Calling my year “difficult” would be an example of understatement. Between months of strike action and preparing for a major move, 2014 has been a challenge.
I haven’t always liked what I was facing. In fact, I sometimes wished that I could disappear into a totally different world, where I was a completely different person, and could make wholly different choices in life.
So I did just that.
I read. A lot.
And, for the most part, I read young adult books.
Now, I know there’s been some debate or eye rolling about adults reading books officially targeted toward teens – and I’m not going to take that whole thing on – but I do want to give a brief explanation as to why I gravitated toward YA:
1. YA still takes on some pretty harsh subjects, but in a way that doesn’t make it feel like the world is about to implode. There’s always a glimmer of hope somewhere.
2. I don’t like most women’s fiction. I can’t relate to many of the storylines (divorce or kids, for instance), and I’m living the plots that I can relate to; it’s not exactly the escapism I look for when I pick up a book.
So, I read YA because it fills a niche like only a good book can.
And, folks? These books are good.
They make the lit snob in me arm herself for battle against any criticism of YA – and she doesn’t defend just anything.
But I don’t want to defend right now. I want to share. Below are a few of my favourite reads from 2014. They weren’t all published this year, but they each let me escape into their worlds when mine wasn’t looking so rosey. And I’m thankful for that.
1. Just One Day / Just One Year
By Gayle Forman
I’m a sucker for European settings. Add a high-stakes love story and quest into the mix, and I’m hooked. Cap it off with a major Shakespeare motif and I’m a goner.
These books kept me hoping when I didn’t think hope would help, and wanting when it wasn’t rational to want. Because sometimes what we want isn’t logical. It just is. And we cling to it.
Kind of like stories.
I should note that the second book isn’t a sequel. It’s billed as a companion – so you’re essentially getting two points of view for said love story and quest.
2. Anna and the French Kiss / Lola and the Boy Next Door / Isla and the Happily Ever After
By Stephanie Perkins
These books could all stand alone. You could read them completely out of order. But don’t! The main characters from each of the books have cameos or feature roles in all of the others. It’s like they’re sequels, without being sequels. You get to stay in the world that Stephanie Perkins creates, but you have entirely new experiences.
And you want to stay in her world. Her characters are amazing. They’re quirky enough to be one of a kind, but still totally believable. Her characters are perhaps some of the most human-like I’ve ever read. And that’s not hyperbole.
Plus, two of these novels take place in Paris. The other is in San Francisco. These books are like travelling with some of the most awesome people you’ll never meet.
3. Open Road Summer
By Emery Lord
Okay, so elements of this book should feel cliché. They should seem either improbable or overplayed. But they don’t.
Emery Lord is like a wizard of prose. Like, if Hermione had a spell to craft sentences, the writing in this book would still win the vial of veritaserum.
So, yeah. Humbling. But also completely awesome. Because I got completely sucked into the story.
My gut got twisted up worse than a sailor’s knot in this story of friendship, false steps, and figuring it out.
4. I’ll Give You The Sun
By Jandy Nelson
I’m not typically a fan of the alternating point of view format, but this one is done with such skill that the book couldn’t function without it. By assigning one character the past point of view, and one the present, the story builds out of order. As such, the alternating narrators raise and answer questions throughout the novel, asking the reader to piece together the sequence of events as they’re revealed. It’s really quite stunning in the way that it’s put together.
Not just that, but the characters in this novel are more teen like than many I’ve read. And that’s not to say that the other characters aren’t true to life; there are many well-written teens in YA. But I could actually see my students in Nelson’s characters. And that’s high praise. Because my students aren’t easy to figure out. They’re not always rational. And they can’t always handle everything that’s asked of them.
Just like the kids in I’ll Give You The Sun.
5. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour
By Morgan Matson
So, I should probably admit that I have a bit of penchant for people who do their own thing in life – who don’t necessarily follow the rules. Well, when the rules aren’t there to, you know, sustain life or something. So, texting while driving? Bad. But throwing someone else’s map out the window and marking up your own? Good.
Which is essentially what Amy and Roger do in this book. People tell them what they’re supposed to do. They decide that it doesn’t work for them. And an epic journey ensues.
Which is where I’ll end off. Because 2015 is bringing big changes. And they’re changes of my own making. Things that I’ve decided to do or not do.
Adventures are only days away. But I’m ready.
As long as I have a book when I need one.