The Top 4 Young Adult Books I Always Recommend

best ya books

Often, people ask me for my opinion of the best YA books out there. After all, in my circle of people, I am “the writer,” so people assume that if I’m into writing, I’m also into reading.

And let me just tell you, that assumption is 100% CORRECT. YA books are my drug of choice, and the only thing I love more than reading them is recommending them!

Here are the four books I’ve recommended most over the past year or so. Some were published this year, others aren’t quite so new, but I think there’s something here for everyone. All of these books can be purchased through the Amazon links on this page.

#1: STRANGE THE DREAMER – Laini Taylor

“The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around–and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly.” 

A mysterious lost city, alchemy, adorably nerdy librarians, and a cast of characters that are deeply flawed and profoundly lovable made me LOVE THIS BOOK. Also, the writing was so good, it inspired me to try a different style in my own work, and now I feel I can say that reading this book revolutionized my perspective of fiction writing altogether.

My only word of warning is that this story is really, really strange (pun not intended, but appreciated nonetheless), so be ready to have your mind blown if you pick up this first book in a two-book series.

#2: THE RAVEN BOYS – Maggie Steifvater

“Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.”

If there is any book that I have bashed people over the head with (figuratively speaking, of course), it’s this one. The characters feel so real, you expect them to walk through the door any minute–and again, even though they are deeply flawed, you just LOVE THEM.

Also: the ending of this first book in a four-book series literally made me yell “WHAT?!” in a public place. Buckle up.

#3: THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING – Erika Johansen

“Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler–and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.”

I absolutely LOVED the medieval feel of this book, and I was fascinated by the fact that it didn’t actually take place in medieval times. Society has returned to a feudalistic system after a dramatic event known as “the Crossing,” and as the history of the Tearling unfolds, the reader discovers more about the country’s tragic beginnings and how William Tear’s utopia turned into the flawed civilization it is now.

This book reminded me a bit of PILLARS OF THE EARTH, especially in the graphic details it included, so if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, proceed cautiously–but I very much enjoyed this trilogy!


I know what you’re thinking. And the answer is, yes, I am recommending my own book, because I LOVE THIS BOOK, DARN IT, AND I THINK YOU WILL TOO.

Crime fighting and time manipulation in London. An old man’s mysterious death and the resulting fallout his granddaughter must deal with. And of course, all the witty dialogue you could ever want.

PULL was a labor of love for me, so I’m including it here because I do recommend it to you, especially if you like all of the above. One reviewer described it as The Mortal Instruments combined with Doctor Who, so there you go.

Happy reading, everyone!

“So, Are You Still Writing?” – The Story of the Past Year of My Life

Almost without fail, whenever I see an acquaintance at the grocery store, a friend at a party, or a relative at a holiday gathering, I am asked the same question: “So, are you still writing?”

Now, this question comes in different forms, but whether it’s “Are you working on any books right now?” or “I heard you wrote a book or something; how’s that going?” the point is the same: So, are you still writing?

My answer: yes, and then again, no.

It has been over a year since PULL made its grand debut, and the year anniversary passed, more or less, without myself or anyone else noticing.

I remember experiencing a vague awareness that my book was a year old, and thinking I should do something special for the anniversary of the release; but then that begged the question, when was the release date, exactly? 

Because those of you who were around for “release day” probably remember that my book released in various formats on various days from February 2nd – 16th. It’s very hard to celebrate properly when your book release is the slow-drip variety and none of your friends are sure when, exactly, they are supposed to congratulate you, and so they don’t, and then by the time they are sure, the moment has passed and everyone is on to the next week’s releases.

(Agent Emma, predictably, was amazing and sent me flowers on my original release day, February 2nd.)

(Because she is the actual best.)

Anyway, I suppose it was hard for me to get excited about an anniversary that didn’t have a definitive date. February 2nd and 9th and 16th of this year passed without incident, and here we are.

So. Am I still writing?

The answer is: I am fighting for the chance to be still writing.

Because I can’t give it up. 

Because there are too many stories that haven’t been told yet.

Because I want to see another announcement in Publisher’s Marketplace with my name on it. 

My brain constantly manufactures storylines and characters and dialogues. Every morning, during my fancy new downtown commute, I talk myself through whatever plotline currently has its claws in my mind. Literally, if you pull up next to me on the highway, you will see me asking myself questions and then talking through the answers.

This time in the car is one of the only times I have to be creative.

I don’t say that to be self-pitying; my life is an absolute dream. I have a home, a husband, and a job that I love. I have three beautiful (and ACTIVE) daughters who make me belly-laugh every single day. We have cars that work, food in our kitchen, beds to sleep in. I wouldn’t trade anything in my life for more writing time.

But my very full life leaves little room for writing. And even less room for events, which I also used to do a lot of.

I know — I still haven’t answered the question. 

Yes, I am still writing. In small snatches of time, I’m working on the stories that captivate me. Some of them are children’s books. Some of them are novels. Some of them are just ideas, and that’s probably all they’ll ever be.

No, I’m not writing the way I used to — for hours on end, with few to no interruptions. Even nights like tonight, when the kids are all asleep by 6:15 (yes, you can borrow my magic wand sometime), I find myself so exhausted that my creativity shuts off and all I can do is consume other people’s creativity. I read, I watch TV, I look at Instagram posts.

But I am too tired to put a book together.

Will this ever change? Will I ever be able to finish another book? Will I ever sign another contract with a publisher?

I certainly hope so. (And yes, I do have a great idea for a YA novel that I want to start working on next month, after I’ve thought through the plot.)

I’m going to do everything I can to make writing a priority, come hell or high water or housework or full-time jobs or children. Because I’ll tell you one thing: books don’t get written without someone writing them. So if I want to write books, then I have to, you know, write books. 

I think my new answer to the question, “So, are you still writing?” will be: Yes, I suppose I am, because I haven’t given up yet. 

Better get back to plotting that new YA novel… see y’all next time.


PULL: Who I’d Cast As Albert And Rosie

So! Pull comes out tomorrow in e-book!

(You’ll be able to get it in paperback on the 16th. Is there an explanation for the double release date? Yes. Is it worth detailing here? Not really.)

Pull Small FC

Now that we are QUITE LITERALLY on the cusp of being thrown headlong into Rosie and Albert’s crime-fighting, underground-superhero version of London, I thought we’d have a little fun with this question:

If Pull ever got made into a movie, who would I want to cast as Albert and Rosie?

(With the understanding that it probably won’t, and even if it ever did, I’d have ZERO control over the casting process.)

I thought about this for a long time–well, at least as long as it took for my taco meat to finish simmering–and here is what I decided.

If I could pick anyone to play Rosie Clayton, it would be Rita Volk.

Rosie Clayton 2

Now, I really have no idea who Rita Volk is, but I stumbled across her in my search for the perfect Rosie, and she really seemed to fit the character who pranced around in my head as I wrote Pull. She’s pretty, but she also looks really down to earth, and maybe even a little sassy.

And if you know anything about Pull, you know our Rosie is a sass-a-frass.


And as for the best person to play Albert Shaw, I would choose Brant Daugherty.

Albert Shaw

Again, I don’t really know who this guy is (something about Pretty Little Liars?). But I stumbled across him in the same way I stumbled across Rita, and he seemed like the perfect fit. He looks like he’d listen to anything you wanted to say, but he would also be ready to punch you in the face at any given moment.

And, yep… that’s Albert.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 4.00.34 PM

(Did I mention he’s also a little sassy?)

If you want to pre-order Pull tonight, or you want to wait and order it tomorrow, be my guest–I’d be honored for you to read it! You can find it on Amazon here. I’m so excited for you guys to meet Rosie and Albert, and to fall into the rabbit hole of London’s secret life that I created for you!