The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Alexie Sherman
Cartoon images decorate this diary of Junior, a Spokane Indian boy who leaves the reservation to attend a high school in a nearby farm town. The only non-white boy in school, Junior must battle crushing poverty, alcoholism, and a parade of deaths to make it through his first year. The illustrations in this book are so seamless to the narrative that I only realized on my third reading that Sherman didn’t do the illustrations himself. Funny and heartbreaking, this is a YA book that is suitable for adults. Sherman manages to make me feel at the end that Junior will be OK, without making me feel like the ending wraps everything up in a sunny little package.
Store-Bought Baby by Sandra Belton
This book about a Chicago girl adjusting to a world without her “perfect” adopted brother felt like YA-lite to me. The structure and style reminded me of children’s lit, particularly the relatively sunny ending, and the way that everyone seems so self-aware and sane. Leah’s brother Luce has died in a car accident and Leah’s family seems to be drifting apart rather than pulling together to cope. Leah decides to start investigating Luce’s “real” parents in an attempt to draw the family back together. The dialog is sometimes stilted, particularly between the kids (p. 102-103 just seems really “tinny” to me). I think this book would make a decent sell to younger YAs who are avid readers and who need a transition between children’s and YA. I don’t know that the average reader would stick with it.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Colin and Hassan go on a road trip as Colin tries to get over the breakup of his relationship with the 19th girl named Katherine who has dumped him. Now this book has an ear for dialog! These kids sound like smart kids talking to each other – natural and easy. I just loved the way Hassan interrupts Colin with his quick assessments of Colin's digressions as "Not interesting!" Funny story of a somewhat Asperger’s seeming boy learning to reach out of himself as he learns how to get beyond his need to be a genius rather than a prodigy. This book feels a little gimicky with its footnotes and appendix, but it really is funny and affecting.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
This didn’t really feel like a YA book to me – it felt more adult. I feel like this would have a very narrow audience. But then, I’m really bad at wordless books.
Finding H.F. by Julia Watts
What I liked about this book was the way the Bible loving, God fearing grandmother wasn’t a caricature, and how H.F. didn’t just rebel – she saw the love and the care that were under her Memaw’s strict Bible ways, and how much her Memaw was shaped by the narrowness of her world. It has rough edges (poor Bo), but it’s mainly a ultimately sweet and hopeful story about first love that just happens to be lesbian love.