Thanks for the warm welcome last week, everyone! I am super excited to be a part of the Thirteeners and for my very first post, I picked a truth. Specifically:
What are the novels that made you think? The ones that wouldn’t leave your head for weeks after you turned the last page?
Those that know me well shouldn’t be surprised I chose this one. There are few things I love more than talking up people, places, and things that I love. A friend once told me they were always intimidated to meet my other friends because I talked them up too much. So, yeah. I’m kind of an all-or-nothing type of person, and naturally, this extends to my love of books. I’m sticking with YA/MG novels since we are a group of children’s book writers, but this still proved a difficult list to narrow down. When I fall for books, I fall hard. And these are a few that I can’t stop thinking about/recommending/forcing anyone within shouting distance to read:
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
I picked up this book in February 2011, just a few months after its release. I hadn’t read A.S. King’s debut novel, so I was simply going by the jacket copy and the original, hardback cover (which I continue to love). The thing about this book is that it’s inherently dark, as it deals with the death of Vera’s best friend, Charlie, with whom she was frequently on the outs. But it’s also funny. And quirky. And sad. And damn smart. I loved Vera. Her voice just spoke to me. Felt like I’d known her for years. And I so admire the way King draws on this unique voice to slowly unravel Vera’s story and complicated relationship with her dead best friend. This book is a master class on pacing, tension, and character development, and when I finished I immediately turned back to page one because I couldn’t bear to leave this story. I still think about it all the time, more than a year later, and if you’ve ever asked for a book recommendation, chances are this one was at the very top.
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
When I was revising my novel for my agent prior to submission, she suggested I read this book for research. I cringed. I stared at the book for a few days, tucked neatly into my bookshelf. I removed it from the shelf and looked at it a few more days until I finally worked up the nerve to open the cover. The surprising part? I’d already read it. I owned it and I thought it was brilliant—but I never wanted to read it again. If you’ve so much as peeked into this book, you know what I mean. To say it is an uncomfortable read is, perhaps, the understatement of the century. Imagine some of the most horrifying stories you’ve heard about abduction victims, then imagine the victims relaying that time in captivity. In fairly graphic detail. Multiply that by 10 and you have LIVING DEAD GIRL. I’ve read a lot of reviews that cry, “This book isn’t suitable for young adults!” and “It didn’t need to be so graphic!” I completely disagree. Completely. Stories like this need to be told. Yes, they make us put down the book, they give us nightmares, and they make us squirm. But if this book reached even one person who needed to read it, could relate to it, changed because of it? It is necessary. I think about this book a lot and I can’t imagine the places Elizabeth Scott had to go, mentally, to tell Alice’s story. It’s so damn brave and sad, sad, sad. I should also say that my own novel has an abduction storyline, and I don't think I would have had the courage to even attempt to write it if I hadn't discovered this one. It’s necessary.
Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You by Barthe DeClements
Yup. I just took it way back. To 1985, y’all. So, it was technically published a few years before I was old enough to read it, but I discovered this book sometime in elementary school – ordered from the Scholastic Book Club, thank you very much – and I can’t count the number of times I’ve read it since then. (But I do revisit my stacks and stacks of childhood books every time I’m back home in Missouri and I read this one almost every time, if that gives you an idea.) A companion novel of sorts to DeClements’ other MG and YA books, this one focuses on Helen (or Bad Helen, as her classmates call her). She’s great at sports and socializing and prank-pulling—not so great at reading and following the rules. I didn’t exactly relate to Helen, but I think that’s the point. Her ongoing shenanigans and inability to want to help herself were infuriating; thus, she was the first narrator I can remember working very hard to like and understand. I enjoy a relatable main character as much as the next person, but I’ll take a complex and realistic character over “likeable” any day. I also adore DeClements’ spare, almost casual writing style. As a child, I wondered how she was able to tell such a complete story in so few words and now I realize that in addition to being one of my very favorite authors, she was one of my very first influences as well.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Yet another book that I just can’t shut up about because if you haven’t read it, let me assure you it is much better than anyone can articulate. Much. Dare I say it’s perfect? I'll admit I was skeptical to dive in; I'm fiercely protective of the underdog (I mean, I proudly own and often watch the Rocky saga - come on) and I just knew Auggie and his story would break my heart. And yes, there were tears, but they were a surprising mixture of sad and joyful. Books like this are so wonderful (pun kinda intended) because they maintain a strong, valuable message, yet it's so skillfully woven into a compelling story that you never feel like you’ve been beaten over the head with it. Not to mention WONDER is beautifully written, surprising, and timeless. And makes you want to be a better person. So. I loved it. My friends loved it. My mom loved it. You will, too. Promise.
Have you read any of these books? Agree? Disagree? What are the novels that stuck with you? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Thanks for submitting your fun truths and dares, and don’t forget to come back Friday for a post by the fabulous Mindy McGinnis.
Brandy Colbert lives in Los Angeles where she works as a freelance magazine copyeditor, combining her Journalism degree and love of words and grammar. Her debut novel, A Point So Delicate, is forthcoming from G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers/Penguin in Fall 2013. She'd love to connect with you on Twitter, her blog, or Goodreads.