Off the Shelf – December 8

This morning on CBC’s Information Morning I talked about some of my favourite YA novels of 2014. You can listen to that interview here.

At the end of the year, some people reflect on whether or not they made good on their resolutions, I think about my reading year. Book junkies like me start considering the state of their bookshelves.

There are usually a few memes floating around that ask book bloggers to consider what they’ve read this year. It’s always fun to go back through my blog and think about the books I’ve read.

It’s also the time of year when all the major book players start posting best of…lists. That’s good and bad for people like me – because if there’s one thing I don’t need…it’s more books. However, if you’re looking for some new reading material, here are some great lists to get you started:

Kirkus: Best Teen, Best Fiction; Best Nonfiction

Huffington Post

The Guardian

Telegraph’s Best Teen Books

Book Riot’s Must Read Books from Indie Presses

School Library Journal

and the Mother lode of book lists…

Today, I thought I’d talk about three stand-out YA reads for 2014, one of which is geared to 12-14 year olds, so middle school.

totally joeTotally Joe – James Howe

So, James Howe is super prolific (he’s written over 80 books) and is probably best known for his Bunnicula series. That’s a vampire rabbit that sucks the juice out of vegetables. Totally Joe is part of the Misfit series, the Misfits being this group of friends who are sort of picked on in school and band together. These books actually inspired ‘no name-calling’ weeks at North American schools.

Totally Joe is the second in the series, but I didn’t read the first book and it didn’t really matter. This is the story of Joe Bunch, a kid in 7th grade who is given this very cool class project…and alphabiography. He has to come up with something about his life for every letter. Joe is funny and smart and kind and has a great, supportive family. He also happens to be gay and so he takes a lot of grief from some of the meatheads at school. I loved how open and honest Joe was about his sexual orientation – he’s a really positive role model. I think it’s super important to see kids reflected in the books they read, and I think Totally Joe is age-appropriate and important.

raftThe Raft – S. A. Bodeen

This book is fantastic. I’m not really one for survival stories, but this book is a real page-turner. It’s the story of fifteen-year-old Robie who lives with her scientist parents on Midway, an island about 1300 miles from Honolulu which is where Robie is when the book opens. She’s visiting her aunt. Midway’s teeny, about 2.4 square miles so every once and a while, Robie needs a little taste of civilization. Anyway, she’s on Honolulu and her aunt gets called away on business, which is no big deal, Robie’s used to being on her own…but then something happens on the street and it freaks her out and she decides to take the cargo plane back to Midway. Phone and Internet service is spotty, as you can imagine, and she can’t let her parents know what that she’s coming and then – of course – the plane crashes in the middle of the Pacific and of the three people on board, only she and Max, the co-pilot, survive. They’re on this raft with nothing. It’s a real OMG book with a feisty protagonist, lots of interesting things to say about the environment (none of it preachy) and a terrific, propulsive plot. Great book.

morethanthisMore Than This – Patrick Ness

So I’ve talked about Patrick Ness before, he’s the author of the Chaos Walking series. I actually chose this book for my book club this year. We don’t normally read Young Adult books, but this one seemed interesting and because I’m a fan I figured why not. There was mixed reactions in the group, but the students in my classes who’ve read the book have loved it…and that’s really the litmus test.

When the novel opens, a boy is drowning. Then he wakes up and he’s not dead. But he’s also alone and he actually remains alone for about 160 pages. At first he doesn’t have any memory, then he figures out that his name is Seth and he appears to be in the English town he grew up in before he moved to the States. This is a post-apocalyptic town though. There are houses and business, but they’re empty and it’s all just creepy. Then, about half-way in Seth meets Thomasz and Regine and “the driver” this faceless, seemingly indestructible guy whose mission in life seems to be to hunt the three teenagers down.

This is a smart book. It works on a bunch of levels: sort of a crazy hybrid between thriller and speculative fiction and a book that asks BIG questions about that journey between self-centered adolescence and manhood and what Seth discovers is that “whatever is forever certain is that there’s always more.”

Any of these books would make great Christmas gifts for the young readers in your family.

2 thoughts on “Off the Shelf – December 8

  1. Julie December 10, 2014 / 5:00 am

    We did More Than This for my book club too this summer. It was different than why we normally read but I really liked it!!

    • Christie December 11, 2014 / 2:50 am

      I’m glad to hear that someone else enjoyed it. Several of my students have read and loved it. Ness is a terrific writer. Have you read his Chaos Walking series? Awesome!

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