And by “backlist,” I mean books published prior to the explosion in popularity of YA in the last few years. These are a few of my go-to books when I make recommendations to folks who fell in love with young adult fiction and plowed through most of the popular titles.
These are all contemporaries, natch. And bonus: they’re generally way cheaper than new releases, so it’s easier to feed your book addiction.
Adios to My Old Life by Caridad Ferrer
MTV Books 2006
I adored Caridad (aka “Barb”) Ferrer’s 2010 novel, When the Stars Go Blue (which is inexplicably omitted from lists of “New Adult” titles, by the way), so I immediately bought both of her previous novels. (I’ve actually held off on reading It’s Not About the Accent because then I will have no other books of hers to read—please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.) Frankly, I’m surprised Adios to My Old Life wasn’t more popular when it was released, since it was published during the height of the American Idol craze, when everyone was talking about Idol around the watercooler. Adios follow Alegria, a talented 16 year old from Miami who’s competing in Oye Mi Canto, a reality show searching for the next Latin pop star. This is a fast-paced novel that I read in one sitting.
One of my favorite aspects of this book (and Stars) is that there’s a lot of Spanish peppered into the dialogue, but it’s not then explained in English, like in so many other books (looking at you Perfect Chemistry series). Spanish is present as part of the natural language of the book, and it’s up to the reader to intrepret the meanings. For me as a non-Spanish speaker, I was surprised at how much I intuitively understood as a result of being around Spanish so much and that I could really extrapolate the meanings of the words I didn’t understand.
FYI: The author’s excellent When the Stars Go Blue is only $4 for a paperback on Amazon right now. I’d suggest you jump on that ASAP.
One Lonely Degree by C.K. Kelly Martin
Random House BFYR 2009
One Lonely Degree was my gateway to discovering one of my favorite authors, C.K. Kelly Martin—and I have my library’s ebook collection to thank. (See, publishers, libraries lead to book sales—I’ve since bought every single one of Martin’s books, some multiple times as gifts.) Finn has some very interesting character development as she wrestles with some sticky situations involving her best friend and the boy her best friend starts dating prior to leaving town for the summer. What struck me most about Finn and One Lonely Degree is how nothing is neat and tidy, just like life. To extend my frequent Friday Night Lights metaphors, Finn is much like Julie Taylor in that she’s trying to figure out how to be a sort of grown up person—and it’s really, really hard.
One Lonely Degree has an open-ended conclusion (though it has an actual ending) and I’ve thought since I read it that it could use a sequel, because there’s a lot more story to tell about Finn and her friends. I recently learned that this was originally planned as a trilogy, but the publishing climate has since changed and that never became a reality. This makes me very sad.
Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker
Harper Teen 2009
If you didn’t rush out and buy Lovestruck Summer after my review a couple of months ago, then I’m not doing my job. This book is the real deal, a perfect summer read—and another one noticeably absent of all of the “New Adult” lists. While I love my angsty stories, Lovestruck Summer fulfills one of my other favorite niches by being truly funny. Humor is peppered throughout this novel about Quinn, a recent high school grad who’s on her own in Austin for a summer internship before starting college.
But, despite its humor and cutesy cover, Lovestruck Summer has a lot of meat and it’s a very relatable story. There aren’t any Big Problems in this novel, rather it explores the little things that transform a person when facing independence for the first time.
What are some of your favorite hidden gems that we should be sure to read? Bonus points if they can be had for cheap!