Just Read It is a regular feature in which the State Journal seeks recommendations from Wisconsin authors, literary enthusiasts and experts, focused on the contributor’s particular genre of expertise.
So you’ve read the young adult books that made the “best of” lists for 2012? Kelly Jensen, a reference and teen librarian at Beloit Public Library, picks three knockout YA books from last year to take you beyond the titles that got all the press.
1. “The List” by Siobhan Vivian (Push/Scholastic, 2012): Every year during Homecoming Week at Mount Washington High School, a list naming the four prettiest and four ugliest girls is posted for all to see. Vivian tells the story through each of this year’s honorees, shedding light onto what it means to be the prettiest or the ugliest girl. This book — a contemporary spin on Robert Cormier’s classic “The Chocolate War” — dismantles the beauty myth and sheds light onto the struggle of being a high school girl. The eight voices are distinct. Without doubt, this should be required reading not just for teens, but for adults, too.
2. “Something Like Normal” by Trish Doller (Bloomsbury, 2012): Travis is on leave from Marine duty, but he doesn’t come back to his Fort Myers home as a hero. Even worse, he comes back carrying the burden of losing a best friend in battle. Plagued with PTSD-induced nightmares about Charlie’s death and confronted with the way his words impacted a girl from his past, Travis must come face to face with his problems. Doller acutely captures the pain of grief and loss through a strong and memorable male voice.
3. “This is Not a Test” by Courtney Summers (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012): When the zombie apocalypse strikes, Sloane is anything but happy and not because of the zombies. Because that was the day she was going to end her life. This threw a kink in the plans. Now Sloane has taken shelter in the high school, along with five other teens. Even though she’s as safe as she can be, she isn’t sure she wants to live any more than she did before. Is there even a reason to want to live when all hope is lost? Summers offers us a chilling glimpse into a survivor who wants nothing more than to give it all up. It’s a story both about the zombies outside humans — and those that dwell inside us all.
Jensen has been blogging about books, with a focus on young adult fiction, since 2009 at stackedbooks.org.