May 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Funny YA Favorites | SLJ Spotlight

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Not all of young adult literature is dark and cry-inducing. From a romp all over Europe to a satire about reality TV, the following titles might be just the kind of humor that teens need to add to their summer reading piles.

Damico, Gina. Waste of Space. 512p. HMH. Jul. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544633162.

Gr 9 UpWaste of Space is the newest reality television show produced by Chazz Young and his shady team at DV8. Put 10 teenagers in a spaceship and blast them off into space to face weekly terrors, from aliens to asteroids to raging hormones. What could go wrong? What the teens don’t know is that the entire production is a fake, and what Chazz doesn’t know is that the scientists he hired for the show have an agenda all their own. The program becomes a national obsession. However, the scientists pull the plug on everyone, leaving the teens, Chazz, and all of America scrambling to find out what is going on. At times, Damico’s latest is a hilarious satire with over-the-top caricatures in over-the-top situations; it’s also a sweet YA love story of loss and redemption. The two plotlines make the book feel contrived and too long. All the characters are stereotypical, which fits in perfectly with the reality show concept, but some are completely unbelievable. The format jumps from prose to screenplay to monologue, making the narrative sometimes hard to follow. This is a unique and often engaging tale, however. It may find an audience, but as a whole, it misses the mark. VERDICT Intriguing and at times hilarious, but ultimately muddy and too drawn-out. Purchase where funny YA is lacking.–Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX

McCahan, Erin. The Lake Effect. 400p. Dial. Jul. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803740525.

Gr 9 Up –A coming-of-age story about love, life, and creating one’s own expectations. Briggs Henry is ambitious and goal-oriented and always meets his family’s high standards. He graduated as one of the top students in his high school; he was president of his class and the captain of the baseball team. In the fall, Briggs will attend Michigan State University. The summer before he leaves for college, the teen takes a job as a live-in assistant for an eccentric elderly woman who lives in a large house on the shore of Lake Michigan. He slowly befriends a unique and captivating array of South Haven locals. Briggs’s relationships with the various townspeople, including the beautiful and mysterious girl next door and his hilarious employer, have a profound effect. For the first time the protagonist is able to think about what life is really all about and what he, not his family, truly wants. Thought provoking—and at times hilarious—this book is filled with effective imagery that makes it a great summer read. Teens can almost hear the waves of Lake Michigan lapping against the shore in the background of the characters’ dialogue. Some moderate drinking and discussion of sex make this novel more appropriate for mature readers. VERDICT Recommend this title to those who enjoyed Cara Chow’s Bitter Melon, John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, and Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story.–Ellen Fitzgerald, Naperville Public Library, IL

Mlynowski, Sarah. I See London, I See France. 384p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jul. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062397072.

Gr 10 Up –A monthlong trek across Europe with your BFF sounds like the perfect way to spend your first summer after freshman year of college. Sydney wants to take the perfect selfie and scope out attractive guys, but she also hopes the trip will help newly single Leela get over her cheating ex. Although leaving her mother, who has agoraphobia, in the hands of her younger sister weighs heavily on Sydney’s mind, she is determined to make this the trip of a lifetime. The girls’ romp hits a roadblock when Leela’s ex, Matt, shows up. Sydney tries to support her friend, but it’s kind of hard to focus with Matt’s hot friend Jackson around. While Leela and Matt heat up and then cool off again, Sydney and Jackson find themselves falling hard for each other. Sydney’s physical journey across Europe mirrors a personal one in which she must weigh her role as a friend against her own happiness. Mlynowski weaves an adventure suited to older readers: in Amsterdam, Sydney and her friends explore marijuana bars and even a candidly described sex show. Peppered with fresh, funny dialogue, this is an upbeat country-hopping trek. Sydney’s struggle to balance new and old friends, romance, and family obligations will resonate with teens. Fans of E. Lockhart’s “Ruby Oliver” series will enjoy graduating to this more mature option. VERDICT An entertaining journey, complete with the Eiffel Tower, gelato, and cute boys, that is perfect for summer reads displays and shelves.–Carrie Finberg, South Park High School, PA

redstarOrmsbee, Kathryn. Tash Hearts Tolstoy. 384p. S. & S. Jun. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481489331.

Gr 9 Up –Seventeen-year-old Kentucky filmmaker and Tolstoy superfan Tash Zelenka’s summer takes an unexpected turn when her web series, Unhappy Families (a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina) goes viral. The newfound fame causes tension between Tash and her best friend Jack, who also works on the series. Tash is easily caught up in the increased social media attention, her fans’ expectations, and the criticisms. She is also grappling with her complicated relationship with her sister, Klaudie, who drops out of acting in the series to more fully enjoy her last summer before college. Plus, Tash must deal with her flirtation with vlogger Thom, her confusing feelings for Paul (Jack’s brother and Tash’s other best friend), and her worries about the end of the series and her impending college applications. Tash is also beginning to come out to people as romantic asexual and needs to figure out how to share her identity with Thom, whom she will be meeting soon at the Golden Tuba independent web awards. Tash and her group of artsy theater friends are vibrant, creative, and thoughtful. They may not always totally understand one another, but their admirable and complicated friendships have so much heart. The much-needed asexual representation plays a significant role in the story, with readers privy to Tash’s thoughts on identity and conversations with friends about what the term means. VERDICT Funny, well written, and compulsively readable, this will especially appeal to readers with an interest in web series. A strong choice for YA shelves.–Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Great River Regional Library, Saint Cloud, MN

redstarRoat, Sharon Huss. How To Disappear. 384p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062291752.

Gr 7 Up –Vicky Decker relies upon her best friend, Jenna, to shield her from stressful social situations. That is, until Jenna and her family move away and Vicky’s social anxiety is cast into sharp relief against Jenna’s seeming ease at making new friends. To cope with her jealousy and loneliness, Vicky Photoshops herself into one exciting social setting after another and uploads the images onto Instagram, all from the safety of her bedroom. Calling herself #vicurious, a nod to her attempts to live vicariously, she is inundated with followers and publicity. But is she so busy being Vicurious that she’ll miss the opportunity to live life for real? Vicky’s viral Instagram habit is not merely self-serving, which distinguishes the narrative from similar books. Using hashtags such as #ignored and #seeme, Vicky discovers that she is far from #alone in her sense of invisibility, and she decides to help others like her. Her influence leads to a chain of kindness. This is a witty, hard-to-put-down novel that’s appropriate for younger teens. However, the lack of grittiness won’t deter older teens, who will be carried along by familiar lingo and references to social networks and celebrities. VERDICT Those who enjoy Laurie Halse Anderson’s works and Sophie Kinsella’s Finding Audrey will want to snap up this funny, important, touching, and, at times, profound title. It offers an engaging tie-in with antibullying or kindness campaigns.–Melissa Williams, Berwick Academy, ME

Thornburgh, Blair. Who’s That Girl. 400p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jul. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062447777.

Gr 8 Up –Thornburgh deftly balances snark and optimism in this thoroughly delightful novelization of the song “Hey There Delilah.” Brainy and adorably awkward Nattie leads a fairly average life: she’s an active member of the LGBT club and has a group of quirky friends, enchantingly eccentric parents, and a mountain of Latin homework. Normally, her biggest enterprise would be pulling off Operation Big Gay Dance Party. Yet when Nattie’s unrequited crush Sebastian Delacroix becomes an indie rock sensation with his sultry hit “Natalie,” life takes a turn for the crazy. Is Nattie Sebastian’s muse? Nattie becomes the subject of much social media speculation amid a quasi-flirtation with Sebastian, which turns her world topsy-turvy. Thornburgh manages subtle social media commentary. Afternoons spent baking and translating Catullus with good friend Zach the Anarchist muddy the waters further with Sebastian. Whom does Nattie like? Who sincerely cares for her? Superficial character development, a fairly stereotypical entourage, and soon-to-be-dated cultural references keep this novel lighthearted, which is Thornburgh’s aim. Furthermore, there are few surprises in the lead-up to a happy ending. However, teens will want to read every page. VERDICT Readers will root for this intelligent heroine surrounded by terribly clever and articulate friends. The snappy dialogue, extremely likable characters, and daydream-worthy plot make this fun romance with Gilmore Girls–esque humor a perfect summer read.–Laura Falli, McNeil High School, Austin, TX

Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz ( is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.



  1. Thank you so much for compiling this list of funny books. This is one of the most requested genres at my high school library and all these titles sound terrific.

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