Friday, April 30, 2010

My Top Ten YA Books

Adele of Persnickety Snark has taken on the incredible project of compiling the Top 100 YA Novels by polling readers and asking them to submit their top ten YA books. Top Ten Books? Impossible for a librarian! There's no way to do it other than to just DO IT. And I know that as the Top 100 are revealed, I'll see many that I'll wish I had included, but here is my list:

10. Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (2006). First of all, this book was like a community event for the Young People's Services Department at the library where I was working when I read it. We all had to read it and we all loved it. And then Ms. Murdock came out with two sequels that were just as good as the first book. Not an easy thing, but she managed it. And my love for DJ Schwenk, imperfect heroine and football star, just grew and grew.

9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007). I'm a big fan of books that make me laugh and cry. As Dolly Parton once said: "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion!" Part-Time Indian did that for me, plus it allowed me to experience a slice of life through a kid of another culture. And it does this in such a completely non-didactic way that it's, well, completely wonderful.

8. Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff (1993). This is a book that I loved when I was a teen. The story stuck with me all the way through growing up and when I revisited it as an adult, the story still held up. This is one of those books that helped form me, I think. And I don't know what more I can say.

7. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (1995). I first read this book in college. It had been given to me by a high school friend and, though I am remarkably terrible about reading books that people give me, I picked it up. It took me a little while to get into it, but once I did, boy howdy I couldn't put it down. And the ending to the trilogy is one of the most moving endings of any books ever.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960). I actually never read this book in high school, but picked it up on my own. It's such a powerful story and it always rings true to me and I cry every time I read it.

5. Alanna by Tamora Pierce (1983). I had always heard good things about Tamora Pierce and once I picked up Alanna, I knew why. Alanna's your quintessential kick-butt heroine and I love that about her.

4. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger (1974). This was another one of those books that helped me become who I am. The story's about a girl who has no self-confidence and gets pushed around by her verbally abusive father until, inspired by her new English teacher, she begins to change. When her teacher is fired, Marcy and her new friends protest, standing up for what they believe is right. Seeing Marcy start to come out of her shell and stand up to her father and to others in authority was just the kind of story I loved and wanted when I was a teen.

3. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (2003). This is the perfect book for book-lovers. The character of Mattie Gokey leaps off the page - her pain becomes the reader's pain - and I've never rooted for a book character as strongly as I rooted for Mattie. Plus, I first read this one at just the right time - I was just starting to get into teen novels and consider librarianship. I have no doubts that it's reading awesome books like this one that made me take the plunge into becoming a heavy reader of YA (and I'm so glad I did!).

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008). This is, hands-down, the best YA book I've read in recent years. The action is non-stop and it has wonderful characters as well. Plus, the world-building is just fantastic. Every time I read it, I remember anew how much I love it.

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993). I don't even know if this one counts as YA, but even it means throwing my top vote away I included it on my list because that's how much I love it. Of course, it's impossible for a librarian to pick just ONE favorite book, but if I had to... I might pick The Giver. I loved it when I was 12 or so and I've read it many times since then and I still love it now. It's the story of Jonas, a boy coming of age and figuring out some terrible truths about the world he so blindly loved. If that's not a YA plight, what is?

So, let's see. For those playing along at home, my list consists of:

- All American authors except Philip Pullman
- 4 fantasy/sci-fi, 2 historical, and 4 contemporary/realistic fiction
- 3 first read when I was a teen,  0 read for school
- And pub dates all over the map:

1960s - 1
1970s - 1
1980s - 1
1990s - 3
2000s - 4

The entire list leans a little more towards the younger side of YA, though there are definitely some high school books on there. What fun, to make this list! And I can't wait to see what books make the Top 100!