Reading Wrap-Up and Book of the Month

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway‘s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic. To participate, just answer the prompt on your blog and leave a link over at YA Highway.

This week’s question: What’s the best book you read in September?

I’m sadly behind on my reading wrap-ups. I haven’t done tons of reading in the last few months thanks to a big ol’ revision, but here are the books I’ve managed to knock off my To-Read list:

Breathe by Sarah Crossan (available October 2nd) – I enjoyed this dystopian’s concept and Sarah Crossan’s writing, and I look forward to finding out more about this world as the series progresses. That said, I had a little trouble connecting with the main characters, perhaps because there were three first-person narrators. I never felt fully immersed in any one protagonist’s life. Regardless, this one’s worth checking out next month, especially if you’re a fan of dystopian YA.

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry – This was a very cool book, reminiscent of the gritty, no-holds-barred contemporaries of Simone Elkeles. Echo and Noah were both sympathetic main characters with distinct voices and fascinating backstories. I found myself rooting for them throughout the novel. My one criticism of this story was that their relationship was at times a bit… romance-novel-esque, which is to say, not exactly my taste. Still, this book is an entertaining read. I recommend it for lovers of more mature contemporary YA.

Skylark by Meagan Spooner – This disturbing world was so unlike anything I’ve read before, it took some time to get a grasp on all the details. Once I was immersed, though, I was intrigued by Lark’s plight and impressed by how she transformed into a smart, capable heroine. Meagan Spooner has a timeless writing style that was refreshing in this age of super-trendy teen speak. Definitely looking forward to this story’s continuation in Shadowlark.

Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook (available January, 2013) – I absolutely loved this beautiful, heartbreaking, fearless tale of two damaged teens on the run. It’s one of the best YA contemporaries I’ve read. I posted a full Bookanista review HERE.

And the best book I’ve read in the last few months…

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

From Goodreads: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Yes! An ADULT book is the best I’ve read in recent memory. I’ve seen Gone Girl recommended all over the place lately, specifically by Rachel, Ghenet, and Meredith (via Instagram), and when I purchased it at my local indie, the woman behind the counter couldn’t say enough about how fantastic she thought it was. So, I knew I was in for something good. I just didn’t know how good.

I refuse to give anything about Gone Girl away, but I will say that this book made me feel ALL THE FEELINGS. I was charmed, horrified, romanced, aghast, and sometimes even amused. Every chapter was a total trip, and most of the chapter endings left me reeling. In other words, Gone Girl is a page turner of the very best sort. Married protagonists Nick and Amy are tragically flawed, yet somehow weirdly lovable, and their marriage is a wreck. Nick and Amy are both presumably unreliable, which makes Gone Girl‘s mystery is a TRUE mystery. I had absolutely no idea what was coming next, and not even a guess at how the story would end. But, I was desperate to find out. And the writing! It’s fantastic, guys. Gillian Flynn is a master, and I pretty much wanted to stand up and applaud after every. Single. Paragraph. I’m a big fan of the thoughtful, well-placed adverb (yeah, yeah, they pave the road to hell… whatever), and let me tell you: Gillian Flynn ROCKS the deliberate adverb. All in all, Gone Girl is on my short list of 2012 favorites. It’s THAT GOOD.

So, have I raved enough? Will you please, please, please read Gone Girl?

Tell me: What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

RTW: I’m so old school…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway‘s contributors post a weekly writing – or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic. To participate, just answer the prompt on your blog and leave a link over at YA Highway.This week’s question: What word processing program do you use to write you manuscript, and can you share one handy trick you’ve learned in that program that has helped you while you write?

typewriter

Guys, I’m so old school. I use Microsoft Office Word 2007. I’m envious of all you Scrivner people, but alas, I use a PC and I’m technologically stunted and resistant to change. So, Word it is. Are you judging me?

As far as simplicity and ease, Microsoft Word is where it’s at. I type my stories in an open document and jump around as needed. Not so great for organization and pre-planning, but it’s the way I’ve always done things, and it’ll be my way until it stops working. My favorite writing-related functions are the highlighter (I’m an obsessive color-coder) and FIND, which is great for editing, searching out specific words, and making document-wide corrections.

While I appreciate the straightforwardness of Word, perhaps someday I’ll own a Mac and give Scrivner a go. 🙂

What word processing program do you use? (And don’t forget to visit YA Highway to see how others answered today’s question!)

♥ Love List ♥

Okay, I know I’m way late to this party, but after reading everyone’s RTW posts from last week, I was very much inspired to make a ‘Love List’ for my WiP, Cross My Heart. But, as fate would have it, I’ve been busy revising the thing, and I’m just getting around to compiling my list. The timing works out kind of perfectly, though, because now that I’ve spent a good many days pouring over CMH, I feel extra lovey-dovey about it.

In case you missed it, last week’s official RTW topic was…

Inspired by Stephanie Perkins’ post on Natalie Whipple’s blog, what is your novel’s “Love List”?

And here’s mine:

Coconut Ice Cream
Johnny Cash
The International Culinary Institute
Ford F-150s
Mistletoe
Fountain Soda
The Space Needle
Charming Pâtisseries

Slow Kisses
Frantic Kisses
Up-Against-the-Wall Kisses
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Dark Hair/Light Eyes
Football
Drip Coffee
All Things Baking
Complex Families
Bunco
Small Towns
Baby Sisters

Ambiguously Happy Endings

And, for your visual pleasure…

Seattle Aquarium

Pastry

!

Mistletoe

Cream in your coffee?

...

Have you made a Love List for your WiP? If I haven’t visited it yet, please link me to it in the comments!

(Oh, and today I’ve compiled a list of highly anticipated Fall, 2012 YA releases over at YA Confidential… Please do check it out!)

July Reading Wrap-Up

And, my summer of amazing books continues. Here’s what I’ve been reading…

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama – A sophisticated, intricately told tale with something for everyone: A complex plot, multi-dimensional characters, a thrilling, chilling mystery, strong writing, a fresh spin on tried and true paranormal, a bit of history, and romance that will have you swooning. Full review HERE.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore – I never thought I’d say this, but I loved Bitterblue even more than Graceling. This book… It wrecked me in every way possible. It romanced me, it made me laugh, it made me angry, it broke my heart and, at times, it absolutely horrified me. I can’t say enough about this novel. In my humble opinion, it was just about as perfect as a story can get. A definite favorite. Full review HERE.

The Doll People by The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick – Quickly paced and charming, decidedly contemporary but with a delightfully timeless feel, and illustrations that are gorgeous and perfectly match the enchantingly magical quality of the story. Full review HERE.

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone – I’m a romance girl, so if I can fall for a couple, I usually end up a fan of the book. I thought Anna was a fantastic MC, and I found Bennett to be adorable. Their relationship developed believably (considering the absolute inconceivability of their situation), so I was rooting for them. I do wish Bennett’s love for music and the mystery of the “missing person” had been further developed, but I truly loved the ending of this book. Check out my interview with author Tamara Ireland Stone HERE.

*The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – This book was so unique in format (letters to an unnamed “friend”) and voice, it was nearly impossible to put down. The existing and emerging relationships felt genuine, and the characters leapt off the page, especially main character, Charlie, and his crush, Sam (played by Emma Watson in the upcoming movie!). If you haven’t read Wallflower, it’s a definite recommend!

*Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card –  I checked the audio version of this one out from the library and took it with me on a twelve-hour road trip. It wasn’t exactly a Katy Book (no romance, no butterflies, no kisses, TONS of battles and action sequences), but I can certainly understand why it’s become a classic. The writing is fantastic, the world-building exceptional, the depth of main character Ender and his plight astounding, and the ending… It’s one of those oh-em-gee! endings I love. Also, the audio version concluded with a long talk by Orson Scott Card about the history of Ender’s Game, the beginning of his writing career, and his thoughts on the writing process. It was fascinating.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick – I heard about this book when my friend Elodie raved about it, and it’s very much a Katy Book. It’s an upper YA “romantic drama,” which is what I write and what I prefer to read. BUT… I think the romantic drama is also one of the toughest genres to pull off well. Huntley Fitzpatrick does so beautifully. Sam and Jase are freaking adorable, and they share tons of sweet moments and steamy kisses. Plus, Jase’s huge family is awesome, and enviable characterized. Another recommend!

And, last but not least, July’s Book of the Month: *The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksFrom GoodreadsFrankie Landau-Banks at age 14: Debate Club. Her father’s “bunny rabbit.” A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school. Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder. And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston. Frankie Laundau-Banks. No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer. Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society. Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places. Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them. When she knows Matthew’s lying to her. And when there are so many, many pranks to be done. Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16: Possibly a criminal mastermind. This is the story of how she got that way.

I have to admit… When I read secret society and pranks in the jacket summary, my interest wasn’t exactly piqued.  But, I love books set in boarding schools (hello, Jellicoe Road) and Frankie came highly recommended by many of my trusted YA friends, including Erin BowmanCaroline RichmondCopil YanezGhenet Myrthil, and Sarah Enni.  Turns out they were all spot on in their gushing. Frankie was so perfectly fun and bizarre, I couldn’t stop turning pages.

Frankie has a pitch-perfect YA voice (even though the story is told in third-person). Protagonist Frankie Landau-Banks is brilliant, dry, and witty, and she’s not afraid to take charge and go after what she wants. That said, she can be sort of thick and she makes plenty of mistakes over the course of her story. But, that’s what makes her so endearing. The best part of this book was how it ended. I won’t give anything away, of course, but I will say that when I read the final page, I felt like every character had experienced the consequences he or she deserved, and that the conclusion was handled realistically, but with the same intelligence and charm the rest of the book possessed.

If you’ve yet to read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I highly recommend you check it out!

Don’t forget to head over to YA Highway to check out other July favorites. 🙂

Tell me: What’s the best book you’ve read so far this summer?

*Gap Books

RTW: Chit-Chatting (Sort Of…)

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the girls at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic: Write a dialogue between two of your favorite YA characters…

Thanks to the rewrite I’ve been working diligently on, I lack the creative energy to do this week’s topic any justice. That said, I came across the most AWESOME image on Pinterest last night. It totally made me chuckle, and it works  perfectly for this prompt because it’s a conversational mash-up of two YA stories.

Behold…

Pinned Image

🙂

If you could hear a conversation between characters from two different YA books, who would you choose?

RTW: Top Five (Okay, Six!) of 2011…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What were your top five favorite books of 2011?

Two posts in one day?! That’s right. I couldn’t NOT post about my favorite reads from 2011. That would be, like, a disservice to the reading/writing/book blogging community, right? Oh, and I have SIX favorites because I’m a big ol’ cheater and I just couldn’t leave any of these off my list. Here they are in no particular order, with a link to my original (rave) review after each summary:

Divergent by Veronica RothIn Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her. My thoughts…

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

Where She Went by Gayle FormanIt’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever. Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future – and each other. My thoughts, and also here…

Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie PerkinsBudding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. My thoughts…

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorAround the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? My thoughts…

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)

The Scorpio Races by Maggie StiefvaterIt happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. My thoughts…

The Scorpio Races

Chime by Franny BillingsleyBefore Briony’s stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family’s hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it’s become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment. Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He’s as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she’s extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn’t know. My thoughts…

Chime

*All summaries borrowed from Goodreads.

Tell me… What are your favorite books from 2011?

RTW: Book Buying

Pinned Image

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: Where do you buy books?

I used to shop at Borders pretty exclusively (how that corporation folded while taking in profit made from my purchases alone, I’ll never understand). Now that Borders has faded into the sunset, though, I’m not picky about where I buy my books: Costco, Walmart, Target (these three are the stores at which most of my impulse book purchases are made), Amazon (I’ll do a big order every few months), my local new-and-used (because I love its ambiance and the luxury of browsing), and Barnes and Noble (though that’s rare because there’s not one nearby).

My only rule is: The place at which I happen upon a book that piques my interest is the place at which I buy it. I would never (NEVER!) peruse a brick-and-mortar indie, take note of titles that interest me, then rush home and make my purchases on Amazon just to save a few bucks. You shouldn’t either. So, so wrong. (Incidentally, I love this post by Rebecca Behrens on the same topic.)

A Good Book, my local new-and-used… Love this store!

Tell me: Where do you buy books? And don’t forget to visit YA Highway to see how others answered this question!

In other fun news, my fellow Bookanista Corrine Jackson has gotten the go-ahead to reveal the cover and summary of her August, 2012 contemporary young adult novel If I Lie. Please do visit Corrine at her blog or Facebook page to learn more about her books and writing, but first… How cool is this cover?

And how fantastic is this summary?

Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town. Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

I have to say: I find the premise of this book incredibly intriguing. I’m always down for an emotionally charged, secret-shrouded contemporary, but the MIA bit mentioned in If I Lie‘s summary latches on to my deepest, darkest, military wife fears and won’t let go. I’m desperate to get my hands on this book!

Are you as excited as I am about If I Lie?

RTW: How Far Would You Go?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: How far would you go to get published?

“We writers can form quite an attachment to our characters and stories. But we also know publishing is a business, and sometimes to make it in said business–to really build a career from it–we have to bend a bit. How far would you go to break into the publishing world?”

Hmm… Honestly, I’d consider doing anyone of those things, and I have done a few of them (genre-jumping, agent requested revisions). BUT, before you start to wonder if I’ve sold my soul, let me say that I only made changes I truly believed in, changes I could fully get behind.While I do enjoy the privilege of making the final call when it comes to my work, I don’t believe I’m the end-all-be-all expert on writing. I believe there are publishing professionals (many, probably) who know much more and much better than I do, and I am not above listening to them, considering their advice, and applying it to my work–as long as their advice inspires me.

Sure, I made agent-suggested revisions when I was querying (who isn’t dying for a revise-and-resubmit at that stage of the game?), but I also declined to make such changes when I wasn’t feeling them, when I wasn’t certain they were the direction I wanted to take my story. Stressing about revisions is normal, but when I started losing sleep and making myself sick over the thought of taking my story to a place that made me incredibly unhappy, I respectfully refused to revise. I think I’d do the same with major revision request from an editor, should the situation ever arise: I’m willing to rework and alter and improve if the ideas resonate with me. If not, then I believe I’d pass on the opportunity.

So, I’m willing go FAR to get published. I will seek out sound advice. I will consider any and all advice that comes my way. I will work hard to make changes that excite me, changes that make sense, changes that I envision taking my work to the next level.

But I won’t do anything that doesn’t feel 100% right.

What about you — How far would YOU go to get published?

Oh! And have you heard about the Class of 2011: YA Superlative Blogfest I’m hosting with Jessica LoveTracey Neithercott, and Alison Miller? It’s a fun and interactive way to highlight and share your favorite YA novels, covers, characters, and story elements published in 2011. The Class of 2011: YA Superlative Blogfest will span four days, beginning Tuesday, December 27th and culminating Friday, December 30th. Click on the banner below to find out more and to sign up!

RTW: Best of November and Reading Wrap-Up

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What’s the best book you read in November?

November was another fabulous book month. Here’s what I read…

Hushed by Kelley York – A fantastically edgy contemporary debut, full of darkness and unexpected twists and turns. Check out my Debut Love post for more about this one.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – I absolutely loved this book! Read my Bookanista Recommendation post for all the reasons why.

Want to Go Private by Sarah Darer Littman – A cautionary tale about internet predators that left me more than a little skeeved. The teen voice in Private was younger than I normally read, and set against the very explicit language of internet pedophile Luke, it sort of gave me whiplash. While Private occasionally read as preachy, it’s certainly timely and important. Recommend for those who like contemporary “issue” books.

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting – A beautifully written, uniquely spun dystopian-set fairy tale. Check out my Bookanista Recommendation for a full review.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – A gorgeous legend-based story that takes itself utterly seriously, so I did too. A book you should avoid while you’re drafting or seriously revising… it will make you feel tragically incompetent. Still, Scorpio is too beautiful to NOT read. Check out my Bookanista post tomorrow for more on why I loved this one. 🙂

And, November’s Book of the Month: The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

From Goodreads: Melina Marchetta’s brilliant, heart-wrenching new novel takes up the story of the group of friends from her best-selling, much-loved book Saving Francesca – only this time it’s five years later and Thomas Mackee is the one who needs saving. Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world. But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle’s death. And in a year when everything’s broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.

Oh my. I’ve yet to read a novel by Melina Marchetta that hasn’t completely shredded my heart. Here’s the thing though: The Piper’s Son (like its predecessor, Saving Francesca) isn’t exactly exciting. It’s not what I’d call a page-turner, and it certainly isn’t high concept.

But.

I fell head over heels in love with the characters of The Piper’s Son. I wanted to hug them, smack them, lecture them, and hang out with them at the Union pub all night long. I knew Tom and Georgie and Dom and Sam and Tara and Ned (I adored Ned!), therefore I rooted for them from start to finish. In fact, The Piper’s Son might be the most perfect example of a character-driven novel I’ve ever read. It made me teary, a rarity. It also made me laugh and ponder and want to visit Australia, as is the case anytime I read a Melina Marchetta novel.

The Piper’s Son is a definite recommend for anyone who loves contemporary, older YA/new adult, flawless writing, and books centered around family dynamics and character development. I absolutely loved it!

What’s the best book YOU read in November?

RTW: If I were head of curriculum…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: In high school, teens are made to read the classics – Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Bronte, Dickens – but there are a lot of books out there never taught in schools. So if you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?

First, there are several classics I’d most definitely keep on the list: Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, 1984, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Separate PeaceFahrenheit 451… These are all amazing books that (in my opinion) will always be relevant.

More contemporary books I’d add to the list if I were head of curriculum (blurbs from Goodreads):

Looking for Alaska by John Green – Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult – Sterling is an ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens–until the day its complacency is shattered by an act of violence. Josie Cormier, the daughter of the judge sitting on the case, should be the state’s best witness, but she can’t remember what happened before her very own eyes–or can she? As the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show–destroying the closest of friendships and families. Nineteen Minutes asks what it means to be different in our society, who has the right to judge someone else, and whether anyone is ever really who they seem to be.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – With his first foray into teen literature, acclaimed author Sherman Alexie packs a punch in this absorbing novel about a Native American boy searching for a brighter future. At once humorous and stirring, Alexie’s novel follows Junior, a resident of the Spokane reservation who transfers out of the reservation’s school — and into a nearby rich, all-white farm school — in order to nurture his desire to become a cartoonist. Junior encounters resistance there, a backlash at home, and numerous family problems — all the while relaying his thoughts and feelings via amusing descriptions and drawings. Having already garnered a National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, this moving look at race and growing up is definitely one to pick up.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniSet against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years, from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding, that puts the violence, fear, hope and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. This is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives, the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness, are inextricable from the history playing out around them. At once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship, it is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love, a stunning accomplishment.

These four books among my favorites. Not only are they highly entertaining, but they’re packed with emotional punch, history, memorable characters, and countless teachable themes. Sure, each and every one would probably end up challenged (they’re all incredibly intense and deal with mature issues), but  that’s even more reason to highlight them and expose teenagers to them. The books on MY reading list are sure to open the doors to some important and weighty dialogue.

If you had the power to change high school curriculum, what books would be on YOUR reading list?