|First drops of rain outside Eagle Harbor Books|
Here are three of my favorite young adult books (this month, so far), and one adult novel that would be a good crossover-to-teen read, featuring boys as the main characters. There's no fantasy (except for, maybe, those standard boy fantasies), no testing of wit or muscle to see who will survive the coming dystopian years, just good storytelling about life and the life-changing moments in it. They are listed in publication date order.
W. W. Norton. Hardcover, $25.95.
This book was both difficult to read and impossible to put down. I was on the ferry reading this and kept thinking, "WHAT! What! How did you get to this point? Where are your safeties? Where are the grownups in your life?" Leonard's mother is completely dysfunctional, his friends are old men, gay teachers, a girl he doesn't know but treats badly, and a violinist who's been bullied. Leonard lives in his own head, trying to figure out what made Asher become the way he is and finally comes to the conclusion that the only thing that will save them both is murder and suicide. FMLP is hard to read, it's always hard to read a book about mental illness, about depression, about adults who are fettered by who and what they are so they can't or won't help out.
Like Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, our main character's reasoning makes his choice of murder/suicide seem perfectly reasonable. How many kids out there get to this point because they don't have someone who recognizes the signs of suicide or depression? Or do recognize the signs but are unable, for one reason or the other, to do anything about it?
The book has a lot of footnotes that act as backstory - some people will hate this, I happen to like footnotes. After living with FMLP for a bit, I can see that MQ may have had a little checklist of things that suicidal kids will do, but it didn't interfere at all with my "enjoyment" of the book. Ages 13 and up. Little Brown. $17.99.
Ezra's got some serious problems: He caught his girlfriend cheating on him with one of his teammates and, then, leaving the party where this happened, he was hit by a car that shattered his leg, ending his chances of going to college on a tennis scholarship. It's the beginning of his senior year and he's feeling more than a little unattached. He doesn't feel comfortable sitting at the team table or being a part of that group anymore so, he takes a chance and sits with his old best friend. Little things make big changes: change a seat: find a new friend, get challenged to debate club: learn a skill, help the new girl: find a new life. When Ezra meets Cassidy Thorpe his life explodes like a firecracker*. Ezra's never met anyone like her before. She is happy and funny and really smart and she likes him, too. As they begin to get closer and start to fall in love, and Ezra begins to see that there are good things still in his life, secrets begin to edge into their perfect happiness.
The Beginning of Everything is funny and heartbreaking and one of the best books I've read this summer. It's a book of change, loss, recovery, discovery and a smart, witty one at that. Ezra and Cassidy are the high school romance everyone wishes they had.
*This is from the uncorrected text, sorry, but I can't wait to share it: C and E are watching the fireworks at Disneyland from the roof of a car and they are talking about the word sillage. Cassidy says it's the word "for remembering small moments destined to be lost." Sigh. Ages 13 and up. Katherine Tegen Books. $17.99.
Harry Jones was tied to a tree during a lightning storm. A burning branch broke off and Harry was horribly burned. Covered in scars, he is pretty much left alone alone until he meets Johnny McKenna in 8th grade. Johnny is one of those boys who has all the ideas and the energy to make something happen. Harry is happy to be one of his friends and a part of the circle Johnny travels in since having someone accept him as he is is something that doesn't happen often. When they decide to start a band in high school, they don't expect it to go much beyond the garage, but sometimes life has funny ideas about what you're really going to do.
Written as a college application essay, Harry tells the story of his life and how his friendship with Johnny was both freeing and binding. The Scar Boys is a funny and wrenching story of love, friendship and rock and roll. I'd love to read this with a mix tape of the chapter headings playing along. 14+. Egmont. $17.99.