My Top YA Picks from the last 6 months

My plan is to review one book per post so that I can give each book proper attention. However, as I work through finishing the first book I plan to officially review, I thought I would touch on my favorites from my past six months. Because there were some great ones. I'll tackle my YA picks first and cover the "grown-up" genres another day. These are the ones that stood out amongst the pile (i.e. garnered a 4 or 5 star rating on the groupie scale):

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Back cover: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

Okay, so for a girl who loves a happy ending, this didn't have one. BUT you know that this novel is about suicide upfront, so you're prepared for it, which makes all the difference. This story drew me in immediately and never let me go. Having worked with teens who were considering suicide, this novel was especially poignant for me. It reminded me how a few little missteps, comments from peers, turns in the wrong direction, and misunderstandings can sent a vulnerable teen spiraling downward. Great read for adults and teens. ★★★★★

and Fade (Wake, Book 2) by Lisa McMann

Back cover:
Not all dreams are sweet.

For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie's seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can't tell anybody about what she does -- they'd never believe her, or worse, they'd think she's a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn't want and can't control.

Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant....

As a reader (and writer) I'm not a huge fan of long, drawn out descriptions. I don't need to know every detail of the room. Only tell me about the curtains if they're going to be used later to wrap up a body or something. I find myself skimming those passages in many novels. But, I also want to get a sense of place in a story. So, I often find myself struggling in my own writing on how much descriptive detail to provide. This is why I am so impressed with Lisa McMann's novels. The book is chunked into small time dated passages that contain hardly any detailed descriptions, but somehow she provides exactly what you need. I have a crystal clear picture of the action in my head and the action is constantly moving forward. No stopping to smell the roses. Prepare to read these in a single sitting. They are hard to put down. ★★★★★

by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Product Description (
The House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird's world, vampyres have always existed. In this first book in the series, Zoey enters the House of Night, a school where, after having undergone the Change, she will train to become an adult vampire--that is, if she makes it through the Change. Not all of those who are chosen do. It’s tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny--with a little help from her new vampyre friends.

I love this series. It's bestselling and on every Target shelf, so I won't go into a long review. Just know that if you like fun, sexy, dark, vampy books, you won't be disappointed with these. ★★★★★

Back cover: Maggie Quinn, Girl reporter. Honors student, newspaper staffer, yearbook photographer. Six weeks from graduation and all she wants to do is get out of Avalon High in one piece. Fate seems to have different plans for her.

High school may be a natural breeding ground for evil, but the scent of fire and brimstone is still a little out of the ordinary. It's the distinct smell of sulfur that makes Maggie suspect that something's a bit off. And when realTwilight Zone stuff starts happening to the school's ruling clique—the athletic elite and the head cheerleader and her minions, all of whom happen to be named Jessica—Maggie realizes it's up to her to get in touch with her inner Nancy Drew and ferret out who unleashed the ancient evil before all hell breaks loose.

Maggie has always suspected that prom is the work of the devil, but it looks like her attendance will be mandatory. Sometimes a girl's got to do some pretty undesirable things if she wants to save her town from soul-crushing demons from hell and the cheerleading squad.

Maggie Quinn is the girl I'd want to be if I were ever forced to attend high school again--the girl who always has the best sarcastic remark for the moment. The writing is laugh out loud funny and fast-paced. There's even a little dash of romance (which further develops in book two Hell Week) for those of us who like that kind of thing. :) Added bonus: the monsters/demons are actually bad, not the love interest! Imagine that. ★★★★

Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book 1) by Scott Westerfeld

Back Cover: Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world -- and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

Westerfeld creates a dystopian world that seems on many levels frighteningly possible--a
world where everyone is surgically changed to be "pretty" when they turn sixteen so that all are
equal. This series has a little bit of everything: sci-fi, adventure, romance, and warnings about
the direction our current society is headed in. Although, for me, the series dragged a little in the
middle with a bit too much hoverboarding descriptions for my tastes, the journey was well
worth it. ★★★★

That's my list. What's yours? I would love to hear some of your recommendations or
opinions on my choices. Drop a comment and let me know.