Young Adult Reads
In early November, the NYSL hosted It’s Complicated: Secrets, Schemes, and Friends, a panel of three captivating authors, who have recently released books aimed at young adults. Thanks to member author Richard Peck’s generosity, we held this event and we have recently expanded this branch of our collection to include titles for high schoolers. Thus, this late fall edition of staff recommendations features books we either enjoyed when we were teenagers or that we wish had been around for us to read at that time. Most of these books are found in the newly established area for Young Adult-High School books, at the back of stack 9. You can read more about it on page 15 in the Summer 2015 edition of Books & People.
Manchild in the Promised Land | Claude Brown
Manchild in the Promised Land is a classic memoir/autobiographical novel about growing up on the streets of Harlem in the 1940s and 1950s. Published in 1965, it is still in print and has sold millions of copies. As a young kid, author Claude Brown “lived the life” and lived it hard—gangs, violence, broken homes, dire poverty, and reform school made up his world. He was also a witness to the havoc that hard drugs unleashed on his neighborhood. Manchild in the Promised Land was written while Brown was still in his 20s and his direct prose clearly evokes the day-to-day world that he lived in, as well as the difficulties encountered while attempting to escape the elements destroying his community and peers. I first read it long ago in my later teen years, and again more recently. The book still has an honest eye-opening power that the 50 years since publication have done little to diminish. –Steven McGuirl, Head of Acquisitions
The Perks of Being a Wallflower | Stephen Chbosky
Stephen Chbosky’s the perks of being a wallflower is a story which follows an introverted teenager, Charlie, in his first year of high school. Composed in epistolary format, Charlie writes a series of intimate letters to an anonymous “friend,” detailing the loss of his Aunt Helen and his experiences in his first year of high school. Charlie gains a mentor in his English teacher, who introduces him to various types of music and in a new, embracing group of senior-year friends. Chbosky explores universal themes of first love, suicide, drug use, sex, body image, anxiety, and enduring friendships in this coming-of-age novel. If you enjoy this, I would recommend checking out the 2012 film adaptation. Readers will enjoy the various cultural references scattered throughout the pages. –Kathleen Fox, Interlibrary Loan Coordinator/Circulation Assistant
Ready Player One | Ernest Cline
Travel to the not-too-distant future and a changed world where real life leaves a lot to be desired and everything is better when you’re living, playing, traveling--even attending high school--in the OASIS, a utopian virtual reality world . . . or is it? In Ready Player One, meet Wade Watts a near homeless, abundantly resourceful technological whiz kid, and the first person to crack the enigmatic code left behind by James Halliday—beloved creator of the OASIS-- upon his death. If Wade solves all the puzzles in Halliday’s multi-level potentially deadly contest—which depends on Wade’s vast and deep knowledge of Halliday’s life and the pop culture that surrounded him growing up in the 1980s--he will win Halliday’s massive fortune and complete control of the OASIS. This fast-paced novel, soon to be a film directed by Steven Spielberg, is a great read for sci-fi fans who love video games, pop culture, and underdogs! -Randi Levy, Head of the Children’s Library
Weetzie Bat | Francesca Lia Block
Francesca Lia Block’s Dangerous Angels series meant a lot to me when I was younger, so I re-read Weetzie Bat recently with a bit of trepidation. Often the things the resonate with us as teenagers just don’t hold up over the years, and I kept that in mind as I delved back into this freewheeling, sweet, very 90s gem that speeds through character development but manages to endear you to the characters all the same. A punk-and-neon Los Angeles infused with magical realism is the setting for Weetzie and her friends, Dirk and Duck. Just below this glittering veneer, Block explores themes of addiction, divorce, and the importance of being (and loving) yourself. –Mia D’Avanza, Head of Circulation
John Green and David Levithan are two of the biggest stars in YA books today, but that’s not why you should read Will Grayson, Will Grayson. You will also enjoy the company of both Will Graysons mentioned in the title (yes, this book is about two guys named Will Grayson), but still that’s not reason enough. The real reason to read this book is Tiny Cooper, described by his best friend Will Grayson as maybe “the world’s largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world’s gayest person who is really, really large.” Though true, it doesn’t do him justice. When not at football practice, Tiny is writing and producing a musical about his life called Tiny Dancer (eventually retitled Hold Me Closer and available in our 3M Cloud Library.) It’s almost as wonderful and crazy as Tiny himself. This is a great book for misfits or theater geeks or anyone who ever wanted to fall in love.
–Patrick Rayner, Acquisitions Assistant/Circulation Assistant
The Book Thief | Markus Zusak
What do you get if you mix the Holocaust, friendships, books, and secrets? What if all these things are centered around a little German girl growing up in one of the most violent and confusing times in history? And what if her story is narrated by Death himself? What you get is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. For those who are a fan of beautiful language, gripping plots, and vivid history, this historical novel will capture your heart and sweep you away to a time when courage was quiet, friendships were more powerful than guns, and little girls rebelled by stealing books.
This book gifted me new friendships, renewed faith in humanity, and offered me a sense that even through the worst of times, everything will still be okay. Never before have I reached the last word of a story, paused and contemplated simply turning the book over and starting it again.
–Danielle Gregori, Children’s Librarian
Dime | E.R. Frank
Dime is 14, has only lived with foster families, none of them being very positive experiences, so it’s an easy fall she takes into the life of a prostitute. What’s more surprising is that she is a avid reader, and takes great risks to bring books into her life, including the oft-referenced To Kill a Mockingbird. The story of Dime’s descent into this seedy underworld and attempt to escape from it is told mostly from her perspective, but like The Book Thief, we also get the unique viewpoints of Money, Sex, and Truth as brief narrators. This isn’t an easy story to digest, but you’ll fly through the pages, because Frank’s strong writing and Dime’s tragic tale compel you to find out her fate. I’d say it’s the best book I’ve read this year, perhaps in a few. My thanks to Jennifer Hubert Swan, the moderator for our YA panel, for pushing this critical read into my hands, which gave me insight into the harrowing world of sex trafficking amongst minors. –Susan Vincent Molinaro, Children’s (& Young Adult) Librarian