We're taking a break from the heavy subjects this month with the What A Girl Wants series and instead offering up the group's collective wisdom when it comes to books and girls. Although we are mostly aimed at the 12 & up crowd, you will find in this post (and Part 2 next week) lots of ideas for what we think you should buy for the girls in your life. I've mostly left the choosing to the WAGW crew although, well, I do chime in with some additional ideas based on their suggestions. Happy shopping - and more than anything, happy reading!!!
Jacqueline Kelly suggests: "The Diary of Anne Frank. This should be compulsory reading for every girl. And for every boy. And every adult, for that matter. This haunting book will stay with you for the rest of your life."
CM - As it happens, there are two new looks at the diary out this year: Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, the Afterlife by Francine Prose wherein the author suggests that Anne revised her diary and planned to publish it after the war and Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures by Menno Metselaar, a visual guide to her life published this fall by Roaring Brook.
Melissa Wyatt suggests: "For girls who are looking for more supernatural romance, I highly recommend THE CHINA GARDEN by Liz Berry. A strong female protagonist who finds her own way to accept a seemingly inescapable destiny, a real live human boy for her to love, an intricate and beautiful mystery based in British folklore and enough steam to set off plenty of palpitations.
And this is the perfect time to catch your girl up on Megan Whalen Turner's magnificent Thief series. The fourth book, A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, will hit bookshelves in March. (And psst! It's fantastic!) So gear up with the first three books: THE THIEF, THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA and THE KING OF ATTOLIA. Set in a psuedo-Mediterranean/medieval world and full of political intrigue and complex relationships, these books are somewhat demanding, but will reward the sophisticated reader many times over. Give these books to fans of Diana Wynne Jones."
CM - If you are a fan of Turner's and have yet to discover Diana Wynne Jones then can I strongly - STRONGLY - suggest you get yourself right over to her end of the shelves and start ordering? My favorite of hers is Fire & Hemlock, a retelling of the Tam Lin ballad which is sadly out of print (why oh why??) but if you find it in a used store then give it to a teen you know asap. Or you could buy Pamela Dean's amazing version of Tam Lin set on a college campus in the early 1970s which I also adore.
Zetta Elliott suggests: "One of the most compelling books I've read recently was Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. Jasmine and Marcelo (who has Asperger's syndrome) forge an intimate connection when he's assigned to the mailroom she runs at his father's law firm; knowing all too well how it feels to be patronized by arrogant, wealthy people, Jasmine patiently takes the time not only to train Marcelo, but to befriend him as well. The disorderâ€”the way his mind works differently than hersâ€”is precisely what makes Marcelo attractive to Jasmine; they don't instantly fall all over each other, but they gradually understand that their friendship and the respect they have for one another could be the basis of something deep and long-lasting. I loved how Marcelo struggled to distinguish the caring behind Jasmine's actions; it's hard for him to detect irony and sarcasm in others, but the subtleties of love were clear enough for him to design a new future in which he could not only be with Jasmine, but help her care for her elderly father and their farm. Marcelo also makes an important ethical decision that threatens his father's law firm but restores justice to an injured teenage girl. I love this book and would give it to any teen or adult."
CM:I think Zetta's is about the fourth or fifth recommendation I've seen for Marcelo from someone whose taste in books I trust and adore and so yes, this one just went on my personal wish list and if someone doesn't get it for me then I'll buy it myself as a New Year's gift. It just sounds too excellent to let slip away. -CM
Sara Ryan says: "At the risk of being a. obvious and/or b. a suckup, I would like to begin by suggesting that many fine books one could purchase for a twelve year old girl for whatever holidays one might celebrate have, in fact, been written by my esteemed fellow What A Girl Wants panelists.
That said, I'll do what I've done so often in previous responses to this series: return to a book that was highly significant to my twelve year old self. In fact, I mentioned this title in my first WAGW response, but I have more to say.
I reread Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising every year around this time. Will Stanton comes into his power as an Old One as his family celebrates first his birthday and then Christmas. The weight of the struggle between the Light and the Dark is balanced by the weight of holiday traditions, both within Will's family and in the larger world. Over and over, Will is pulled away from a warm, festive context to confront the menace of the Dark. Over and over, he sees himself with double vision, both as the eleven year old boy he still technically is and the Old One that he is, too: alert to threats, and all too aware of the limitations of the adults around him.
Am I making the book sound grim, too depressing to be a holiday gift? It isn't. There's affection, there's humor, there's adventure. But once Will is fully conscious of his identity as an Old One, Cooper never lets the reader forget that his life and the way he relates to those around him has really, significantly, irrevocably changed. And the constant awareness of that fundamental shift in the protagonist's relationship to his world, even as the reader is pulled along through the turns and twists of the plot -- that's one of the qualities that sets The Dark is Rising apart, making it a book that a reader can return to, even when she's very far away from twelve."
CM: Oh man, this recommendation takes me back. I can't remember how old I was when I discovered Susan Cooper but the world she created was so much powerful and significant and meaningful then my lowly junior high existence that it pretty much kept me going for a couple of years. Sara's right - The Dark is Rising is not depressing or dark at all, it's actually quite magnificent and a total no-brainer for the Harry Potter crowd (or fans of His Dark Materials who might have missed it.) The whole series is excellent and so bloody affordable that really there is no excuse to pass this one up.
And as Sara mentioned everyone else's books, I thought I would remind you all how splendid they are just in case you missed them. Jacqueline Kelly wrote The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate which I regard an updated (turn of the 20th century) version of Laura Ingalls with some Jo March, Texas heat and Charles Darwin thrown in for good measure. Melissa Wyatt's Funny How Things Change has one of the most sympathetic teen males in YA lit today, a boy I fell hard for who is trying to figure out if it is okay to love home so much that you don't want to leave it. This is the West Virginia we have all forgotten about and Remy Walker is the boy Bella wishes she was good enough for. She can have the vampire/werewolf dramarama; Remy is where it's at for the real girls.
Zetta Elliott's A Wish After Midnight is a dramatic look at time travel with an African American heroine who finds herself transported back to Brooklyn in 1863 and forced to survive as an apparent runaway slave in the midst of deadly draft riots. Intense does not begin to describe this one and the contemporary and historic plot lines are equally riveting. There's romance too - but man does that ever get tangled up. Zetta just got picked up by Amazon's publishing arm and has a new snazzy cover to show for it.
Finally, Sara Ryan is the creator of my dearly loved Battle Hall Davies, who falls in love with a classmate in Empress of the World and tries to find the truth about family (and love again) in The Rules of Hearts. Sara has also published a comic continuing Battle's story (set between the two novels) Click and a comic about Katrina from Empress, Me and Edith Head. (LOVED this one in particular.) I'm going to mention that Battle is gay because if you have a lesbian or bisexual teen in your life then Sara's books will be very dear. As for meI just fell so hard for Battle and her hopes and dreams and pain and all of her wonderful friends. Coming-of-age drama just does not get any better.
So there you go, LOTS of great books to choose from and more to follow from the rest of the crew next week!