By Jordyn Turney, 19, reporting from Alpine, CA, on the year's most riveting reads from first-time authors
It's been a tough year in too many other areas, but 2009 has been a great one for young adult books. This is the year that brought us Sarah Dessen's latest, Along for the Ride, as well as the sad and startling If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Along with these new novels by established favorites, 2009 also delivered some completely remarkable debut novels from first-time authors:
Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler
This is a book about friendship, about loss, and about love. It's the story of Anna, a girl who had a secret romance with her best friend's older brother. A guy she liked for years, a guy who was amazing. A guy who died tragically before either of them told Anna's best friend. This is the story of what happens after. It's is a book chock full of emotion and incredibly written characters who will stay after you've turned the last page of the book.
Break, by Hannah Moskowitz
Break is the rare YA novel that focuses strongly on family. The story centers around Jonah, a boy with the unusual goal of breaking every bone in his body. The reasons for his unorthodox journey are shrouded at first but become clearer as we get to know his family—the younger brother with deadly allergies to just about everything, the parents who are hanging on by a string, and the baby who just seems to complicate things. This is an insanely well-done, gritty, and intense drama that, at its heart, is about connection and the people we love. Definitely a must-read. (Oh, and the author? She was only 16 when she wrote the book.)
Hold Still, by Nina LaCour
No book I've come across has taken on the issue of teen suicide so fully and with such wonderful results. The story revolves around a girl, Caitlin, whose best friend has killed herself. The only part of her friend that Caitlin has left is Ingrid's journal, which allows Caitlin to get to know a sharp, hurt, sad side of her best friend Ingrid that she never knew before. The story is both heartbreaking and hopeful, as it explores both Ingrid's life before committing suicide, and the journey Caitlin takes to put her life back together afterwards.