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!

#4: PULL BY ANNE RILEY

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!

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My Thoughts And Feelings On ALLEGIANT (With Spoilers!)

GIANT WARNING SIGN WITH FLASHING LIGHTS: This post contains many, many spoilers about Veronica Roth’s conclusion to the Divergent trilogy, a little book by the name of Allegiant. If you do not want to see spoilers, I would highly encourage you to close this post and venture elsewhere on the Internets. 

I’m not kidding. This post will COMPLETELY ruin the ending of the book for you if you haven’t read it.

SPOILERS.

SPOILERS EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW MANY SPOILERS THERE ARE?

Now, if you HAVE read it, and you are one of the six whole people who actually cares what I thought about the book, by all means, proceed past the book’s cover, which is absolutely your FINAL warning before ALL THE SPOILERS are launched mercilessly at your face.

Okay. Giddyup.

allegiant-cover

Anne Riley’s Official Thoughts, Feelings, And Reactions To ALLEGIANT

The first thing y’all should know is that I made TWO vlogs about this, neither of which ended up being any good. Apparently, I am no good at talking about things in an organized and/or logical manner, so I’m hoping a blog post will be a little more cohesive.

The second thing I want to say is that Veronica Roth is still one of my very favorite authors, and I’m going to read everything she writes, unless it’s an instruction manual on how to mix cement or something like that. And even then, I’d have a hard time passing it up.

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Yes, Veronica, we can still be besties.

So without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Several people have asked me whether I liked the book or not. And I guess my general answer to that question is…

…sort of.

OH, AREN’T YOU HAPPY YOU SWAM THROUGH ALL THOSE SPOILER WARNINGS?

Don’t worry–I’m going to elaborate. And I’m going to divide my thoughts and feelings into sections based on the issues I had with the book.

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ISSUE #1: THE DUAL P.O.V.

I know a lot of people have problems with books where there is more than one point of view, but I typically enjoy it–as long as the characters have completely unique voices and I don’t have to guess which one is narrating.

Unfortunately, I had a really hard time telling Tris and Four apart. I often found myself in the middle of a chapter thinking I was reading the story through Tris’s eyes, but then she would appear in the scene, and I would flip back to the beginning of the chapter and discover it had been Four the whole time. Or I would think it was Four when it was actually Tris. I would have liked more distinction between the two so that this kind of thing didn’t happen as often as it did.

DIVERGENT

“Are you talking, or am I talking?”

(Incidentally, a YA book that did the dual POV thing super well–at least, in my opinion–was Across The Universe by Beth Revis. I never had any problem telling Amy’s voice from Elder’s.)

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ISSUE #2: EXPOSITION AND EXPLANATION

Oh, y’all. As a fellow author, I sooo felt Veronica Roth’s pain here. When your story is as elaborately constructed as this one was, it can be super hard to give your readers all the answers they want without doing a massive amount of info-dumping. I struggled with this a lot as I wrote Shadows, and had to work really, really hard to keep from just having my characters EXPLAIN everything to each other.

I was a little disappointed at the quantity of info-dumping in Allegiant. It seemed like most of the Big Answers to the Big Questions came in the form of one character saying, “Here, let me tell you what’s been going on,” as opposed to someone–Tris or Four, preferably–discovering the answers along the way.

Instead of feeling intrigued and engrossed in the story, I often felt a little bored, and that’s not something I expected from this series.

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ISSUE #3: THE END

Okay. I mean…

*sigh*

I get that Tris is a very self-sacrificial person, and that ties in nicely with her Abnegation upbringing and also her Dauntless training. Going into that room in Caleb’s place wasn’t the first time she had done something like that, so it was consistent with her character. It made sense…

…except that it also made me sick to my stomach.

(I mean, not really. But I did get a little queasy.)

Now, I am not ABOUT to start demeaning Veronica Roth. As I said earlier, I think she’s a top-notch author, a super classy person, and an all-around incredible human being.

I just really, really, really didn’t want Tris to be dead. Here’s why:

1) It would have been super freaking awesome for her to pull a Harry Potter-type thing and go into the room expecting to die from Death Serum, but then she doesn’t, thereby maintaining her self-sacrificing persona while also rescuing everyone around her and still being there for Four. I would have even been fine with her having some lingering effects from the Death Serum. It didn’t have to be pretty or easy at all–I just wanted her alive and functional.

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Like so.

2) Caleb wanted and needed to be redeemed. I know it sounds really morbid for me to say this, but he volunteered and he felt convicted to give himself up, so maybe he should have been allowed to do so. Tris going in for him kind of… made things worse, in a way, because now he’s got to deal with what he did to his parents and letting his sister die for him. GUH.

3) For all they’d been through and for everything they were planning, I wish Tris had felt more responsibility to stay alive for Four. He’d lost so much already and they had just started talking about their future together, and it kinda got under my skin how blasé she was about leaving him behind. “Tell him I didn’t want to leave him,” was more or less her message to him as she was preparing to go in. If I were Four, that just wouldn’t cut it.

Four does not approve. (I like to think if he had a teacher face, this would be it.)

Four does not approve. (I like to think if he had a teacher face, this would be it.)

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IN SUMMARY

In spite of my wishing things had turned out differently, I still love Divergent and will definitely see the movie in March. I still love and respect Veronica Roth, although I do wish she’d taken a different course with the last book in general and the ending specifically.

However, that’s the beauty of being creative: we all do it differently, and we get to do it however we want.

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Now, in the comments, I’d love for you to tell me what you thought. Did you like it? Did you not like it? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said? Let’s discuss!

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You Will Be Disappointed If You Miss Out On This Book

Nothing like a good old THREAT as the title of a blog post, is there?

*cracks whip*

Anyway.

Listen, ya’ll, I don’t do book reviews. I don’t rate books on Goodreads, I don’t talk about books very much here on the blog, and I rarely find a book that warrants a substantial amount of publicity on my part.

UNTIL NOW.

SaltySweet

“Well, it’s official: I’m in love with this book. Sophie Hudson is hilariously appreciative of her very Southern roots, and she shares tales of all the experiences (and the lovably eccentric relatives!) that shaped her. Threads of love, family, and faith hold the stories together, but it’s Sophie’s laugh-at-life humor that sings forth from every page. She writes as if you’re sitting on her front porch drinking a tall glass of sweet tea, and it’s impossible not to come away from each chapter without feeling like you know her a little better. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun reading a book.”

Ree Drummond, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks

 

No big deal, her book just got blurbed by THE FREAKING PIONEER WOMAN.

I KNOW. WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING.

Here’s the great thing about this book and its author: Sophie is a personal friend of mine. Not just through the Twitter (although sometimes, those Twitter relationships feel just about as solid as anything else); she’s a friend in REAL. LIFE.

Sophie’s been blogging since 2005 and let me just tell you that she has QUITE the dedicated following. Any time she links to something I’ve written here, I know she’s done it before I even see her post because my website hits pretty much septuple.

(I’m guessing that’s what it’s called when something is multiplied by seven, but even if it’s not, I’m totally going to keep saying that because oh my goodness has there ever been a more fun word EVER?)

(Septuple.)

(Try it. Say it out loud. You can’t do it without smiling just a little bit.)

Back when I started my publishing journey, Sophie was intrigued and followed my progress every step of the way. When I asked if she would ever consider writing a book, she waved me off with a hearty GRACIOUS NO, or something along those lines. “I just don’t have a book in me,” she claimed. “I just don’t. No. I’ll never write one. I just couldn’t do it.”

Well. As it turns out, Sophie DID have a book in her. And it’s quite a fine book, indeed.

I KNEW IT, SOPHIE.

I KNEW IT, SOPHIE.

A LITTLE SALTY TO CUT THE SWEET is a collection of stories about Sophie’s family. It is hilarious and moving and just the best thing ever. Southern, witty, charming… okay, all those words sound really cliche and inferior to this book’s awesomeness. I just can’t even.

It’s so good, I rated it five stars on Goodreads. (Again: I DON’T RATE BOOKS.)

It’s so good, I’m blogging about it right now. (Again: I DON’T BLOG ABOUT BOOKS.)

And it’s so good, I’m going to post the book trailer here for your enjoyment. (And listen, even if you have no interest in the book itself, please PLEASE watch this trailer just so you can hear Sophie’s delightful southern voice. I hear it every day, but OH, it makes me smile.)

Here are just a few quotes from the book:

“In the South we adore grandmamas. We even give them funny names: MiMi, Shug, Honey–and that’s just the tip of the MeMaw iceberg.”

“What can I say? I’m a people pleaser. If that’s okay with you, of course.”

“It’s important to acknowledge that whenever we quote a passage from ‘The Message’ translation, the ESV totally rolls its eyes.”

YOU GUYS. THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD. *grabs your collar* *shakes*

Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to get forceful like that. By all means, please excuse me.

So after you read Sophie’s book, you should hop on over to her blog and read up on all her goings-on. She’s one of the best writers I know, and her blog posts will have you rolling. Especially this one about taking her mother-in-law to “the Steinmarts.”

So there you have it. Hope your Monday is exceedingly kind, and I’ll see you soon.

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