I’ve been busily reading as many of the YA fiction books nominated for the Cybils as I can (up at 5:30am today, 1 ½ books read…). It’s not just reading them, which is fairly straightforward, it’s deciding if they are Good. And one of the factors that constitutes Good in this case is Teen Appeal.
I don’t have any teenagers to buy presents for this Christmas, but I thought that making a list of what books I would give, if I did, might help me sort out how appealing I think some of them are. The list that follows isn't my official Top 10 list, and I have left out a bunch of good books because I think they are simply too depressing to give as happy holiday presents (so although there is one Bad Thing in one of the following books, they are, for the most part, cheerful).
For a Seventh or Eight Grader, boy or girl:
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary Schmidt. I laughed and I cried over this one. Boy and teacher start the year out at war with each other (at least in his mind), but after a few escaped rats, a bit of Shakespeare, and some baseball (the Yankees are the team of choice here, so perhaps not the best gift for Red Sox fans), all is well.
Lemonade Mouth, by Mark Peter Hughes. 5 misfit kids form a band and make friends (in that order). It’s told from the perspective of each of the kids (2 boys and 3 girls), hence its cross gender appeal.
For Older Teens
I’m going with the Gendered Recommendation thing here, which I feel ambivalent about, partly because there are fewer “boy” books I’d buy as presents than there are girl books (1 vs 5), and partly because I think girls are expected to read books with boy heroes and accept that as normative, whereas boys are rarely (I think) given books with girl heroes…*
For a teenaged boy:
Peak, by Roland Smith. I think that loosing part of your ear because it has frozen to the outside of a New York skyscraper is a pretty zippy way to begin a book; it goes on to take the hero to the top of Mt. Everest. Good adventure, interesting characters.
For a teenaged girl who is Romantic, and might in general prefer fantasy:
Red Glass, by Laura Resau. I love this magical, beautiful book about a girl’s journey to Mexico and Latin America, where she must find the courage to go on a quest to save the boy she loves. Full of wonderful people and great images, it also provides a perspective on issues of immigration that I think is very valuable.
For a teenaged girl who is smart with a great sense of humor:
Carpe Diem, by Autumn Cornwall. This book takes an uptight, over achieving girl named Vassar Spore and throws her into the jungles of South East Asia with a nutty grandma and a cute Malaysian cowboy wanabe. Lots of fun!
Other books for girls, that are excellent reads but aren’t lending themselves to easy categorization:
Beauty Shop for Rent, by Laura Bowers
Billie Standish Was Here, by Nancy Crocker
Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, by Carrie Jones my review
For just about anyone:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. I have already lent my Cybils review copy to several other adults, which I usually don’t feel compelled to do.
Like I said above, these aren’t necessarily the 2007 YA books I think are the Best, but rather the ones I think make good presents! I’ve also only read about half of the 123 nominated books, so I might add more to this list. Other suggestions (from 2007 only) welcome! But please, none of the dark ones. You can give those for birthdays or something.
*Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy is currently gathering a list of YA boy’s books, which makes up a bit for the fact that I'm only recommending one...