Long ago in a young adult literature class I took it was noted that YA novels are often sad. As I thought about it, I could see the point to this statement. Teen novels are about death and sorrow - at least many of them are. But YA novels are one of my favorite types of books to read. Generally I don't end up reading a bunch of YA books back to back. But this past week I've been trying to get through a stack of ARCs I have (don't worry. I'm nowhere close to making a dent in the stack). Four books in a row have had main characters that are dealing with losing someone. And all four I would recommend to anyone looking for a great YA read.
The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish - Ethan and his family have moved south, away from Boston, so that Ethan can have a fresh start. Ethan can't stop blaming himself for what happened to his best friend, Kacey. The old Ethan was full of life and ready for adventure. The new Ethan is cautious and full of sorrow. As Ethan makes a new friend in his new home, he must learn to accept what happened to Kasey and move on with his own life.
Optimists Die First by Susin Nielen - Petula is sixteen and sure she is to blame for killing her two year old sister. Since her sister's death, she has become fearful of everything, always looking for the potential disaster that might occur. Each week she attends an art therapy class, full of a group of misfits each who carries their own guilt for something. When she and Jacob are partnered up for a project he helps her open up and face her fears. Nielsen's novel is close to my heart with all of her bookish references and Petula is a fantastic character I couldn't help but love.
North of Happy by Adi Alsaid - Carlos is grieving the loss of his brother who was killed in front of him. As Carlos tries to move forward, traveling to the US and getting a job in a restaurant to fulfill his dream of becoming a chef, his brother appears to him and gives him advice. Carlos chooses to follow his own path and not the one his father has in mind for him, something that causes a rift in the family. Alsaid's novel is unique in that Carlos and his family are part of the upper class in Mexico. I have read many books with Hispanic characters, but most are struggling financially, while this novel shows a different side of life in Mexico.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley - Henry's family owns a used book store, a business that is definitely not money making. Within the store contains a "letter library" where people place notes inside of books that others then read. Rachel has always liked Henry. Before she moves, she places a note inside of a book telling Henry of her feelings. However, she never hears from Henry. Now a few years later, Rachel has been hired to work at the bookstore and spend time with Henry, who is dating someone else. Rachel is still grieving the loss of her brother, Cal, and needs a place to start over. This is oversimplifying a plot that is so much more than this. The bookstore is a perfect setting and their are many little phrases I wanted to mark and remember about the importance of words and books. Words in Deep Blue is schedule to come out on June 6.
Every single one of these novels was fantastic. I loved them all and feel like the next YA novel I pick up will have a hard time living up to these four.