YA book recs for the holidays

Quite a few people lately have been asking me for book recommendations. They want to know what new YA they should be buying for the holidays. Sadly, I am in less of a position to help than usual.

For most of this year I have been solely reading books about (or published during) the 1930s. The only non-1930s books I’ve read have been manuscripts I’ve critiqued for friends. This means I have not read Hunger Games yet. Or the second Octavian Nothing or the National Book Award winner, Judy Blundell’s What I Saw and How I Lied or Coe Booth’s Kendra which I hear is every bit as good as the wonderful Tyrell. Or anything, really. Nor will I be reading any of these, even though I dearly want to, until I finish the first draft of my thirties book in September.

Thus the only recently pub’d books I can recommend are the ones that I read ahead of time:

    Holly Black Kin. Part one of the best graphic novel ever. Faery and betrayal. Twelve and up.

    Cassandra Clare City of Ashes. Second book in the City trilogy. Sequel to City of Bones. This is the series I recommend to people who are looking for something to read after they finish the Twilight books. And guess who one of their biggest fans is? Stephenie Meyer. There’s love, action, adventure and it’s really funny too. Twelve and up.

    Shannon Hale Rapunzel’s Revenge. Also the best graphic novel ever. A non-wimpy Rapunzel. Hurrah! Twelve and up though I think this one skews in both directions. I think many ten year olds would love it. Adults too.

    Maureen Johnson Suite Scarlett. New York family living in falling apart hotel. Funny, witty, joyful with excellent pratfalls. Spencer may be my fave new character. Twelve and up. But I know many adults who are smitten.

    Margo Lanagan Tender Morsels. Can’t describe it. Beautiful, poetic, ferocious, excellent. Sort of a fairy tale but not. I think I have changed my opinion of bears. Listed as fourteen and up in the US. Personally I agree with Allen & Unwin’s decision to publish it as adult.

    E. Lockhart The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. The best book she’s written and I love all her books. A National Book Award finalist. This book is so amazing that I’m rendered dumb trying to come up with the words to describe its wit, genius, and splendiferousness. Just read it. Twelve and up.

    Lauren McLaughlin Cycler. Gorgeous sex-changing screwball comedy. Fourteen and up.

    Lauren Myracle Bliss. Clever creepy scary excellence. *Shudder* I have not been able to stop thinking about this book. Fourteen and up.

    Robin Wasserman Skinned. My favourite YA science fiction novel of the year. Philosophical and page turner-y at the same time. What does it mean to be human when your body is not your own? And how do you cope with high school when you’ve gone from being Queen Bee to the loseriest loser ever? Twelve and up.

That’s all I got, however, and I know many other fabulous YA books came out this year. So why don’t you tell us about them?

Don’t just give titles. Tell us why you’re recommending them. Don’t recommend mine or Scott’s books. I know about those. If you could also mention what age their publisher thinks they’re suitable for. Many of the people asking for recs are parents.

Thank you!


  1. J on #

    This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, if not my absolute favorite book. It’s an excellent account of a group of teens who fight back (using the internet!) after they are unfairly targeted as suspects after a San Fransisco terrorist attack. The book takes place in (although it is never explicitly stated, the character mentions both his current age and his age when the Sega Dreamcast comes out) 2010, and is mostly based on things that CAN actually happen. Excellent book for anyone interested in internet freedom, or, well, freedom in general, and all the scary things a scared people let the Bush administration pass because they were willing to let it go on a witchhunt post-9/11.

    Just as importantly, the main characters are ACTUALLY BELIEVABLE TEENS. Ones who happen to be incredibly adept at internet usage and, to some degree, coding, but, that’s not too unusual. They face normal teen situations along with their crazy one involving the government. Doctorow’s writing is simply kickass.

  2. Rebecca (a different one) on #

    I actually started Skinned just this afternoon! I’m about a third of the way through, and it’s AMAZING.

  3. Ames on #

    I have to second the vote for Doctrow’s Little Brother. It’s AMAZING AND well written πŸ™‚

    Also just finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It’s like reading about the Olympics, but twisted. Like bad LSD twisted–not that I’ve ever done LSD *g*. Very well written, great characters, lots of action and fast paced. Even though this isn’t like Skinned, if you like Skinned (and/or post-apocalyptic settings)I’d highly recommend this.

    BTW I LOVED SKinned πŸ˜€

  4. caitlin on #

    Greetings from University Bookstore in Seattle. Every year we select our faves of 2008, and How To Ditch Your Fairy made the list. Thanks for making bookselling easy.

  5. HypotheticalDystopia on #

    Thanks for the book recs! I’ve already read 6 out of the 9 books.

    Currently I’m reading We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin. The writing is amazing and I enjoy seeing its parallels with 1984.

  6. lotti on #

    The Decleration and The Resistance by Gemma Malley. Thought-provoking, set in the future… plus it answeres that age-old question – what happens when people find out how to live forever?
    13? and up

  7. eek on #

    Another rec for Hunger Games. I love smart, exciting books that teach kids and adolescents to question authority :} I have given the book to so many people, read it with an adult book group and passed our copies on to a mother-daughter book group – universal thumbs up. And even the folks that picked at it a bit, asked when the next book in the series comes out. It’s a fabulous read and was a great book discussion book!

    For younger or visual kids, The Way We Work by David Macaulay is very cool. Like what he did for architecture and machine, not for the workings of the human body. Incredible illustrations, and all kinds of info on the miracles of how we work.

  8. Colleen on #

    The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson. It’s alt history (Napoleon won) set in 1930s Edinburgh where political intrigue is afoot and a horrifying social experiment is being committed against Scotland’s young women (in the name of the common good of course.) Smart, cool and with a dash of romance this one has a great female protag and more than one mystery. There’s nothing else like it out there and I enjoyed it a lot. (For a longer review see my YA column at Bookslut from July.)

  9. marrije on #

    A second vote for Maureen Johnson’s Suite Scarlett, because it’s funny in all the right places, and also has this huge heart. I am reading it to my eleven-year old, who has a bit of difficulty with the English (we’re Dutch), but absolutely gets the humor, particularly about the Nude Lady.

  10. Chris S. on #

    THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO, by Patrick Ness: A wonderful adventure story about a boy on a colony world on which all the women have died, and all the men can hear each other’s thoughts — all the time. Thought provoking, and sheer adrenaline-fueled excitement.

    FLORA’S DARE, Ysabeau Wilce: In which Flora grows up, learns new magics and some hard lessons, and pretty much saves the world. Also, there’s a giant squid. (Be sure to read FLORA SEGUNDA first).

    NATION, by Terry Pratchett: A tidal wave has washed over Mau’s island, leaving him the only survivor – except for the young pale girl, who washed up in a boat. Together, they must rebuild an entire world. It’s a sort of post-apocalyptic story, but it’s also about love, loss, and how important it is to THINK, instead of just react. Wonderful, wonderful book.

  11. Gabrielle on #

    I really loved Frankie Landau-Banks and Skinned. I, sadly, haven’t had a chance to read Suite Scarlette. My to-read pile is way too big!

  12. Gabrielle on #

    I really don’t know why I pressed submit for that last comment, I wasn’t finished. πŸ˜›

    I agree, J, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow was amazing, and actually much better than I expected it to be. I also loved Paper Towns by John Green

  13. Justine on #

    Thanks for all the recs!

    Caitlin: Awww! You guys are the best. I’m really hoping I get sent to Seattle on my next tour.

  14. Rebecca on #

    Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith. One of the best and most well-done vampire novels I’ve ever read. Exciting, gothic, hot guardian angels, gruesome parties, dungeons, and blogs. (young adult)

    Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. I didn’t mean to read this one till much later, but it sucked me right in. It’s about a girl who is suddenly forced to start learning how to rule a kingdom, and it doesn’t go well. She also secretly learns about magic, and uses it to sneak around. Sneaking-around books are great. (middle grade and up)

    The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson. Another “what does it mean to be human” book about a girl who was in a bad accident. She doesn’t remember much about who she was and mysterious things are happening. Also an interesting look at medical ethics. (young adult)

    I’m partway through a bunch more really good ones, including Bliss. I WANT MORE READING TIME.

  15. tess on #

    The Triskelia trilogy by Carrie Mac – The Droughtlanders, Retribution, and Storm. It handles a vision of the future that is more plausible than any sci-fi I’ve ever read. Plus, long-lost triplets and families at odds. It’s Canadian, though, and will probably be hard to find in America.

  16. zG on #

    I just finished Bliss ! Very good..I’ve read Frankie too; but I thought she was a bit whiny.. anyway, I recommend She’s SO Money by Cherry Cheva. I fell in love with all the characters in this book, & its very funny & fast-paced.

  17. Talia Briscoe on #

    Kristin Cashore’s Graceling was the best YA novel I’ve read this year!

    Graceling is Cashore’s debut novel. The book is a fantasy which details the coming of age of a King’s niece. Part part Robin Hood tale, part Jack London wilderness adventure; part romance, part political intrigue. This is the little book that could and has something for everyone. Although the main character is female, there is more than enough action, adventure and intrigue (and little mushiness) to make it appealing to young men as well.

    Once you’ve read it you will be glad to know that two more novels set in this world are currently works in progress.

  18. Bethany on #

    Seconding whoever recommended Paper Towns by John Green. I read it over two times of marathon reading in Barnes and Noble, and both times I was so engrossed I completely forgot about my phone, and when I picked it up I had about 20 missed calls from my parents. They understood it to a point. :)When I had to leave, I was clutching it to my chest, looking forlorn. It says so much about how we view people, and how we don’t really ever see them, and how our relationships are shaped, and it’s just totally beautiful I can’t even describe it. And, along with everything else, it’s totally hilarious. Go read it! Probably 14+, I would say, but I read it and I’m younger than that (I do read a lot of books for older people though, so I don’t know what that says about the book).

    Also, anything by Terry Pratchett, like, ever. I read the Wee Free Men first and it was ridiculously hilarious. I don’t have words to accurately sum up it’s awesomeness, so I will jut quote a tiny passage (may not be completely accurate, I’m quoting from memory).

    So Tiffany, the protag, goes to a teacher and says, “I’d like to to learn about zoology.”

    And the teacher answers, “Zoology is a big word, isn’t it?”

    Then Tiffany replies (get ready for the awesome), “Actually, patronizing is a big word. Zoology is really quite short.”

    I possibly fell in love with her then. I was too busy swooning to notice.

    Wow, long comment! Sorry!

  19. Bethany on #

    Oh forgot to say, sorry, Wee Free Men is appropriate for anyone 10+, I would say. (The main character is 9)

  20. caitlin on #

    Hello, again from Seattle. We’re hoping you ( and Scott too!) get sent here.

  21. Cecily on #

    I recommend:

    WICKED LOVELY and INK EXCHANGE by Melissa Marr

    If you’re into romance, action and fairies this is a fantastic books. It’s one of many that I brought to school and it ended up passed around to my friends. It’s about a teenage girl that is able to see fairies, and when the fairy king sets his sights on her she has to fight to keep from being killed by his evil mother. Ink Exchange is the second book in which Leslie, the best friend to the first girl, is living her crappy life, her brother sucks, her dad is… somewhere and her only shining light is the tattoo she’s been saving for. When the power of her tattoo comes back to bite her in the butt she has to choose between her best friend and the two mysterious guys she just can’t stay away from.

    Umm… I recommend…

    PRETTY LITTLE LIARS by Sara Shepard

    A series of books about four ex friends as they’re stalked by the mysterious A through Texts and letters, threatening to rip their worlds apart with the many secrets each girl keeps. This was a book I picked up because the cover looked interesting. When I started reading it though, I couldn’t put it down. I chaulked it up to the fact that I read it at my brother’s football game, but after reading the second book I knew this was an incredible series.

    I’m sure I have dozens more (I’m one of those people that spend a good chunk of time hanging around the bookstore, suggesting books to people that don’t really care about my opinion) but I’m at school and I’m not supposed to be online… oops

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