I just finished two amazing YA books that I got from my local library. (Side note: Support your local library. Every time you visit and check books out, you help them.) Both were books that were recommended to me by my agent or other YA authors who said you MUST read these books. And they were right.
While both different from each other, they both are haunting. The kind of books that stay with you long after you’ve read them.
THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson
When Lennie’s sister Bailey dies unexpectedly, Lennie (short for John Lennon) finds herself stuck. Stuck in the closet where her dead sister’s clothes are, stuck in the bedroom they shared, stuck with Bailey’s boyfriend, Toby, who also is grieving. Lennie and Toby start an unhealthy affair, which might possibly ruin her chances with a boy who can make her happy.
I loved, loved, loved this book. It’s clear that Jandy Nelson has an MFA in poetry from Brown because she writes so poetically and stunning, it made me stop and re-read again. When I was 12 and reading THE BABYSITTER’S CLUB, I always thought the notes the club wrote to each other were so cool (like Claudia’s artsy hearts over her i’s). Jandy takes the notes-in-a-book format and turns it upside down. In the book, Lennie leaves notes behind scribbled on paper cups, the back of sheet music, notebook pages from class to help her remember moments with her sister. They are touching, funny, little poems of true heartbreak. For me, this was the gem of the book (and there are so many).
STORY OF A GIRL by Sara Zarr
Deanna Lambert got caught having sex with Tommy when she was 13. Tommy was 17. And her dad caught her. Now at age 16, Deanna’s trying to move past her “bad reputation” and get on with her life, but Tommy works at the local pizza place she just got a job at and everyone at school still think she’s a slut.
So many YA authors recommended Sara Zarr that when I finally saw her book at my local library, I snatched it up. See my earlier post on what books YA authors recommend (including Lauren Strasnick!) I was glad I did. Now that I live in the Bay Area, a lot of the locales that Zarr mentions in her novel like the Stonestown Mall are places I’ve driven past. When I drove past the Stonestown Mall, I smiled, thinking of Deanna wandering the food court. What really got me about this book is how real it is. How girls get pinned with reps like “easy” or “sluts” while boys are lauded for losing their virginity. Deanna was like girls I knew, and in some ways I felt like Deanna since I grew up with a size 36D chest by the time I went to high school. Deanna was very real to me, flaws and all, and I just wanted to sit with her and tell her that everything would be okay.