Friday, September 30, 2011

Favourite contemporary YA novels

Awhile back, I was asked if I wanted to write a guest post about my favourite contemporary YA for a friend's blog to fill in for her while she was on holiday. It was a lovely idea, and I wanted to do it, but life sort of got in the way for a little while. What made it all the more difficult is that only recently I'd written a similar guest post for The Book Memoirs.

I decided that I still wanted to write the list and that I'd post it here instead. It turns out that I'm a really big fan of contemporary fiction. Yes, I like fantasy and paranormal YA as much as the next person. And I like to dabble in sci-fi and historical as well. I've probably read more than my fair share of dystopian YA to last a lifetime, but where my heart truly lies, is with stories really based in reality. Stories such as these:

Nobody's Girl by Sarra Manning - I adore books in which there is travelling of any sort, but especially, ESPECIALLY, if that travelling occurs in Paris. I've never been to Paris, and I desperately want to go, especially after reading Nobody's Girl. I also adore Sarra Manning's writing. All of the books by her that I've picked up have been utterly great, but I think Nobody's Girl is my favourite of hers from her YA books. When I bought Nobody's Girl, it was just before N went on a business trip. I don't like it when N leaves - after all these years together, I find it quite difficult to sleep alone. So I ended up staying up all night with Nobody's Girl to keep me company.

And it's utterly lovely. I fell for Bea straight away. She's thinks she's very boring and ordinary and my heart strings were pulled instantly after a group of horrid girls plays a mean trick on her whilst on holiday. So instead, she leaves them behind and goes off on a journey to find her French father she's never known. She teams up with some American backpackers including the gorgeous Toph and goes on this epic adventure. Romance, travel, Paris, and figuring out who you are, this book is a delight to read. I really, really love it.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - Here's another book with romance and set in Paris. Very different from Nobody's Girl, but still bloody brilliant! Everyone had said such lovely things about Anna for absolutely ages before it came out and I was DYING to get my hands on a copy earlier in the year. Luckily I won this book in a giveaway on another blog and dove into it straight away. Reading Anna and the French Kiss was my inspiration for starting my (now) annual event, Love Month in February.

This book is very near perfection in my eyes. I absolutely love the setting (Paris! Why are there not more YA books set in Paris, eh?!) and the characters and especially, especially the build-up of romance between our two main characters. Anna and Etienne are so utterably adorable together. Things between them are sweet and filled with tension as well as being funny and serious. I was on such a high of emotions reading this book. I'm now DESPERATE to read the companion novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door.

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols - Oh, Jennifer Echols! How I adore you. And it all started with Going Too Far. This book was one of the first YA books that I bought and it was one of the first to really get me hooked into contemporary YA. I didn't know very much about it, but Amazon kept recommending it and I remember buying it together with one of Elizabeth Scott's books as well as one by Susane Colasanti, and all three authors would now make it on my list of favourite ever YA authors. So it was really quite a lucky purchase so long ago.

I think what really grabbed me about Going Too Far is the writing style and the believeability of all the characters. I could really see myself in Meg - in her actions and the things she thinks and says. It all felt very real to me. There's so much emotion in this book and I was so swept away with her relationship with John After. If in ten years' time I made a list of my favourite male characters in any book, I'm absolutely positive that John After would make my list. He is very worthy of swoon! And the relationship between Meg and John is just brilliant. Sadly, in my enthusiasm for spreading the love for this book, I gave my copy away. But I shall definitely be buying my own again in the very near future because this book just screams out to be read again and again.

The Boyfriend List and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
- I'm sort of cheating by counting both books by E. Lockhart here, but that's OK. I'm making the rules! And I adore E. Lockhart. Not only for her fun and funny series about Ruby Oliver but also because of her intelligent and thought-provoking book about Frankie Landau-Banks.

I admit, I had a copy of The Boyfriend List for ages and I never got around to reading it because the cover that my copy had looked a bit like it was aimed at a much younger audience than I'd normally read. Well, doesn't it? But don't let the cute frog put you off like it did me, this book is WONDERFUL! Ruby Oliver has to be one of my favourite female characters in a book ever. She's funny and sarcastic and confused. I seriously adore her and I would love to be her friend and get caught up in the drama that surrounds her. She has terrible luck with guys and some serious issues going on with her friends. With the help of her shrink, she's able to come to terms with what she wants and needs from her life, both for herself, in her friends and also in the boys in her life.

My favourite bits from this series of books (besides Roo herself, who is ace) are the popular culture footnotes which make me laugh like a loon. There's four (I believe?) books in the Ruby Oliver series, but I haven't yet read the last book. When I do finish, I shall cry at the thought of no longer have Roo in my life. Sadness.

And on a completely different note, we have The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, also by E. Lockhart, but very different to the Ruby Oliver books. Frankie Landau-Banks is another excellent female character though, one who recognises the gender imbalances in her world, from her parents' double-standards, to the outdated rules and guidelines at her elite boarding school, including the secret all-male society that her boyfriend is part of. So what does she do? In her own bad-ass way, she totally changes everything. And I cheered and felt inspired by her the entire way through this book. Rock on, Frankie!

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - Which brings me to the last book on my list, The Sky Is Everywhere. What an absolute beautiful book this is. Both the physical book as well as the story. I haven't read a book as emotional as this one in a very long time.

What I loved so much about the book is this combination of this celebration of love and life in times of absolute grief. Lennie's sister dies suddenly and she has no idea what to do and how to cope with this massive hole in her family and in her life. Lennie has always been in her sister's shadow, content to be a band geek with her nose stuck in a book. But all of a sudden, Lennie has to take the reins of her own life and make her own choices and decisions, especially when it comes to the two boys who are circling around.

What I loved so much about this book, aside from the beautiful writing and the characters, is the quirkiness of it. Lennie writes all these emotional poems and then lets them free into the wild. Her lunch bag could contain a book (to feed the soul) rather than to feed her stomach. Lennie's family is absolutely CRAZY and I lapped every detail of them. And besides all that, we have Joe Fontaine who is utterly and completely wonderful. I have a huge crush on Joe Fontaine, seriously! Such a beautiful book.

These are my favourite contemporary YA novels. Would any of these make your list? What are your favourites?


  1. Great list, the only one on it that I've read is The Boyfriend List and I loved it. I totally agree with you that whilst paranormal and dystopian YA is great, nothing beats a good contemporary YA novel. I've read so many good things about the other books on your list, think I'll have to give them a go (can I have a few extra hours in the day just for reading please?!)

  2. Great list! Anna and the French Kiss is my fave contemp of those I've read so far. I have The Sky is Everywhere to read soon oand Nobody's Girl has been recommended to me - sounds like a good one! :)

  3. Fab list! I've only read The Sky Is Everywhere. I am serious, I cannot express in words how much I love and adore this book. It is. INCREDIBLE!

  4. I have a library copy of Nobody's Girl sitting on my desk as a type - it how now jumped to the top of the pile! Have read some great things about Anna and the French Kiss, so I guess this one is next!

  5. Jenni - I would love a few extra hours in the day to read as well! I hope you do check out the other books on the list, they are fab :)

    Leanna - Nobody's Girl is a definitely a good one, and I really hope you put The Sky Is Everywhere on the top of your pile, that book is amazing!

    Cliona - Oh I'm totally with you, I absolutely ADORE The Sky Is Everywhere.

    Anna - Yes, yes, yes! Definitely do read Nobody's Girl and Anna and the French Kiss immediately :)

  6. The Boyfriend List/Frankie and Nobody's Girl would definitely be on my list too! I haven't read the third or fourth Ruby Oliver books but the thought of no more new Roo after that makes me very sad already!

  7. Anna would definitely make my list! The Paris setting is definitely a fantastic draw card for me too!

  8. Julianne - Oh I know, it makes me feel slightly weepy just thinking about it!

    Marg - I really can't quite get why there aren't very many YA books set in Paris? It's an absolutely perfect setting.


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