Lorie Ann Grover says: "When Colleen asked for a book recommend for What a Girl Wants, I went back and scrolled through my goodreads. What have I read this past year, that I'd want to place in the hands of a teen girl? There are so many books! Certainly every readergirlz main feature and postergirlz recommended read. But what rises to the top for me, personally? I've chosen three:
Justina Chen's North of Beautiful because every girl should be challenged to discover her own definition of beauty. Teen girls will identify with Terra as she charts her path away from her constraining, abusive father. They will cheer when she finds truth and beauty through art, and she gathers insight through her new friend Jacob. The beautifully crafted sentences and rounded characters will hold readers with hope and call them to find their own north of beautiful.
Laura Resau's Red Glass is my second recommend. With rich, beautiful language, readers will join Sophie on her journey into Mexico during a summer road trip. An eccentric cast, cultural diversity, and a hint of magical hope infuse this work which will expand the scope of teen girls today. Whether they be touched by the Bosnian war refuge or the six year old Mexican boy who has crossed the U.S. border illegally, the readers' experiences and empathy will be broadened.
And Beth Kephart's House of Dance is my third recommend. The lyrical beauty of Beth's prose just may incite teen readers to reach out to an older generation. As Rosie is charged with tending to her grandfather dying of cancer, she uncovers the life that he loved. Through ballroom dance instruction, Rosie's confidence blossoms until she can stand and give back herself. The sense of community and family love found in this gentle journey will resound in teen readers.
So there are three books of hope, I just realized. As I say to teen readers, "There's hope. Look." (Loose Threads, 2002)"
CM: Oh Justina Chen! Oh Beth Kephart! Can I say how much I love their books? Justina's Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) remains one of the funniest and most normal books I've read in ages. And yet it is anything but typical it's just that any reader can see themselves in Patty's frustrations. And Beth's Nothing But Ghosts is a revelation, plain and simple. Such gorgeous writing and such a light touch when it comes to family drama and romance and coming-of-age. A book to sink into!
Laurel Snyder says: "Ah, the randomly-chosen holiday gift book! I remember (seriously, folks) my dad giving me a copy of Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust for Hanukkah one year, no lie.
And while that was kind of an intense experience, I'm going to argue for intensity today. I'm going to say that the single most important book I owned as a teen was a dusty copy of Our Bodies Ourselves, which I stole from my step-mom's bookshelf and hid under my bed. I'm going to suggest that maybe, if your daughter doesn't have a copy, this is the year.
I know there are other books on the market now, written specifically for teens. But what I liked about Our Bodies Ourselves was that it wasn't written for me. It didn't talk AT me, or assume it knew exactly who I was, as a teenager. It was a resource, a real resource. It was all about the body-- about all kinds of bodies. Mine seemed less confusing and weird when placed beside those others. Our Bodies Ourselves talked about things I assumed I'd never need to know. Shocking things that made the things I was trying to figure out seem less shocking."
CM: Oh man, Our Bodies, Ourselves throws me back to around 1980 when I discovered a copy at my aunt's house while visiting and practically inhaled it while she was at work. It blew my mind. I didn't proudly lift the book off the library shelf until college (and why I was so unwilling to march in and check it out at 15 I'll never understand) but it made so much sense about growing up. It's awesome and every high school girl for sure should have it.
Jenny Davidson says: "I am sorry to say I have not read enough new YA this year to make very sensible recommendations! I heartily second suggestions in the first round of Megan Whalen Turner's series, which I discovered a few years ago and read with the same kind of pleasure I brought as a child to Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series (books I must have read twenty times each - and they stand up to adult rereading very well, particularly the first installment in the series).
Colleen's recommendations of Diana Wynne Jones's Fire and Hemlock and Pamela Dean's Tam Lin also hit home.
I'm just going to name one book that is both a new book and a huge childhood pleasure of mine - Joan Aiken's reissued volume of stories, The Serial Garden. These will only be appropriate for a very childish or a very mature teenager, as they otherwise tilt more between the eight-year-old's sensibility and the wise adult's - but perhaps if you have a girl on your list who will not be offended by the gift of something that potentially looks a bit childish, you will be able to invite a new reader into a world that continues to delight me as much as anything else I've ever read."
CM: The Serial Garden was one of my favorite books this year! It has a more serious sensibility then most magical stories and actually really drifts into thoughtful grown-up moments more than once. You laugh a lot but you also will be shaken a bit. It's the perfect blend of British charm and fantasy, a truly critical book for any fantasy lover's bookshelf (regardless of age).
Beth Kephart says: "I recommend Mary Oliver's Owls and Other Fantasies, a book of poems and essays that includes essential, life-shaping poems such as "Wild Geese" (You do not have to be good...) and "Yes! No!" (How necessary it is to have opinions!...). Mary Oliver's poems fortify on the hard days. They shine a brighter light on the days that are already fine. You shouldn't grow up without them."
CM: Well obviously I have to get this book post haste. Personally, I came to poetry appreciation very late as high school killed it for me in every way that matters (all that analyzing of every single line over and over and over). But I have found it since I left college, first through the war poets I studied for teaching (Wilfren Owen and Sigfried Sassoon especially) and then I finally read Syliva Plath and there have been so many others since that affected me in so many different, and strongly positive, ways. Good poetry should be given to children and teens and they should be taught that enjoying it is what matters. I've just added Mary Oliver to my list for sure.
And this ends the year with What a Girl Wants. As I wrote above, Beth Kephart continues to be an author who amazes me on so many levels. Laurel Snyder's most recent title, Any Which Wall is actually in my column this month and a fun MG novel I can't recommend enough. Jenny Davidson's The Explosionist continues to be the SFF YA novel that I wish everyone would read - it truly blew me away. And Lorie Ann Grover. Well, good grief, where to begin with my friend Lorie Ann. She writes for teens and toddlers and she is (in my mind) the beating heart of the readergirlz. When I grow up, I will be as powerful and talented and compassionate at Lorie Ann. She makes my world better.
Actually, every single one of the ladies in the What a Girl Wants crew make my world better. (And I can't forget Mayra Lazara Dole who couldn't join in this time but whose coming-out novel, Down to the Bone is so bombastic and joyful and full of the Florida I know that I adored it). I started this project hoping to usher in some new content for the summer. We continued it because we all had so many things to talk about and wanted to keep the literary conversation for teen girls going. It will continue into the new year because we just like getting together this way each month. We will be talking in coming months about books and love (good and bad), woman scientists and other NF role models (or lack thereof), science fiction, suicide, depression and sports. We'll keep telling you what we think and we hope you will chime in as well.
It's all books and girls and a lot of literary goodness and I'm so happy to be hosting it here.