Saturday, October 3, 2009

GRG Recap for Young Adult Fiction

The Genre Reading Group met this past Tuesday to discuss Young Adult Fiction and I thought it was one of our best discussions ever, but I do end up saying that every time! They just get better and better! Drop what you are doing and join the most fun book group in town, where YOU get to pick what you read!

October's topic is National Book Award winners, either fiction or nonfiction. I pulled all the winners from 2000 to present (that we had on the shelf) but if you'd rather browse, click through for a complete list of winners since the National Book Award's inception in 1950.

Here's the list of the books we read/talked about/referenced/remembered during our discussion:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Grade 5–8—Somewhere in contemporary Britain, "the man Jack" uses his razor-sharp knife to murder a family, but the youngest, a toddler, slips away. The boy ends up in a graveyard, where the ghostly inhabitants adopt him to keep him safe.

The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang (author of another YA graphic novel, American Born Chinese) & Derek Kirk Kim

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–Yang and Kim are expert storytellers and work well together here to present three tales with fablelike takeaways.

To Dance: A Memoir by Siena Cherson Siegel (graphic novel format)

Starred Review. Grade 4-7–Siegel was born to dance. At age six, she began to take lessons in Puerto Rico. When her family moved to Boston, she continued to study ballet and was totally inspired when she saw a performance by Maya Plisetskaya of the Bolshoi Ballet. When she was accepted at the American School of Ballet, her family moved to New York.

My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr

Grade 9 & Up--In this tightly constructed novel about love, family, and the ambiguities of sexual identity, Ellen, 14, idolizes her brother, Link, and his best friend, James, who are seniors. When she enters their private Manhattan high school, she is surprised when some girls assume that Link and James are "a couple." Things begin to unravel when she puts the question to them.

Anything at all by Laurie Halse Anderson:


Grade 8 Up-This powerful novel deals with a difficult yet important topic-rape. Melinda is just starting high school. It should be one of the greatest times in her life, but instead of enjoying herself, she is an outcast. She has been marked as the girl who called the police to break up the big end-of-the-summer party, and all the kids are angry at her. Even her closest friends have pulled away. No one knows why she made the call, and even Melinda can't really articulate what happened. As the school year goes on, her grades plummet and she withdraws into herself to the point that she's barely speaking. Her only refuge is her art class, where she learns to find ways to express some of her feelings.

Fever, 1793

Grade 6-10-The sights, sounds, and smells of Philadelphia when it was still the nation's capital are vividly re-created in this well-told tale of a girl's coming-of-age, hastened by the outbreak of yellow fever.


Chemistry honors student and cross-country runner Kate Malone is driven. Daughter of a father who is a reverend first and a parent second ("Rev. Dad [Version 4.7] is a faulty operating system, incompatible with my software.") and a dead mother she tries not to remember, Kate has one goal: To escape them both by gaining entrance to her own holy temple, MIT. Eschewing sleep, she runs endlessly every night waiting for the sacred college acceptance letter. Then two disasters occur: Sullen classmate Teri and her younger brother, Mikey, take over Kate's room when their own house burns down, and a too-thin letter comes from MIT, signifying denial. And so the experiment begins.


Grade 8 Up - Ashley is (in her own words) normal - a senior from a lower-middle-class family, dating a high school dropout, and gearing up for graduation but with no plans for college. But when the new math teacher steals the prom money, Ashley - who swears she doesn't care - finds herself sucked into turning nothing into the best prom ever because it means the world to her best friend, Nat.


Grade 9 Up–Socially inept Tyler Miller thinks his senior year of high school is going to be a year like no other. After being sentenced to a summer of character building physical labor following a graffiti prank, his reputation at school receives a boost, as do his muscles. Enter super-popular Bethany Milbury, sister of his tormentor, Chip, and daughter of his father's boss. Tyler's newfound physique has attracted her interest and infuriated Chip, leading to ongoing conflicts at school. Likewise, Tyler's inability to meet his volatile father's demands to be an asset, not a liability adds increasing tension. All too quickly, Tyler's life spirals out of control.


Grade 6–10—Set in New York City at the beginning of the American Revolution, Chains addresses the price of freedom both for a nation and for individuals.


Grade 8 Up*Starred Review* Problem-novel fodder becomes a devastating portrait of the extremes of self-deception in this brutal and poetic deconstruction of how one girl stealthily vanishes into the depths of anorexia.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Grade 7 Up-In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place.

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolfe (second in the trilogy is True Believer)

Grade 7-12-- "This word COLLEGE is in my house,/ and you have to walk around it in the rooms/ like furniture." So LaVaughn, an urban 14-year-old, tries to earn the money she needs to make college a reality. She and her mother are a solid two-person family. When LaVaughn takes a job babysitting for Jolly, an abused, 17-year-old single parent who lives with her two children in squalor, her mother is not sure it's a good idea. How the girl's steady support helps Jolly to bootstrap herself into better times and how Jolly, in turn, helps her young friend to clarify her own values are the subjects of this complex, powerful narrative.

Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine

Grade 6–9—This spirited, early-20th-century coming-of-age story presents a small-town cast of well-drawn characters, an unlikely friendship, engaging adventures, and poignant realizations. When a new postmaster arrives in Moundville, AL, 12-year-old Dit is surprised to discover that Mr. Walker is African American and that his refined daughter knows nothing about baseball, hunting, or fishing. With his best friend gone for the summer and in search of companionship other than his nine siblings he reluctantly hangs out with proper, opinionated Emma, who tags along with him asking questions and trying to keep up. Gradually, Dit begins to respect her independence, intelligence, compassion, and determination. But the harsh realities of segregation and racist attitudes threaten their friendship and open Dit's eyes to injustice.

Alabama Moon by Watt Key

Grade 6-8–Moon, 10, has spent most of his life in a camouflaged shelter in the forest with his father, a Vietnam veteran who distrusts people and the government. Pap has educated him in both academics and survival skills. His life suddenly changes when the land is sold to a lawyer and his father dies. The lawyer discovers him and, believing what he is doing is best for the child, turns him over to Mr. Gene from the local boys home. When Moon escapes, Mr. Gene alerts the constable, an emotionally unstable bully who becomes obsessed with capturing him. Once at the home, though, Moon makes his first real friends and learns what friendship is all about.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands.

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Grade 9 Up - Nineteen-year-old cabbie Ed Kennedy has little in life to be proud of: his dad died of alcoholism, and he and his mom have few prospects for success. He has little to do except share a run-down apartment with his faithful yet smelly dog, drive his taxi, and play cards and drink with his amiable yet similarly washed-up friends. Then, after he stops a bank robbery, Ed begins receiving anonymous messages marked in code on playing cards in the mail, and almost immediately his life begins to swerve off its beaten-down path.

Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick

This spastically composed, frequently hilarious omnibus of meditations on favorite YA novels dwells mostly among the old-school titles from the late '60s to the early '80s much beloved by now grown-up ladies. This was the era, notes the bibliomaniacal Skurnick in her brief introduction, when books for young girls moved from being wholesome and entertaining (e.g., The Secret Garden and the Nancy Drew series) to dealing with real-life, painful issues affecting adolescence as depicted by Beverly Cleary, Lois Duncan, Judy Blume, Madeleine L'Engle and Norma Klein.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

If anyone tried to determine the most common rite of passage for preteen girls in North America, a girl's first reading of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret would rank near the top of the list. Judy Blume and her character Margaret Simon were the first to say out loud (and in a book even) that it is normal for girls to wonder when they are ever going to fill out their training bras. Adolescents are often so relieved to discover that someone understands their body-angst that they miss one of the book's deeper explorations: a young person's relationship with God.

There was some discussion of literary awards in general and I mentioned that one of the best books I've read lately is Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger, which has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The Prize will be awarded on October 6th! I hope she wins!

Questions/concerns? Call or email!

Happy reading!




April said...

Sounds like a really good meeting! I wanted to come (I love young adult fiction!), but I had to work :(

This is a great list, I love so many of the books on here but I will add a few of my current favorite YA books:

Living Dead Girl - Elizabeth Scott
Love is the Higher Law - David Levithan
If I Grow Up - Todd Strasser
Al Capone Shines My Shoes - Jennifer Choldenko

any Sarah Dessen, Jacqueline Woodson, or Ellen Wittlinger books. Oh, and the Alice Series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

And I think I will stop there b/c I could go on all day :)

Emmet O'Neal Library said...

I'm reading a great Sarah Dessen book right now, Along for the Ride! It's the first of her's that I've read and I'm really impressed!