just reading the word “tesseract” (aka a four dimensional shape) has given me chills ever since! And I can’t think of another YA novel with such interesting and complex parental figures and realistic, engaging family dynamics.
Ages 11-15 | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) 50 Anv edition | January 31, 2012
This book kicked off a full-blown obsession with dystopian science fiction that I still indulge in today. It’s a complete mind trip: One by one, five sixteen-year-olds are dropped into a room with what appears to be an infinite number of stairs and no floor, ceiling, or exit (just like the print of the same name by M.C. Escher). The kids have to learn how to coexist in this psychologically torturous environment. It’s much scarier and more grown up than a monster under the bed. You’ll also marvel at the writer’s ability to keep things interesting in such a sparse setting.
Ages 11-15 | Publisher: Penguin Group | October 21, 2004 (reprint)
The tragic love story by the world’s most brilliant playwright is, if not the first YA story–its heroine Juliet is, after all, only thirteen–definitely the most widely known. No matter how many times I read it or see it performed, I can’t help but hope with futility for a happy ending, and I suppose that’s exhibit A for why it has such century-spanning appeal. Most high schoolers are “forced” to read Romeo and Juliet, but if they can look past that, it deserves its place at the top of the Western canon.
Ages 14 and up | Publisher: Simon & Brown | March 27, 2012
Like The Historian, this is a thinking person’s vampire novel. In The Passage, a genetic experiment launches a deadly virus, leaving the survivors to fend off vampirish genetic mutations. This epic-length tome is the first book in what will be a trilogy, with the second in the series available this autumn. The Passage reminded me much more of The Hunger Games and Stephen King’s fantastic dystopian tome The Stand than it did that series with the sparkly blood suckers. (As a teen, I was hooked on Stephen King novels and would have included one of his titles in this list, but I’m fairly certain the language and violence preclude them from being considered YA, even when the protagonists are teens.)
Ages 14 and up | Publisher: Ballantine Books | July 31, 2012
Nicki Richesin is the author and editor of Crush, What I Would Tell Her, Because I Love Her, and The May Queen. She is the San Francisco correspondent for Du Jour and a frequent contributor to Sunset, 7×7, The Huffington Post, Daily Candy, BlackboardEats, and The Horn Book. Find her online at https://nickirichesin.com/.