Personally, I haven’t been reading much YA this year, so I can’t say that I come to this conversation with any real authority in comparing the plethora of publications from 2009. However, I love three books that are coming up in the comments over and over again, so I’d like to make my case for each of them.
In staying with my theme of the month of Ways to Give a Book, these are also three I’d suggest to give to a teen in your life with a gift card to a café and a coupon for a one-on-one talk. As a mother, I’ve found that my thirteen year old and I have had some wonderful talks starting from discussing books. It’s a defenses-down way to share how you feel about many things, but sometimes even the difficult things, like sex and drugs. So here’s what I’d give to a high schooler, read myself, and set up a book discussion coffee date.
Marcelo in the Real World
Francisco X. Stork
This is one of the few books that I actually read twice in the same year because I enjoyed it so much. I was really drawn in to the story of a teen with Asperger’s showing his father that he could make it in the real world, and then going beyond that to solve a mystery, right a wrong, and get the girl. The book is interesting and well written. Look for discussions about the complicated nature of family, the head games people play with each other, the true nature of our acceptance of differences, and the need to venture out of our comfort zone.
Okay, I haven’t even finished this yet, but honestly the author had me at the first sentence of the acknowledgments page: “I would like to thank everyone I’ve ever kissed or punched and anyone who has ever kissed or punched me.” She continued to win me over with her wild ride of a story of a sixteen-year-old boy who thinks he is going to die of mad-cow disease and sets off on a road trip for a cure and the meaning of life, I suppose. The conversation questions are best captured by the jacket flap so forgive me for quoting jacket flap copy, which is such a no-no. “A dark comedic journey that posed the questions: Why are we here? What is real? What makes microwave popcorn so good? Why must we die? And how do we really learn to live?”
For Fuse#8, this is the one book I’d suggest. It’s perhaps not as literary (whatever that means) as Marcelo or as unconventional as Bovine, but it’s a Read-Now book more than the others. For the most part, reviewers have been good about keeping the surprises of Liar under wraps, but that won’t last forever. And while what happens in the book is really open to interpretation, knowing what’s coming changes the way you read the book. Intriguing, huh? That’s why it would make a great discussion book for mothers and daughters (aunts and nieces), because it comes down to interpreting the story of an unreliable narrator. The other reason I’d suggest this book to both Fuse#8 and mother/daughters is the controversy that arose over the original cover, which featured a white girl for a book that was about a biracial protagonist. The publisher, in an amazing move, changed the cover to what you see now. While white-washed covers have long been lamented and long been an issue, with this particular book it changed the nature of the book. If you trusted the cover and decided that the main character was lying about something as basic as her race, what in the story can you believe at all? Great discussion topic there. Also a great lead-in to a discussion about race in books in general, how teens are seeing racial issues as opposed to us “old” moms... the topics are endless.
I’ll be interested to see what ONE book is chosen by Fuse#8. And by you.
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