So, my friend Hannahlily is a busy, busy woman. Not only is she the Teen Coordinator for my local library, she blogs about what she’s reading (and is she ever not reading?) and is planning her wedding. I told her about my 30 before 30 project, and asked her what three books should be on my “must-read” list. Mind you, I eliminated her quintessential YA author, John Green, because I had read most of them (and eventually I’ll finish that blog post), and I already read her favorite book, Code Name Verity. She pondered and came back with, in no particular order:
1) I am the Messenger
2) Saving Francesca
3) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.
I had already read #3, so I subtlely harassed her. I replied to the message, “One more book! Two, if you want!” I stalked her GoodReads. And finally, I announced on a facebook post, “I’ve read Saving Francesca. WOW! What’s next, Hannah?” (I meant the WOW sincerely, btw. ) This actually led to a whole bunch of people telling me my next book and getting into crazy book discussions with people I was shocked to see commenting. At any rate, I got a list she compiled for the library and picked Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
This post could easily be titled “Books about Teens Figuring Out Who They Are.” (That would also be true if I included Frankie on the list.) I thoroughly enjoyed all of the books, spoiler alert. I can’t give them justice so seriously, these are barely blurbs.
These are also high-school books, even though I usually read middle grade novels. All of the books discussed sex, although none were like, “Let’s go have some and tell the reader juicy details!” The biggest thing about the books was learning how to live. They all were brilliant.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Saenz.
This book is about the friendship of two kids with weird names. Neither of them have had a true friend before, and they have an incredibly tight bond. Ari has a darker attitude to life whereas Dante is the eternal optimist; Ari hides his emotions, Dante is an open book, etc. They balance each other out. When Ari saves Dante from an on-coming car, Ari has to explore what their friendship really means.
I loved the family dynamics in this book. Dante’s family is very sweet and affectionate. Ari’s dad is a Vietnam War vet, and his older brother’s in jail, so there are a lot of things Ari struggles with, but that doesn’t stop them from loving each other deeply– even when no one can fight the others’ battles.
Grades: 9 and up.
Grade: A The writing was beautiful without being pretentious or stuffy.
Saving Francesca, Melina Marchetta
Francesca is not having a good year. Her all-girl old school just went to year 10, so she’s at St. Sebastian’s, former all-boys school that just started admitting girls. All of her friends go to a different school, so she hangs out with the only other girls that went to her former school (Justine, Tara, and Siobohan. Siobohan and Francesca are former BFFs — up until Francesca got “rescued” in year seven). The boys at the school, like Thomas and Jimmy, are generally gross. When she goes home, she has to deal with her mom’s crushing depression. Eventually, Francesca warms up to Sebastian’s, but her home life is still spiraling. She has to figure out who she is and how she’s going to save herself.
I LOVE THIS BOOK. It’s realistic, and it’s no wonder Hannahlily paired it with Frankie Landau-Banks. The people she thinks are her friends suck and try to stifle her, whereas her true friends get shafted a bit. It’s got really funny lines. I actually shared a line with my husband and he couldn’t stop laughing: Thomas informs the girls they’re dubbed “Bitch Spice, Butch Spice, Slut Spice, and Stupid Spice.” They then begin to argue which one they must be. I would think that would be embarrassing, but no, “Between you and I, we’re either Bitchy or Stupid…” “Oh no! Everyone thinks I’m an idiot!” “You’re the whole spice rack!”
Grades: 9 and up.
Grade: A+ Funny, real, and just good.
I am the Messenger, Markus Zusak
An underage taxi driver, Ed Kennedy, stops a bank robber, who informs him he’s a dead man. Shortly after, Ed receives playing cards in the mail: all aces, all with cryptic messages. He soon realizes that these are places that he must go to, but doesn’t know what he needs to do. So he watches and learns. Sometimes, he encourages the people he meets. Sometimes, he beats the living hell out of people. He always leaves a message. But who’s sending him the messages?
If there’s a book about learning how to live, this is it. If the book has a message, it’s live. And it’s awesome. It’s a great story that you cannot put down. It’s one that underscores our need for people.
Grades: 10 and up
Grade: A+. If you’re wondering where you’ve heard of Zusak before, it’s because he wrote The Book Thief. Fantastic stuff.
I could have easily done a post for each of these books, but then they wouldn’t have been in my neat little 30 before 30 Collection. I may revise this “system” but I didn’t want to go too long and accidentally ruin a book. 🙂