Finding a good book can be a Herculean task. It seems impossible and even when you think you've found something will it match your expectations or will the ending have you wanting to throw the book across the room? (Something I have done before!) Here I try to take the guess work out of finding a good book in some of your favorite genres.
Are you fan of books with apocalyptic landscapes? Technology run amok? Villains with evil henchman? A good dystopian fantasy can immerse you in a world gone bad and have you living a character's paranoia vicariously. Some of my favorite dystopian series are (of course) Hunger Games, Divergent, Under the Never Sky, Uglies, Maze Runner, Little Brother and Lockdown: Escape from Furnace. You should also try Feed by M.T. Anderson, Enders Game by Orson Scott Card, Blood Red Road by Moira Young, Battle Royale by Koshun Takami, The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsh, Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari and Black Hole Sun by David MacInnis Gill.
New to library shelves is The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Monstrumologist). Set in an America several months after an alien invasion, Cassie is all alone. Waves of attacks have left most adults, including her parents, dead and her little brother seemingly safe with the army (but where?) and now the aliens may be able to look and act human. It's hard to know who to trust when the enemy looks just like you. This is a paranoid thriller at its best! It will have you guessing until the last page and have you breathless for the next installment. Another new sci-fi novel is Proxy by Alex London (a former librarian!). Set in a future where corporations have taken over governing, Knox is a rich, charming, party boy and Syd is his clever, debt-ridden proxy. Whenever Knox gets into trouble Syd is paid to take his punishment. This time though Knox has accidently killed someone and instead of a simple punishment Syd is about to be sentenced to 16 years of hard labor. To save his own skin and escape punishment, Syd is going to have to trust the person that put him there - Knox. This intense sci-fi thriller is filled with fast paced action and wonderfully rich characters that will have you rooting for the unlikeliest of frenemies.
Summer Romance à la Sarah Dessen
Summer is the perfect time for romance novels and, for me, no one does summer romance better than ya author Sarah Dessen. Her basic ingredients: a large helping of hot guy, a little family/ friend drama, some sand and salt water and just a tad of something I like to call "self-actualization" or the fulfilling of one's individual potential. Some of my favorite titles of hers are: The Truth About Forever, This Lullaby, Along for the Ride and she has a new book out called The Moon and More. Other teen authors with books similar ingredients and tone to Sarah are Deb Caletti, Susane Colasanti, Sarah Ockler, Elizabeth Scott, Kody Keplinger, Melissa Walker and Jennifer Echols. Try any of their books and you won't be disappointed!
Another great choice is the just out Nantucket Blue by debut author Leila Howland. When Cricket's plans to vacation on Nantucket Island with her best friend's family fall through, she takes matters into own hands and gets a job there instead. Romantic entanglements and friend drama combine to complicate Cricket's perfect summer. With its beautiful setting and compelling romance, Nantucket Blue will leave readers fully satisfied and clamoring for more from this new author. This is What Happy Looks Like by favorite author Jennifer E. Smith (Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight) is another great choice and combines complex characters with the perfect romantic fantasy for a completely swoony love story. When Ellie strikes up an online friendship with a boy who has accidently emailed her about his pet pig she has no idea her new pen pal is actually the young, hot, A-list movie star Graham Larkin. However, he discovers who she is and he's just used his influence to get his latest movie made in her hometown. Can their online friendship become a real romance? She better get ready because the paparazzo are about to descend!
The best books with supernatural and paranormal elements are the ones that make the unreal seem completely real. From ghosts to vampires to witches and psychics to fallen angels, mermaids and all manner of shapeshifters. It's when all the things that shouldn't be normal suddenly are that you know you have found a good paranormal novel. Some of my favorite supernatural series are Sweep by Cate Tiernan, Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Mediator and Vanished by Meg Cabot, Blood Coven by Mari Mancusi, Firelight by Sophie Jordan, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Trylle by Amanda Hocking, Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stievater and The Katerina Trilogy by Robin Bridges.
I recently rediscovered my love of stories with ghost whisperers with the new novel Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore. A companion to Texas Gothic it continues the adventures of the younger members of the Goodnight clan, a family of women with a talent for witchcraft and psychic abilities. The heroine is Daisy Goodnight, a freshman in college and so talented at ghost whispering that she consults for the FBI on their coldest and most difficult cases. She has been called to consult on the kidnapping and possible murder of the daughter of a dangerous gangster. Add in a hot, male witch, a secret brotherhood, Ancient Egyptian artifacts and you have one heckuva thrill ride. Clement-Moore's books always have sharp, witty dialogue and are full of fun, surprising twists. Another new discovery is The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan that takes the paranormal back to Belle Époque Paris in 1899. Londoners Ingrid and Gabby arrive in their new Paris home only to find their brother missing, their grand new home actually an abandoned abbey covered in gargoyles and their handsome, new servant Luc more than he appears to be. This is not the glamorous, glittering Paris they thought they would find. The beautiful and historical setting takes this paranormal story to another level and introduces us to creatures we haven't seen before.
Edgy Realistic Fiction/Problem Novels
Realistic fiction can take readers to dark places and show them that there is always a way out. The best realistic novels take on the hardest subjects, the most somber of plots and connect you to characters in the most visceral and honest ways. One of the great, realistic fiction authors for teens is Walter Dean Myers. In writing about the experiences of African-American teens living in Harlem he writes universally about the pains of growing up. Love, war, basketball, sports, family, jail, drugs, gangs, racism, college... Myers has written about it all and he's never backed down from the truth. Some of my favorite titles of his are: Slam, Monster, Sunrise over Fallujah, Street Love, Carmen, Kick and Game. Other authors and novels that showcase the same raw truth and urban edge are Paul Volponi, Paul Griffin, Matt de le Pena, Jaqueline Woodson, Coe Booth, Ellen Hopkins, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Scrawl by Marc Schulman, Living Dead Girl By Elizabeth Scott and After by Amy Efaw.
In her latest novel Panic, author Sharon Draper (Romiette and Julio) takes on the hot button topic of abduction and sexual abuse. Diamond, 15, ignores all the warning signs and gets into the car of a handsome stranger who promises her a movie audition. Held captive, Diamond is abused and raped by a group of men and forced to star in internet porn. As the days go by, her friends are thrown into emotional turmoil by her disappearance and from dealing with their own problems. This is rich, suspenseful storytelling told by multiple narrators and Draper does not shy away from the harder scenes. In Boy 21, author Matthew Quick (The Silver Linings Playbook) introduces us to Finley, a shy boy living in a broken-down town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs and violence and he's the only white boy on his school's basketball team. When he's asked by his coach to mentor a troubled, new African-American student who only answers to the name Boy21 he doesn't quite know where to start. They will build a bond based on basketball, hope and redemption. This is a truly masterful, poignant and fast-paced story about the power of friendship and sport in an unforgiving world.