I loved Bardugo’s complex world with all its magic and politics. However, I loved the characters even more. All of them are a little broken from betrayal or hurt. Yet they find family in each other and end up pushing each other to be better. It’s a surprisingly touching story.
Published in 1848, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall created quite the scandal with its depictions of drunkenness and adultery. Today, it is still a powerful look at gender roles and relationships. Anne fearlessly advocates for the right of women to leave an abusive husband and impresses upon readers the truth that loving someone enough will not change them. It’s a lesson I wish more YA books would teach.
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
Tess of the Road sets itself apart from other YA books by presenting a prickly protagonist whose story is more about fighting her own demons than any physical monsters. Disliked and repressed by her family, Tess rebels only to find herself ruined. Drinking will not ease the pain, so Tess sets off, hopefully to learn that she is not as evil as her family believes. It’s a thoughtful and engaging story, one readers can’t skim, but have to savor slowly.
Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
Juliet is still processing the death of her mother in a car accident. Declan is facing the aftermath of the night he tried to end it all. One is constantly frustrating adults who think she should be “over” it. The other is constantly dismissed by adults who see him as nothing but trouble. Their love story encompasses so much more than the typical plot line of “Falling in love changes everything.” Their love changes everything because it inspires them to start working on the other relationships in their lives.
This companion book to Letters to the Lost focuses on Declan’s best friend Rev. I love the male friendship presented in both books and the way the boys talk to each other not only about their crushes but also about their hopes and fears, their families, their pasts, and even their belief or unbelief in God. Male friendships in YA are not often represented, so this book is a refreshing surprise.
I never expected to love a book about a boy and his dogs as much as I loved this book. I felt like I was really in the Ozarks in the 1920s, entering into Billy’s small joys and triumphs. And, yes, I cried through most of the story.
I didn’t know what to expect when I started this book, so I was surprised by the beauty, the thoughtfulness, and the depth. The story challenges readers to remember that the small things in life are often the most important. It reads like a charming fairy tale.
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson always creates compelling and complex worlds and Warbreaker is no exception to that rule. The magic system based on Breath and color is stunning. However, I love the characters even more, especially the god Lightsong, who doubts his own divinity, and the mysterious Vasher who wields a talking and potentially evil sword.
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
Can a sequel be even more impressive than the first book? Scythe at times veers a little towards standard YA, especially with the predictable romance and the competition at the end. Thunderhead is more original and thus more emotionally gripping.
I can’t say enough about how marvelous this book is. It features a plucky protagonist swept into a magical world where she must face four challenges to join the prestigious Wundrous Society. Along the way, she meets people with extraordinary abilities from dragon riding to singing that enchants even the animals. The brilliantly quirky, encouraging, and bold Jupiter North anchors the story. I am sure readers will fall in love both with him and with our protagonist Morrigan.