YA Lit or New Adult? Six Titles for Older Teens | SLJ Spotlight

Six sophisticated titles for teens that explore life beyond high school.
While the jury is still out on whether new adult is actually a thing, teens have more and more access to books about the post–high school life. Whether looking for a sophisticated, genre-bending read or in need of a luscious family drama, these titles are just right for older young adults.

redstarCashore, Kristin. Jane, Unlimited. 464p. Penguin/Kathy Dawson Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780803741492.

Gr 9 Up –Before her Aunt Magnolia died in a blizzard in Antarctica, she made Jane promise to accept any invitation she might receive to visit Tu Reviens. When her high school tutor, Kiran, extends an invitation to her family’s annual spring gala at Tu Reviens, Jane knows she has to accept even though she is still deep in mourning for the aunt who had raised her. But the estate (and the impossibly rich and peculiar family that inhabits it) is far more perilous than she could have possibly imagined. Befriended by a very odd dog named Jasper and the intriguing Ivy, Jane is drawn into an Alice in Wonderland–like adventure where nothing makes sense, and danger and intrigue are the order of the day. According to the author’s note, Cashore has incorporated elements of many of her favorite books into this hefty novel. The book is divided into multiple long chapters, each offering readers different paths for Jane. Each “direction” adopts the format and narrative structure of a distinct genre, sometimes to great effect, but occasionally leading readers into a confusing jumble of characters and subplots. Nevertheless, teens will willingly be pulled headlong into a novel that ranges in topics from space-travel to umbrella-making to art theft to kidnapping and international espionage. VERDICT This excellent, genre-bending title is a great pick for teens looking for something challenging to take them off the well-beaten path of ­standard YA fare.–Jane Henriksen Baird, ­Anchorage Public Library, AK

Davis, Jenny Fran. Everything Must Go. 416p. Wednesday Bks. Oct. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250119766.

Gr 9 Up –Flora Goldwasser creates a diary that speaks to readers directly, recounting the tale of how her brief relationship with an older man (a college-age tutor) not only turned her into a social media darling but also into the kind of lovesick teenager who would move to his alma mater because she thought it would bring him back to her. Flora poses for Elijah, never dreaming that her devotion to and knowledge of vintage fashion will bring her a cult following. Flora remains loyal to Elijah long after she starts her junior year at Quare, an exclusive school with only 16 students per year. Quare cultivates an environment that is intended to encourage student inclusivity; this includes shunning any discussion of privilege or “shell speak” about superficial looks or things that cannot be changed. Flora initially struggles to fit in given her feelings and propensity toward fashion and material goods. She slowly begins to make a place in Guild, the school’s drama group, where she is able to turn her anger into a project for school when Elijah leaves her the day after they have sex. Her friendships, both new and old, and her strong ties with her family are well-portrayed. Told via letters, emails, and journal entries, this book insightfully handles a problematic relationship and presents a flawed, intelligent, and well-crafted protagonist. VERDICT A good choice for ­public and high school libraries.–Betsy Fraser, ­Calgary Public ­Library, Canada

redstarDunn, Gaby & Allison Raskin. I Hate Everyone But You. 352p. Wednesday Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250129321.

Gr 10 Up –This contemporary coming-of-age story of two friends on opposite shores explores difficult topics in a relatable tone. Ava and Gen are best friends whose relationship defines the maxim that opposites attract. Ava, the perfectionist, joins a sorority because she thinks that’s what college students should do. She struggles with balancing her social life, anxiety, and class load. Gen is studying journalism and places herself in the thick of things by writing a controversial article as soon as she joins the school paper. She is queer and proud of it, but finds that her relationship with one of her teachers complicates matters. Narrated via texts and emails between the two main characters, this book will appeal to a wide range of teens. Ava and Gen wrestle with mental health issues, relationships, alcohol and drug use, and other typical aspects of college life. The text’s light, conversational style allows readers to explore tough topics without getting bogged down. The character focus in this story takes the place of a compelling plot; however, fans of the authors’ YouTube channels will find themselves turning pages quickly. Give to fans of Robin Talley’s What We Left Behind or Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. VERDICT A first purchase for all libraries serving older teens.–Jenni Frencham, Columbus Public Library, WI

redstarPerkins, Mitali. You Bring the Distant Near. 320p. Farrar. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374304904.

Gr 9 Up –Related in the alternating voices of two sisters and their respective daughters, this work captures the unique and, at times, fraught experience of navigating multiple cultures. Perkins examines the delicate balance between meeting family expectations and attaining personal happiness, a common motif in immigrant narratives. The story opens in 1970s New York, where the Das family has immigrated from England in hopes of planting roots and finding acceptance. Desperate for the adolescent freedoms they lacked in London, the teens chafe against their mother Ranee’s traditional Indian values. Older sister Tara (Starry) longs to be an actress, and budding feminist Sonia (Sunny) craves autonomy. The relationship between Sunny and Ranee is at the crux of the novel, representing the collision and ultimate blending of cultures. In the United States, Ranee struggles in vain to hold on to her “Indianness,” not only for herself, but also for her children. While Starry follows through on her entertainment dreams in Bollywood, it’s a slightly rougher path for Sunny. Perkins does not shy away from the complexities of race and culture with her realistic depiction of painful estrangement between mother and daughter when Sunny marries Lou, a black man. It is only through her connection to her granddaughters, Chantal and Anna that Ranee finds redemption and transformation. This novel underscores the importance creating a home no matter where you are in the world. VERDICT This stunning book about immigration and cultural assimilation is a must-purchase for teen and new adult collections.–Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA

Walters, Eric. 90 Days of Different. 312p. Orca. Aug. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781459816732.

Gr 10 Up –Ella and Sophie are friends who are spending their last summer at home before college. Ella has decided to help Sophie get out of her comfort zone by coming up with new and different things for Sophie to do. The hitch? Sophie can’t say no to any of them and she must document her journey, publicly, on social media. Told from Sophie’s point of view, the narrative gives readers an inside look into her feelings about this adventure. She must come to terms with her own insecurities, while also learning something new. She partakes in a multitude of different activities, from a 5k run called The Dirty Duck Run to volunteering at a soup kitchen. While doing these things, the teen learns a lot about not only herself, but also about the people she meets. She also discovers the impact that her story has on others in the world via social media. This well-told narrative shows how one can branch out of one’s comfort zone, and also how social media and the Internet can have a positive impact on the world. VERDICT A fun, engaging read, particularly for those who are about to begin a new phase in their lives. A great pick for libraries in need of more contemporary fiction.–Tegan Anclade, Lake Villa District Library, IL

Waters, Tawni. The Long Ride Home. 256p. Sourcebooks. Sept. 2017. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781492645436.

Gr 9 Up –Harley, born Juliet to an actress and still reeling from the recent loss of her mother in a fire, embarks on a road trip to bring her mother’s ashes home to New York. Since the fire, Harley, who feels at fault for leaving a candle burning, has been living with her mother’s best friend, Mercy, in Los Angeles. Her father hasn’t been involved in her life for a very long time. Harley plans to make the trip on her mother’s beloved motorcycle. She tries to cope with PTSD, guilt, loss, and depression with drinking, but then her period is late, and fear of pregnancy are added to her already overflowing emotional plate. Mercy agrees to let Harley go because Dean, her one friend, crush, and unaware father of her baby is going along. Written in first person as a letter, this contemporary YA story line is much like Harley’s bike trip— it’s a long and, at times, painful road for the protagonist with good and difficult stops along the way. The recipient of the letter isn’t revealed until the final pages. During the trip’s detours, including a major scare near the end, Harley learns that once she accepts circumstances in life, home may have been with her all along. Explicit language, drug and alcohol references, and not-so-subtle sexual content make this more appropriate for older teens. VERDICT For general purchase, this realistic fictional tale about the meaning of home will have readers rooting for the down-on-her-luck protagonist and her geeky, irresistible suitor.–Laura Jones, ­Argos Community Schools, IN


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