Top Five Favorite YA Books

Amy’s List

  1. Killing Mr. Griffin
    by Lois Duncan
    I like stories about peril. And things you can’t go back from. I hope I’m not spoiling anything by saying that Mr. Griffin winds up dead at the hands of several students. Yeah, that’s a real predicament.

  2. It’s Kind of a Funny Story
    by Ned Vizzini

    I like stories about psychiatric hospitals as well. Mary thought this one was a little depressing because the author eventually kills himself in real life. I don’t know why, but I found this a happy story. Vizzini is a fabulous writer.

  3. We Were Liars
    by E. Lockhart
    Another story about peril. And who wouldn’t want to spend the summer on a private island with your cousins? I always wanted to “summer” somewhere. When I was young I spent my summers in our backyard with a plastic splash pool.

  4. The Catcher in the Rye
    by J.D. Salinger
    Yeah, yeah, I know. But the end of this book makes me cry. His little sister, reaching for the brass ring? Catching the kids in the field? Another happy story, in the end.

  5. Z for Zachariah
    by Robert C. O’Brien

    One last story about peril. Ann Burden is the only survivor after a nuclear war, until a mysterious stranger approaches the valley. I still get the shivers thinking about this book.

Mary’s List

  1. I Know What You Did Last Summer/Down a Dark Hall
    by Lois Duncan

    I know I’m cheating here, but Lois Duncan changed my reading life when I discovered her. I think it’s a major accomplishment that I narrowed it down to just these two. I Know What You Did Last Summer is a creepy who-done-it where four teens who were involved in a hit and run are being terrorized by someone who—you guessed it—knows what they did. In Down a Dark Hall, Kit is sent to a boarding school so her mother can go on a year-long honeymoon (because isn’t that what everyone does when they get married?), but when she gets there, only three other girls are attending. It turns out they were screened for psychic ability. I understand attempts were made to update these books with technology. If you want to check them out, I recommend reading the originals and enjoying the campy 70s-ness of it all.

  2. Eleanor & Park
    by Rainbow Rowell
    This pick is not unexpected on any list of favorite YA, and therefore almost feels like a cop out. However, being a chubby redhead myself who did not get a Park in high school, I will always love this book. That’s not the only reason though. There’s the three pages devoted to describing the first time they hold hands. There’s the way she’s the Han Solo in the relationship. There’s the lovely story arc with Park’s mother and father. I read it in one night and I’ve read it many times since.

  3. Why We Broke Up
    by Daniel Handler (Lemony Snickett author! I know!) with art by Maira Kalman
    This is the book I want my daughter to read before she starts dating anyone. It’s funny, steam-of-consciousness, but also sad because your first heartbreak (and probably all the others) is crushing. And who among us hasn’t wanted to write 354-page diatribe about why it happened, how it could have been avoided, and how you should have seen the portents along the way. A ticket to a movie you loved and he didn’t really get. A pinhole camera. A one-line note folded to look like an origami spaceship. And every reason is beautifully illustrated.

  4. Emergency Contact
    by Mary H.K. Choi
    I want an emergency contact like Sam. Penny finds Sam in a precarious position one morning (I won’t give it away, but I thought the whole situation was a perfect piece of black comedy). They are virtual strangers, but they put each other in their phones as “emergency contact” and start a text friendship that is delightful. I loved everything about the way the two of them interacted.

  5. I Am the Cheese
    by Robert Cormier
    I stole this one from Amy’s list so this book is really getting a double endorsement! This was my introduction to the twist ending, and it opened a whole new world of being fooled by authors (and later filmmakers) that I absolutely loved.

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