a handful of young adult novels

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler 

It's 1996, and when Emma gets a computer, something weird happens.  Within her AOL account she finds a strange place called Facebook.  In it, there's a page showing that she is fifteen years older and in trouble.  So, along with her neighbor and lifelong friend Josh, she starts to change the future, to write a better ending for herself. And things really begin to change.  She and Josh have been estranged ever since he tried to kiss her a few months back, and of course that changes dramatically.  Josh is perfectly happy with his future, but when Emma changes hers it impacts his as well and causes renewed tensions in their relationship.  Somehow, Asher and Mackler manage to stay on the relatively light side of how decisions today impact one's fate tomorrow, and it makes for a fun and engaging read.

Although marketed to young adults, this is a book best suited for my generation, for people who came of age in the 90s or so and and are in their 30s now-ish, who will get the AOL and scrunchie jokes.  (I got this one as a galley, so it may not be released yet.)

Fire by Kristin Cashore

I thought Graceling was a feminist novel, but Fire takes it to the next level, engaging directly with the female experience of being looked at and insatiably hungered for without regard to one's inner being.  Fire is the name of the only human monster known in a world where there are monsters of every species.  Monsters are visibly different from others of their kind.  Fire is marked by the radiantly bright colors of her hair, which she must keep covered to keep from being devoured by other monster creatures, who crave monster flesh like nothing else.  As a human, however, other humans are quick to spot her even if her hair is covered, and since she's the only daughter of Cansrel who was notorious for debauchery and cruelty, she is exposed almost everywhere she goes.  In addition to mesmerizing physical beauty, monsters also have the ability to control minds, and although Fire shies away from this ability after seeing her own father exploit others endlessly, she is treated with suspicion everywhere she goes.  And she goes many places, after a mysterious archer attempts to kill her, and the attempt to solve this mystery sweeps her into kingdom-wide politics.  Recommended without reservations, even if you don't get the feminist metaphors.  It's a fantastic fantasy story and quite adult.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Lai just won the children's national book award with this free-verse novel about life in Vietnam, fleeing from the Vietnam civil war, and landing in Alabama where she is teased, ostracized, and feels "stupid." She's not, though, and she fights her way through learning English with all its absurdities.  The most poignant part (spoiler) is when her family finally lets go of the hope that her father, missing these 9 years in war, will come back to them alive.  This is a brief but beautiful book detailing the life of a Vietnamese family who is displaced suddenly through the eyes of sensitive protagonist Ha.

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This starts as realistic fiction, but then becomes a dystopian novel.  When as asteroid of unprecedented size hits the moon, the immediate effects are dramatic:  part of the moon is knocked off, the moon is closer to earth, and the tides are out of whack.  Miranda lives in rural Pennsylvania, so she is emotionally rather than physically affected by the loss of huge chunks of both the east and west coasts.  Masses of people are dying, and Miranda is slow to understand how it impacts her.  At first, summer goes on as usual.  But then the infrastructure of power breaks down.  As it gets colder, heat breaks down, although fortunately they have a woodstove.  Miranda's mother thought to stock up on food, but even that becomes scarce.  This is a well-told what-if story that would be eye-opening to young Americans who have never stopped to think about how fortunate, protected, and deeply vulnerable they really are.

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