Summer Reading 2014: Young Adult

This summer has been filled with meeting lots of great writing teachers, home projects, visiting with family, and many, many trips to the library.

I’ve read so many great books this summer, but I decided to divide them into a few categories. First up, one of my favorites: young adult.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys

One time I met Jenny Han and actually gushed.  I mean, for me it was gushing, which is to say that to other people I was probably making polite chitchat. I got her to sign my book and told her what I will tell you now:  Jenny Han is one of the few authors who creates teenage characters who act like teenagers.

I loved her Summer series, but at times I found the characters incredibly frustrating.  I loved them, but I wanted to sit down and have a nice talk over coffee with each of them.  What they say and do just doesn’t make sense.  Sort of like adolescents (or some adults, now that I come to think of it).

This is what elevates Jenny Han’s writing in my mind.  She doesn’t create characters who think like adults stuck in teenagers’ bodies.  She creates characters who think like kids, characters who are on the verge of self-awareness, who misinterpret the actions and words of others, who are impulsive and often overly emotional.

Although her stories are ostensibly romances, one of the most powerful aspects of Han’s writing is her ability to write about parent-child and sibling relationships.  In the Summer series, the mother-daughter and mother-son interactions were some of my favorite scenes. In this new series, the main character lives with her widowed father and two sisters.  The real underlying drama of the story is in the family dynamic that plays out as Lara Jean’s older sister moves away for college and everyone struggles to redefine their roles without her.

I’m looking forward to the next installment of Jenny Han’s work!

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

This book is not technically young adult; it’s really more juvenile fiction, but I don’t have a separate post for that so I’ll throw it in here.

This book is a retelling of the Snow Queen fairy tale, and it’s beautiful. I listened to the audio book, and the performance of the voice actor was superb.  Ophelia comes with her father and her sister to the museum where her father will begin his new job as one of the world’s leading experts on swords.  While Ophelia is wandering the museum, she finds a locked room with a boy inside who tells her a strange story about magical events of the past and terrifying possibilities of the end of the world.

Ophelia, of course, sets out to save the world.

This book would make a great read-aloud for a classroom or for a family.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Fire and Hemlock

I picked up this book on a whim as I was browsing through the stacks at our huge central library branch here in Fort Worth.  I first became aware of Diana Wynne Jones’ work through my family’s love for anime films.  Her novel Howl’s Moving Castle was turned into a film by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki.

The word I kept using to describe Jones’ writing as I was reading this book was “whimsical.”  This novel is so interesting and the characters are so loveable that I didn’t mind too much that the plot meandered quite a bit.

This story somewhat of a retelling of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer, but at its heart, according to Jones’ essay published in the back of the book, it is a retelling of The Odyssey. Jones does a great job of creating an intrepid, creative female protagonist.

Sadly, Diana Wynne Jones passed away in 2010. However, she left behind a large body of work, so I have plenty of books to catch up on!

Amber House by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed

Amber House

I have to confess that I read this book really quickly. That wasn’t because it wasn’t good.  That’s because I waited too long to start the book.  I couldn’t renew because someone else had already placed a hold on it; I couldn’t just turn it in late because it was a digital copy.

Solution: stay up until the wee hours of the morning to finish before the book expired.

I love scary, eerie, gothic, ghost, dark family secrets stories.  They are hard to find in the young adult section, but I hope the authors write more of them for this audience.  Amber House fell into all of these categories, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sarah returns to her grandmother’s house, the Amber House of the title, a house she has barely ever visited. She attends the funeral of her grandmother, a woman she barely knew.  She wonders why her mother wants to sell the house as soon as possible, and she is intrigued by the grandson of her grandmother’s best friend, Jackson.  Jackson wants to search the house for an ancestor’s hidden treasure, but as they search Sarah begins to see visions of the past and to learn parts of her family’s history that they would rather keep secret.

There is already a second book published; and from what I can gather from a bit of Internet research, a third book is in the works.

The One by Kiera Cass

The One

I read The Selection and The Elite this year, after putting them off for a while.  After putting a hold on The One through our library, I forgot about this third installment of the trilogy until I received a notice that the book was available now.

I’m not crazy about this book, but I could see where some of my students might like the series.  For my tastes, I found the plot to be overly predictable and the dialogue overly wooden.  There were several times where I found scenes to be overwritten: too much description, too much explanation, not enough room for inference.

However, for developing readers in my classroom, I could see recommending this book series.  What I find tiring and overwritten might be what a younger or more inexperienced reader needs to increase their comprehension.  I will keep it in my classroom library, but I will have a specific audience in mind.

I’ve been reading many other books that I’m excited to share with you in upcoming posts!

What have you been reading this summer?

1 Comment

  1. I’ve been meaning to read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I’ve heard several people rave about it!
    I agree with you on The Selection trilogy. I read the first one, and while I liked it, I was surprised when everybody started gushing over it. I enjoyed it, and maybe I need to re-read it because it’s been a couple years, but I never loved it the way many people seem to.


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