I was the kind of kid who always wanted to be an adult. I went through a fruitful reading period from about 5th to 8th grade where I read all those really great classics. There were no shortage of strong, smart, and interesting female characters. Little House on the Prairie, A Wrinkle in Time, Julie of the Wolves, Jacob Have I Loved, Bridge to Terabithia, I Capture the Castle, I could go on and on. But then I started reading adult books and it took me a long time to realize that there weren't anywhere near as many strong, smart and interesting women in them.
So, I present to you, 3 Young Adult books I read this year that I would have died for at 13. I know that these days people think of YA and think of mushy drivel and rich-girl melodrama, but there is so much more out there and it's just as good as it ever was no matter how old you are. Plus, not only are all three about strong girls, but they're all written by women.
- Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. This is the only book on this list not published in '08 (actually '06) but I didn't find it until recently. I have always loved crazy post-apocalyptic stuff, but this book is actually the apocalyptic part where you have no clue what's going to happen. Pfeffer's heroine writes about the ever-increasing calamities in her diary, a device that rarely works but really does here. Miranda's relationships with her family and friends go through a lot of strain as she finds the things that used to matter don't anymore.
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. If you do keep up with YA, I have little doubt you've already heard of this one since it's taking the place by storm. The premise sounds insane, a futuristic society with an annual battle where teenagers have to fight to the death, but you'll be surprised just how personal and compassionate of a book it is. It also has a nice edge of satire and a plot that's full of surprises. Our heroine, Katniss, is nothing if not savvy, but she's also both tough and tender. Allegedly there will be books to follow and I'm very excited.
- The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. This is the only book of the bunch that is set in the plain-old present. At first glance it appears to be your average boarding-school novel complete with crushes, pranks, and secret societies, but it turns out to be a study in budding feminism. Our lovely young Frankie, who finds herself suddenly attractive after the summer break, has to think long and hard about what it means to be a girl and what you should really look for in a boy. I really love the way Lockhart already knows what kind of person her heroines will end up being and is going to show you how they'll eventually get there even if you don't see the final product.
So, there you have it, and I'm sure there's a whole bunch more that I've missed. As for my one regular fiction recommendation, it is The Age of Shiva by Manil Suri, a beautifully written book set in India that follows one woman's life that really rings true (even though it's written by a man). What I love about it is that you can see the difference between reacting to patriarchy and breaking free from it.
What are some great books you've read this year?