Friday, January 24, 2014

Favorite reads in 2013

Another year has come and gone, and many, many books were consumed. Some awesome, some lame. The following were my top 3 YA reads, and I'm proud to say that one of them was actually released last year (go me!). Drum roll, please...

In third place is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Released in 2007 in his first book for young adults, author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, an aspiring cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take control of his future, Junior leaves his school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Based on Alexie's own experiences, along with drawings by artist Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, Part-Time Indian made me laugh at loud and suck in tears, all in the same breath.

This is the first YA I've read that captures struggling with self-identity in terms of race, economics, and smarts with an honest, authentic teenage voice. I instantly fell in love with Junior and flew through the pages, praying that he would make it out on top. He reminded me that we must always be brave and stand up for ourselves and what we love most. But at the same time, that we never do it alone.

In the words of Junior: “Do you understand how amazing it is to hear that from an adult? Do you know how amazing it is to hear that from anybody? It's one of the simplest sentences in the world, just four words, but they're the four hugest words in the world when they're put together. You can do it.”

In the second spot is Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Even though I'm not typically into romance, when a book starts with "XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus", you got me. I'm a sucker for anything eighties.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor's the new girl, bullied because she's overweight and dresses like a freak. Park is half-Korean, who's lived in Omaha all his life but still feels like an outsider. This story of first love slowly builds from the first day Eleanor sits next to Park on the bus. First they ignore each other, and then they become friends through their love of comic books and '80s alternative music.

Told from alternating points of view between Eleanor and Park, I was instantly reminded of how we get trapped in our own mind games when it comes to love, never quite knowing how the other sees it. Confused, adorable, innocent, and awkward, everything someone experiences when you really, really like someone. 

And my absolute favorite book that I read last year was the 2007 science fiction novel Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

As described on Amazon, the story is set "in America after the Second Civil War when the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life armies came to an agreement: The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of 13. Between the ages of 13 and 18, however, a parent may choose to retroactively get rid of a child through a process called "unwinding." Unwinding ensures that the child's life doesn’t “technically” end by transplanting all the organs in the child's body to various recipients. Now a common and accepted practice in society, troublesome or unwanted teens are able to easily be unwound."

The novel is told through the eyes of three teens: Connor, a rebel whose parents have ordered his unwinding; Risa, a ward of the state who is to be unwound due to cost-cutting; and Lev, his parents' tenth child whose unwinding has been planned since birth as a religious tithing. Talk about a gruesome set-up. But Shusterman has a way of writing about a controversial topic like abortion without preaching or dispensing any personal perspectives.

Fast-paced, suspenseful and provocative, this futuristic thriller will leave you satisfied, yet contemplating and discussing your own moral beliefs. After reading this book, I picked up two other Shusterman novels, Bruiser and Full Tilt, and I'm awed and jealous at his brilliant imagination tackling thought-provoking topics.

So there you have it. Humor, romance and science fiction, all told with an authentic voice and honest emotion at a fast clip. So good, you'll go back for seconds.

read on!

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