Teen Readers Share the Last Book They Loved: A New Apocalypse, Shakespearean Snark, and Dangerous Books

Meet the Young Adults, the B&N Teen Blog’s swat team of awesome teenaged bloggers. YA literature is a strange and wonderful landscape of books that should be read by everybody, but each month we highlight the perspective of the teens reading the best of the best books written for and about them. Check back monthly to see what they’re recommending next, and read previous installments here

American Street, by Ibi Zoboi
American Street is a beautiful story about an immigrant from Haiti named Fabiola adjusting to her new live in Detroit while her mother is kept from her by immigration. In order to get her back, Fabiola must assist in busting a drug dealer, a task as dangerous as it is difficult. The novel is intricate and artfully written, masterfully pulling back the layers of the people surrounding Fabiola, and, as the intense coming-of-age story progresses, the book gets better and better, ending with a heart-pounding finale. With a dash of romance and magical realism, captivating characters, and plenty of drama, American Street is compelling from beginning to end.

–Katelyn L., 15, loves all genres of books, has too many unread ones on her shelf, and desperately wishes for more time to read.

Afterward, by Jennifer Mathieu
Mathieu’s latest follows the aftermath of the rescue of kidnapping victims Dylan—Caroline’s little brother, who was missing for four days—and Ethan, who was missing for four years. Caroline’s family struggles with helping Dylan recover from the trauma, and Caroline turns to Ethan for help in piecing together what happened to her little brother. While Dylan is unable to communicate what he went through due to his autism, Ethan’s mind has blocked out much of his traumatizing experience, and he’s unable to assist Caroline with her request. The two form a bond, however, over both their love of music and the strange, horrible circumstances that brought them together. This makes for a unique story with unique friendships, and as a reader, it’s difficult not to grow attached to and feel invested in the lives of these teens. It’s clear that this story is about so much more than discovering what happened to Ethan and Dylan—it’s about recovery, reunions, and memory.

Naomi N. is a YA-loving 15-year-old who spends her free time trying to decide what movie to watch, bullet journaling, resisting the urge to buy more books, and searching for new music to love. She hopes to fill her bookshelves and catch up on sleep in the near future.

Furthermore, by Tahereh Mafi
Meet Alice Greenmeadow of Ferenwood, born colorless in a world filled to the brim with color. Furthermore is the tale of how Alice comes to appreciate her worth while traipsing across a beautifully written world. Seriously, the descriptions are out of this world yet never come across as cloying! Every child in Ferenwood has a magical talent, and when they come of age, they are asked to perform and then are assigned a magical task to benefit the community. “Every child,” unfortunately, does not include Alice. Her talents lie in unconventional yet undiscovered areas and thus she is left with no task to undertake—that is, until Oliver steps in and asks for her help in rescuing her father, who was vitally important to Ferenwood and mysteriously disappeared a few years ago. Joining Oliver on his quest takes Alice into the strange (and eponymous) land of Furthermore, where there are paper foxes and time itself personified. Furthermore, however, is filled with facetious rules that seem wildly arbitrary to an outsider. On top of having to learn the tricky rules, Alice finds out Oliver has been less than truthful with her about many things, and so on top of her quest to find her father, there’s a side situation of learning how to stand up for herself. The way that this book gets so unexpectedly deep is part of what makes it so exceptional. It takes an unconventional approach to the message of loving yourself no matter what as well as learning to accept your uniqueness, and that, along side with the oddly alluring beauty of the prose, makes this book a true standout.

–Kelvin L., 17, is a figure skater and audiobook lover and thinks teleportation is the most useful superpower. He is definitively a Ravenclaw, a water type Moroi (who secretly wants to be fire type), and an Erudite; he cannot see Hollowgasts and would 100% not survive the Hunger Games.

The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You, by Lily Anderson
Anderson’s debut is a novel to make “much ado” about. It is not only a retelling of one of my favorite Shakespeare plays of all time (Much Ado About Nothing), but a quirky story full of geeky references and witty banter. The book tells of a group of friends attending their senior year at a school for geniuses. Trixie, our Beatrice, is a feisty and tenacious girl with a temperament rivaling that of Ben West, our Benedict. The antagonistic exchanges between the two are as smart and vexatious as those in the original classic, trading iambic pentameter for biting remarks about mustaches and Marvel comics. But The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You isn’t just about the hate-to-love storyline we all adore. It features myriad lovable characters, highlights the importance of friendship and loyalty, and is written in a such a bright and unique voice, making it a hidden gem amongst other contemporary novels. The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You was a sweet treat from start to finish, satisfying my love for adorable romance, delightful characters, and all things nerdy. “To read or not to read”: if that is your question, than I implore you to get your hands on this superhero-cupcake of a novel as soon as you can.

–Maddie M., 17, loves springtime, dresses with pockets, and female empowerment. She lives off of Neapolitan shakes from In-N-Out Burger and is simultaneously giddy and terrified that this is her final semester in high school.

We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour
In We Are Okay, LaCour offers a candid portrayal of grief and loneliness that might just make you cry. I know I did. It shocked me with its depth and honesty. I was not expecting to love it as much as I did, and I’m beyond happy I was surprised. The story follows a queer girl at college away from home, alternating between chapters in the present and in the past where she grew up with her grandfather in San Francisco. It’s a book about feelings and characters. It’s emotion-filled and beautiful. It’s a book you can’t put down until you finish, and then when you do, you won’t be able to get it out of your mind. We Are Okay is simply stunning, and I cannot recommend it enough.

–Ava M. is a teenage book blogger, reader, and writer of YA. She is an intersectional feminist and advocate for diversity, and drinks a lot of tea. She likes organized bookshelves and reads too many fantasy novels.

On the Edge of Gone, by Corinne Duvvis
On the Edge of Gone takes a shamefully underrepresented look at the apocalypse: a hopeful one. The year is 2035, and a comet hits Eastern Europe, ending life on earth as Denise knows it. With little food and no plan for what’s to come, Denise does her best to help find a way for herself and her mother to survive, while still searching for Denise’s sister, Iris. Duvvis makes her mark on the genre by eschewing the popular focus on the nihilistic chaos of the apocalypse, instead keeping the story’s focus on the tenacity and optimism of the survivors. The book solidly rejects the ideology of “every man for himself,” emphasizing empathy and giving aid to those who need it. This book is a breath of fresh air and I enjoyed every second.

–Assaf T., 17, likes his books very interesting and very heavy, because exercise isn’t as fun but is still important.

The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes lives a mostly normal life until she’s recruited by the FBI for her natural ability to read and analyze people. She gets put into a program with other teens with natural abilities like hers: a human lie detector, an emotion reader, a human computer, and another profiler like Cassie. This group of teens is trained under two top agents to solve cold cases for the FBI. But as they train they are suddenly thrust into an active case concerning a serial killer, and are forced to use their gifts to catch the killer. This book was dark and intriguing, as Cassie and the other naturals are forced to explore the mind of a killer to try to save lives. The twists and turns of the plot kept me enticed and excited to read the next chapter. A love triangle subplot added a classic YA plotline to this haunting novel without distracting from the main plot. I’ve never read anything with dealt with characters with abilities and challenges like the characters in this book faced, but I am very excited to read the next book and find out what happens next because the ending of The Naturals had me in shock. If you love shows like CSI or Criminal Minds you will devour this book just like I did!

–Ellie T., 17, spends the majority of her time doing homework, or reading and buying YA books. When she is not doing that you can find her binge-watching Netflix or singing off-key to Hamilton.

The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
On a scale of deportation to karaoke this book is amazing. Told in one love-packed day in New York, The Sun is Also A Star explores lasting romance between strangers. Daniel, poet and dreamer, believes in love at first sight, while skeptical Natasha doesn’t believe in love at all. It’s a series of moments and coincidences that brings them together. I really enjoyed how the book was told from not just Natasha and Daniel’s point of view but also those of the people they interact with. My favorite part of this book is its diverse cast. Unlike the majority of YA contemporary romance novels, which feature American main characters, Natasha is Jamaican and Daniel’s family is Korean. I absolutely adored exploring the different cultures of the two main characters and I even picked up some Patois and Korean words along the way. I recommend this novel to anyone with an open mind who believes in love.

Kaitlin D., 14, professional procrastinator and self-proclaimed bibliophile. Lives in the pantry. May have taken a bite out of the moon.

Scythe, by Neal Shusterman
Neal Shusterman redefines life in a world hauntingly similar to ours in his latest novel, Scythe. In this parallel universe, humankind has overcome disease, hunger, and death. Exceptional hospitals and superior scientific advancements have eliminated the fragility of life, allowing people to live for centuries. This “biological immortality” comes with a price, however. No one lives forever even in this utopian society. Living grim reapers, known as “scythes,” are entrusted with the task of taking the lives of humans in order to prevent overpopulation. It’s a massive undertaking that requires extraneous mental and physical strength. With subtle foreshadowing and a captivating narrative, the novel follows two unique teenagers as they train to become scythes despite knowing the cost of failure may be fatal. In this world that Shusterman creates, ethics are questioned, challenged, and occasionally ignored, making Scythe a fascinating addition to the dystopian genre.

–Nicole S., 15, loves books, people, and Italian food. Her life goal is to reach 5 feet in height.

The Reader, by Traci Chee
In The Reader, Traci Chee uses the power of words to transport readers straight into Kelenna, a lush world filled with intriguing stories, captivating mysteries, and a wonderfully diverse cast of characters. Sefia lives in a world of stories. A world where tales of Pirate Captains and secret societies are passed from person to person, mouth to mouth, never written down, because in Kelenna nobody can read. The concept of a book is a foreign one. (Terrifying, right?) When her Aunt Nim is kidnapped by the same mysterious strangers who killed her father, Sefia sets off on a journey to rescue her, armed only with the mysterious object filled with strange symbols that her father left her when he died. As Sefia teaches herself to read these strange symbols, she slowly decipher the object’s secrets. This is a book. And there are some pretty dangerous people who’d like to get their hands on the stories written inside it, because in Kelenna words really are power.

Evalyn H., 15, loves fantasy novels, Disney movies, and snickerdoodle cookies. She is currently working on the third draft of a middle grade fantasy novel cowritten with her father.

Dead Girls Society, by Michelle Krys
A perfect read for anyone who loves mystery, drama, or the Pretty Little Liars series, Dead Girls Society offers a perfect mix of all things suspenseful. When Hope receives an envelope daring her to play a dangerous game, readers can’t help but question everything. But when the game turns deadly, Hope is forced to extreme lengths to find a way out. With words that pop off the page with unimaginable situations, Dead Girls Society features twists and turns that jump out at every corner. Krys’s characters are amazingly written with intricate backgrounds that leave the reader never knowing what they’ll do next. Weaving excitement and adventure throughout every chapter, Dead Girls Society ends with a thrilling conclusion that sticks with everyone who reads it.

–Madison O., 16, is a Gryffindor/Thunderbird, and a lover of puns, Disney movies, and chicken strips. She once accidentally spit in Kiera Cass’s hair during a Selection book signing.

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Light is all around us. But we cannot see all of it. Especially radio waves. Marie-Laure and Werner live in World War II–era Europe, in France and Germany, respectively. Marie-Laure is blind and has to learn about her surroundings by touch, and her life changes drastically when she and her father flee Paris for sleepy seaside village Saint-Malo. Werner’s life changes when he enters a Nazi educational facility. This book was about hope and losing hope. Through these two characters’ stories, we learn about what it was like to live in Europe during the war and how it affected everyone, not just soldiers. Werner’s journey through Nazi education and watching how Werner changed from a childhood full of ideas to a monotonous life in school was fascinating. His life there changed him, and not for the better. Marie-Laure’s story is interesting, too, though not as much. I enjoyed learning about her life with her great-uncle, Etienne. These two opposed each other, and it made for an interesting experience to learn about the two sides of the war. The broken timeline made it confusing at times to keep track of when events happened, but it made sense how it was set up. Overall, an interesting historical narrative.

Hiya, I’m Wren L., the weirdo who watches anime and obsesses over fictional characters. Currently hiding in my hoodie.

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