Monday 24 August 2015

A Way Into YA Day Two: Backlist Books

Welcome to A Way into YA; a series of guest posts where some lovely YA loving bloggers will give you their best recommendations and try to get you to love YA as much as they do! If you've always wanted to give it a go but have been overwhelmed by the amount of choice then hopefully this week will help you find a place to start!

I hope you got a chance to check out yesterday's brilliant science fiction recommendations. Today's guest blogger is Josephine from Word Revel and she's going to talk a little about backlist books. 

My fallback genre has always been contemporary fiction. For good reason — there’s comfort in familiarity. There is order to the world which makes the contemporary setting immediately relatable. As a result, the focus on characters and their relationships can be that much deeper. I love immersing myself into the lives of others, grappling with their happiness and sorrows because when I resurface, I often return to my own life with more clarity.

Interestingly, I’ve recently found myself reaching more for science fiction and fantasy. I realized that that’s because contemporary fiction is so familiar to me that when the hype takes over for the latest releases, I almost always lose the desire to read new contemporary books. Knowing that hype can be such a source of pressure and apprehension for other readers too, I’ve put together a list of backlist YA contemporary books that have touched me with their stories.

1. The Vow by Jessica Martinez (2013)

The VowJessica Martinez is one of my most favourite authors and I had a hard time deciding which one of her books to pick. What makes The Vow such a standout book to me are two things: exploration of identity and strong platonic friendship. Cultural and national identity are at the forefront and I think that’s something many youths and young adults struggle with today. With the rise of migration and intermarriage, many children grow up in multicultural households and adopt foreign countries as their homes.

Faced with the prospect of returning to Jordan where his parents are from, Mo is petrified. He grew up in the US and even though he’s not a US citizen, he’s more American than Jordanian. He’s loathe to the idea of moving to Jordan because ironically, among his relatives there, he’s a foreigner. Coupled with the premise of him truly being best friends with Annie, The Vow has a lot to offer in terms of breaking away from the usual contemporary fiction tropes.

2. Clean by Amy Reed (2011)

CleanClean is such an outstanding book. It’s very experimental in terms of writing style, which makes it a very refreshing read. This book is about a group of teenagers committed to rehab to combat their varying addictions, and on a lesser level, mental illness too. By combining first-person narratives, essay responses, counselling session transcripts, etc, Amy Reed pulls the reader right into the heads of the characters. The different writing style snippets convey the dissonance, despair and hope so well, I’m still impressed merely thinking about the book.

3. The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas (2011)

The Survival KitMusic can be exceedingly personal to us, especially when we attach memories and emotions to them. Music also heals. Such is the case for Rose whose mother’s passing fills her with grief. Her mother left behind a Survival Kit containing an iPod filled with a playlist. When Rose is ready, she works herself through this playlist, filling the silence of her grief with music, pondering the meanings of each song, and remembering her mother while attaching her own new memories to the music.

4. Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian (2009)
Same Difference
You might have heard of Siobhan Vivian more recently because of the Burn for Burn trilogy that she co-authored with Jenny Han. Well, she’s written plenty of her own books too and Same Difference counts to my favourites. Torn between pursuing her newfound passion in art at a summer programme and maintaining her friendships back home, Emily is such a likeable character. What I like so much about Same Difference was seeing the progressive change that art brings about in Emily over the summer as she hones her craft.

5. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen (2009)

North of BeautifulIf maps are your thing, then North of Beautiful is a book I most recommend. It doesn’t include a printed map to trace locations of the story but maps are significant because of geocaching as well as Terra’s travels to China. As with The Vow, if you’re looking for culturally diverse books, North of Beautiful is a great book. Justina Chen writes characters of culturally diverse backgrounds beautifully and treats their heritage with respect.

In North of Beautiful, we follow the life of Terra who has a port wine stain birthmark and so struggles with her insecurity over her appearance. She prefers to keep to herself until she meets Jacob, a Goth boy of Chinese ethnicity. Laced with travel, friendship and learning to accept oneself, this is a book that has captured my imagination and led me back to reading when I was overwhelmingly busy during my undergrad days.

Thanks for these really intriguing books. Once again, I hadn't heard of any of them but I'm adding them all to my TBR! Once again title links go to Goodreads. 

What are some of your favourite backlist titles? Check back tomorrow for some more awesome recommendations. 

The series so far: 
Make Mine an Indie: Alma Books
A Way Into YA Day 1: Science Fiction

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