We read The Ruby in the Smoke with Lizzie and she liked it, but didn't want to rush on into the others. A couple of years later I read and loved Tiger in the Well, the one about 19th-century identity theft. I'm such a huge fan of The Golden Compass and sequels that I've always thought of the Sally Lockhart series as good, but one notch below. I love the many-layered aspect of The Golden Compass, and
My favorite YA book – and by that I mean, say, 8th grade and up – is probably
Feed, by M.T. Anderson. It’s set in a dystopian future where everyone has computer chips in their brains (“wetware”) so that they can access the internet (the Feed) just by thinking about it. IM-ing is constant. And the Feed can access your thoughts, so it’s always beaming thought-specific advertising directly to your brain. It’s kind of fascinating at the beginning of the book, and evolves darker as the story progresses. The main character meets a young woman who’s trying to resist the Feed, and although he’s intrigued he ultimately retreats into his programmed world. The beauty of the book is in the language:
Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X Stork is another I’ve become quite fond of. Marcelo is an Asperger’s kid, in the summer before his senior year in high school. His over-controlling lawyer father wants him to leave his special school and mainstream into the local high school. Father and son make a deal that if Marcelo can work all summer in the mailroom at his father’s law firm, then he can choose what school he goes to. Marcelo’s voice is pitch-perfect: he explains in his slightly-detached way how he analyzes and interacts with the world. The law firm gives him an array of fast-talking, sarcastic, and occasionally just plain nasty people to try to figure out. The ending wraps up a bit too neatly, but the journey is quite wonderful.
And as long as I’m on a roll with contemporary YA with male main characters, I’ll toss in
Godless, by Pete Hautman.A high school boy creates a new religion that worships the local water tower. Chapters are preceded by quotes from the bible that he writes: they all make a lot of sense – after all water is very primal. It’s all about questioning of faith and, because the object of worship is a huge water tower, risk-taking. Another piece of good writing.