If you're wondering why I haven't posted in a month, the answer is simple -- I've been too busy reading. Reading Young Adult books, to be exact. This was a complete shock to me, since I never read YA books as an actual teen, preferring to turn my nose up and read Serious Books and Classic Authors. I now realize that I was a snobby little swot who should've been open-minded enough to enjoy a genre that has some amazing authors who know how to grip their audience from page one.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. It started last summer, when I was shopping for a book to supplement the vanilla Game Stop gift-card I was giving my nephew for his 14th birthday. I went to my absolute favorite toy story, the family-run Child's Play in Rockville (for you familiar with Maryland), and asked their book-buyer Phyllis (she's also married to the owner) for advice on what book to get. She suggested I buy him Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, and that I read it as well. I was already re-visiting Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series, so I figured, why not? I bought the book for my nephew, borrowed a copy from a friend, and took it on my family's camping trip. I couldn't put it down.
The next time I went into Child's Play for books it was November, and I was buying Christmas gifts for my kids. I chatted with Mandela, told her I had loved The Book Thief, and asked if she had any recommendations for me. She suggested The Hunger Games. I first heard about Suzanne Collins' books at a BlogHer event sponsored by Scholastic. The publishing powerhouse was promoting their global literacy campaign Read Every Day and took some time to introduce the key books coming out in late 2010. When Mockingjay was mentioned, most of the audience hooted, and I went "huh." I added it to my growing pile of Christmas-present books, and then promptly left it in the closet where I stash the Christmas presents.
Fast forward to Christmas Eve-Eve, at my sister Diana's in Florida. The paperback fell out of the bag, and voila, the holidays became The Christma of Katniss and Peeta. I became transfixed with Collins' dystopian universe, where North America is Panem, which is broken up into a Capitol and 12 Districts that must offer up one girl and one girl (ages 12-18) for a Battle Royale-style competition that's televised for the pampered citizens of the Capitol.
I fell in love with the amazingly fierce and beautifully flawed 16-year-old protagonist Katniss Everdeen, the Tribute from District 12, and her fellow Tribute, Peeta Mellark, aka The Boy With the Bread. I couldn't stop reading, and while the 24th, 25th, and 26th became a blur of presents, food, games, and young cousins playing while grown-up siblings talked, I was happily obsessed with the books.
I'm going to write more about The Hunger Games, but since reading the trilogy, I've read 13 YA books (Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore; City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, and A Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare; Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater; Lily and Dash's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan; I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore; The Maze Runner by James Dashner; Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi; and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson). THG is still my favorite of the lot, but many were equally as addictive and well-written and plain fantastic.
I plan to recommend the ones I especially love here. In fact, I originally planned to read 40 books in 2011, but at the rate I'm going it could end up being 75. If only I could use a Time-Turner and tell my preteen and teenage self to get over my pretensions and enjoy YA then, I think it would have been a very sweet thing.
Anyone have any good suggestions of what other YA books to put on my list this year? If you don't have any, I'll just go back to Child's Play and ask Phyllis and Mandela.