UNDERRATED YOUNG ADULT FICTION
My dad and I love a good coming-of-age story. These are delightfully done and 1048759274 times better than any supernatural dystopian young adult trilogy on the market.
- •Akiko on the Planet Smoo | Mark CrilleyAkiko, fourth grader and intergalactic hero. My sister loved this book series, and it has remained one of my favorite fictional universes for 15+ years. Also, Mark Crilley is awesome. We took him out for Chinese food once, and he was way enthusiastic. Look for my big sis in the final book of the series! Starts with the graphic novel Akiko on the Planet Smoo, continues on from there in both graphic novels and chapter books.
- •Nancy's Mysterious Letter | Carolyn KeeneBook 8 of the Nancy Drew series, and frankly, my favorite. Nothing creepy or fantastical, just a good mystery about mail fraud and friendship. If you're looking for a gateway into the Nancy Drew world, this book is the one.
- •The Enchanted Forest Chronicles | Patricia WredeCimorene is a princess but she doesn't need rescuing. She CHOSE to be with the dragons, and frankly, they are much more sensible than most humans. Probably the reason I love dragons, hate wizards, and am the kind of princess that I am today. Starts with Dealing with Dragons, continues on from there.
- •Once Upon a Marigold | Jean FerrisNow THIS is a fairytale. Inventive, witty, and romantic story of Christian and Marigold, and the adventure of finding each other. It's got it all: forest creatures, animal friends, intrigue, and so much more.
- •My Most Excellent Year | Steve KlugerThree best friends, looking for love in all the right places and told in a modern (c. early 2000s) epistolary form, completely with instant messaging.
- •The Graveyard Book | Neil GaimanBod is raised by ghosts, and when he reaches adolescence, he embarks on a journey to learn about himself, and the world, both of the living and of the dead.
- •Missing Persons | M E RabbSophie and Sam Shattenberg have lost both their parents, and now have to disappear in the middle of the night under new identities with their embezzled inheritance. They find a tiny town in Indiana, where they start new lives while hiding from their insane stepmother and the law. A perfect use of first-person narration, as the series is told from fifteen-year-old Sophie's witty and wonderful perspective. Starts with The Rose Queen, continues on from there.
- •Shakespeare's Secret | Elise BroachHero hates being the new girl with a lame name, especially when her sister Beatrice is so popular and her parents are so oblivious. Her weird neighbor and the inexplicable Danny help her uncover a magnificent mystery of the Bard as well as her courage to be herself. A mystery and a must-read and a great foray into the magic of Shakespeare!
- •Still Star-Crossed | Melinda TaubI actually read this cover to cover in one sitting as a junior in undergrad. But my sixteen-year-old self would have been obsessed too, especially after falling in love with the cast of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. A delightful continuation of R+J with all the intrigue, suspense, love triangulation, and historical dialogue you could ever hope for in a young-adult period piece.
- •The Secret Garden | Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden was the first "grown-up classic" that I ever read. I discovered Mary and Colin when I was a precocious third-grader with a penchant for getting into trouble and desperately needing a place of my own. I read this book under the desk for weeks. Soon my own secret garden was not a garden at all, but the public library.
- •Girls to the Rescue | Bruce LanskyMy dad was so cool, he didn't make me read dumb Magic Treehouse nonsense. Instead, I read books about awesome girls from around the world saving, well, the world! The series features young women of all ages, taking initiative and thwarting evil in different cultures and historical time periods so you get to learn about various forms of currency and little phrases from other languages.
- •Sophie Pitt-Trumbull Discovers America | Dyan SheldonAt an age when everyone was reading the Princess Diaries and discovering "beach reads," this particular novel made for a delightful summer (and many summers after). Sophie, a sheltered Brit, visits an old friend of her mum's in New York City. Her dreams of Manhattan elitist sightseeing are crushed when she arrives at a chaotic house in Brooklyn. With no luggage but plenty of heart (and weird neighbors), she learns to embrace uncertainty and adventure.