Of all the books I’ve read, a fairly large portion falls into the young adult fiction category. A lot of these books were enjoyable, but of little lasting impact. I’ve read so many I hardly remember most of them.
Long Night Dance by Betsy James and the subsequent novels in the series seem to be little known. That’s truly unfortunate. These books are amazing. They are so amazing, in fact, that I spent in excess of 5 years trying to remember what the title was or the author’s name – anything that would help me find the books again. I’ve never had a good memory for titles or authors, just for stories. As one of the comments on Amazon says, “This is one of those books that you read and then spend the rest of your life trying to find again.” I ended up e-mailing the librarians at the library system where I found the book. With just a few details of the story that I could recall, they were able to tell me the title of the book. The truth is, this isn’t my favorite young adult book/series, but it is amazing enough to deserve an honorable mention and my highest recommendation.
Tamora Pierce is an extremely prolific author. I always enjoyed works with a strong heroine that was self-reliant. At the library I used to seek out stories featuring female protagonists, and I always preferred stories in which these girls were independent and intelligent. I enjoyed the Lioness Quartet series, but my favorite of Pierce’s works are the Trickster’s series. Trickster’s Choice was a fantastic story. I wanted to mention Pierce, but I cannot give any of her novels the title of Favorite Young Adult Book.
Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy starting with A Great and Terrible Beauty is absolutely fantastic. The poetically beautiful title of the first book is followed a second book, Rebel Angels and then by yet another fantastic title – The Sweet Far Thing. I’m not usually much interested in titles, but the first and third books in this series have beautiful names that are only the tip of the iceberg of the great qualities of the trilogy. That’s right, even the names are terrific. The story itself is amazing and original. Mysterious, beautiful, magical, intriguing. If you haven’t read this series, you should. In fact, you should start reading it as soon as possible. I loved all three books in the series, but A Great and Terrible Beauty is the one I am considering for FYAB.
His Dark Materials is another wonderful trilogy. Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass do not have quite the same level of appeal as titles as Libba Bray’s books. Nevertheless, the story the books tell is (I’m out of adjectives) as good as Bray’s and better. Bray’s story is all the things I said it was, but Pullmans’ story is thought-provoking. Pullman’s story raises questions about belief and religion (at least it did for me at 12 years old). Bray’s heroine is unsure of herself, but learns to be confident. Pullman’s Lyra is almost fearless. Maybe less realistic, or at least much rarer in reality, Lyra has an appeal beyond Gemma Doyle.
Ultimately both Pullman and Bray’s works are incredibly imaginative. I enjoyed both immensely and both kept me on the edge of my seat. I feel that I must choose one, though, and I choose His Dark Materials* as my favorite young adult book. In my mind, Pullman wins only because of his books’ ability to make me think deeply, even as a 12-year-old girl, about concepts most people shy away from thinking deeply about for their entire lives.
*I cannot pick one book of the trilogy because the story has merged in my mind and I no longer divide it into individual books.