Carrie Jones, will you be my best friend? Author of Need Series captivates with humor.

I’m a sucker for humor. But I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for the tongue-in-cheek writing that greeted me in Need, Carrie Jones first novel of the same-named series. By the second book, I was a total fan, and now on book three, I’m craving it. I need more Carrie Jones.

Before I continue with this author-on-author worship, let me explain that I’ve been reading my share of the lastest and greatest YA novels, and some are terrific, but generally, quite serious. For instance, Divergent, The Book Thief, Matched, Delirium, Before I Fall, Lament, and Starcrossed are just a few recent reads. This is good stuff, but sheesh, the drama is taking it’s toll.

And then I open Need and am treated to an exciting story, but one that has no problem making fun of itself. I thought I couldn’t handle any more vampire-type novels for a while, but Jone’s take on the whole pixie situation is hilarious. Oh, and werewolves. Where would we be without those? Not nearly as entertained, that’s for sure.

So Carrie Jones, you’ve won me over. I love the fact that I can read something exciting and romantic and still laugh every other page (or every page). Sometimes we just need to take things a little less seriously, you know?

Check out her website–it’s funny too!

Falling for Oliver’s Before I Fall

Lauren Oliver is another YA author  to expound on the dystopian theme, with the popular Delirium and recently released Pandemonium. However, the first book I got my hands on was her debut novel, Before I Fall, a present day, stand-alone book.

At first I hated the characters. I’ve been racing through so many novels on my Kindle that I hadn’t exactly read the synopsis for this one. I thought it was some kind of ghost story, and in the first few pages, I felt frustrated. I wasn’t one of those girls in school. I was never an outcast, but I was nice, and most of my friends were of the nice variety as well. I wasn’t sure I could relate to Oliver’s Samantha Kingston.

But before throwing in the towel, I went back to read the book blurb. Ahhh–I didn’t realize this girl was going to get the chance to live her last day seven times. After that, I was hooked. Don’t ask me what flipped the switch in my brain–it just flipped.

I will tell you that I felt this story very powerfully. I don’t usually cry for books and movies, but this one definitely contributed to some waterworks. This author writes very artisitically for sure, but it was the journey for this bitchy high-schooler that really had me believing that Oliver has “the stuff.”

Utopia gone bad – The Matched Trilogy is a gentler but more subversive take on the popular dystopian theme

Thank goodness there’s one more book in the Matched Trilogy by Allie Condie. Matched and Crossed will go down as two of my favorite YA novels thus far. The ideas behind this series about a dystopian society reminds me of the concepts put forward in Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day, with the-world-is-hunky-dory concept getting blown to bits in the first book. Of course, the ever popular Hunger Games makes no bones about its dystopian world, but I like Condie’s gradual revelations even better.

The question I pose is, how important is the disscussion of dystopian themes in todays’ society? It’s not a new idea by any means (see list here), but conspiracy theorists and doomsday preppers aside, how complacent are we, and can dystopian fiction make us any more aware of giving up the freedoms we cherish?

Oh–and I love Condie’s use of the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” I think it’s a good reminder.

Another Faust is another kind of YA novel

As I was finishing up Another Faust by brother and sister team, Daniel and Dina Nayeri, I was struck that I probably should have spent more time familiarizing myself with the Faust legend before consuming this novel. Sure, I knew the guy had sold his soul to the devil for worldly pleasures/knowledge, but now that I’ve taken time to look into the story again, I’m amazed at the shear number of works based on the tale. The Nayeris have now added another, a story about teenagers who have sold their souls in exchange for specific gifts. The rest is, well, slightly unnerving and ultimately intriguing.

The novel is the opposite of upbeat, and yet, one point made by the authors was something that stuck with me–the fact that in order to sell your soul to the devil, you have to do it everyday. You can back out. This for some reason, was strangely refreshing and perhaps an important message woven in a tale that might just give a reader the creeps. In our society where people like to explain why they’re victims, this book seems to say, “You make your own choices.”

So check out the authors and books here. There are additional books in the Another Series, which are, according to the authors’ websites, “classic works re-imagined at the elite Marlowe School, where characters of the past take on new life, in a modern New York.”

Can the genre-divide be crossed? J. K. Rowling’s new venture raises the question of whether YA and adult mainstream novelists can dabble in both

The big discussion last month was J. K. Rowling’s announcement that she will be writing a novel for the adult crowd. The question was whether her larger-than-life Harry Potter series would eclipse any future attempt by her to create a compelling story and cast of characters. But she’s not the first YA novelist to try a new market. Stephanie Myer released The Host last year, and Judy Blume has several adult novels available, which seem to appeal especially to those who grew up reading her numerous books geared for a younger crowd. Anyone know of others?

As for crossing the other direction, James Patterson, John Grisham, Harlan Coben, and Lauren Conrad are just a few big names in publishing who are now trying their hand at YA fiction. Having read Coben’s Shelter, I can give him a thumbs up and hope to see more. I haven’t read the others yet, but word on the street (or in some author chat rooms) isn’t pretty. However, I’ll reserve judgment, as always, until I can give them a whirl myself!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Unusual Children invites you on a journey that stretches the imagination – and oh the pictures!

I was a little worried at the beginning of this book–scary images is one of the reasons I enjoy reading scary books over watching scary movies. Pictures stick with me. But some disturbing (or maybe not so disturbing if you’re not as easily frightened as I am) images aside, this story does fascinate, even as it asks you to expand your scope of the fantastical several times throughout the narrative. One of my pet peeves are novels that have to explain too much to make their plots work out, but I think this book manages this aspect just fine. The details are woven in incrementally. I know this doesn’t really explain to you what the story is about, so here’s a few words to wet your appetite–paranormal children, time travel, WWII, murder, romance, and spectacular imagery. To learn more, check out http://www.ransomriggs.com/, and once you’ve given this book a read, let me know your thoughts!

My Worst Best Friend – Dyan Sheldon’s story is in the dialogue

You may have heard of the book Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, on which a Hollywood film is based. But author Dyan Sheldon’s repetoire goes far beyond that successful YA novel (check her out at http://www.dyansheldon.co.uk). Recently, I just finished My Worst Best Friend. I have to say, the story is in the dialogue , which may be Sheldon’s specialty. She definitely “gets” what drives teenage girls and the fact that not all of them are only boy-crazy (most, but not all).

This is fun. It’s nothing too deep (and it’s not supposed to be, I think), but the dialogue is snappy. Also, the heroine’s love interest is unique compared with most of the hearthrobs that pervade teen fiction. I found myself getting a little aggravated with the heroine at times, but I think maybe this is because I saw a little of myself in her. And that made the ending all the more satisfying.

What say you, Sheldon fans?