The Broke and the Bookish have a very fun topic for us this week. “If you love X, then you should read Y.” I came up with ten suggestions that fit the bill, from the obscure to the obvious. And they are…
If you like Smile, you should read Awkward. Not autobiographical, but still a very realistic look at middle school life. It’s blurbed as something of a meet cute young romance, but the friendship that awkwardly develops is really pretty platonic, and the focus of the story is more on the tension between the art club and the science club, and the ebb and flow of various friendships.
If you like Ellen Hopkins, but are maybe a little freaked out by the meth use and prostitution stuff, you should read the Make Lemonade trilogy. Published before “novels in verse” even were called that, this series is set in the projects of Portland, Oregon—although it’s never made all that obvious in the book. Fourteen year old LaVaughn needs to save money if she’s going to be able to get into college, so she takes a babysitting job for a 17 year old single mom. The two girls have a lot to teach each other, not all of it what you (or they) might have expected. Less sordid than Hopkins, the books are nevertheless very realistic.
If you liked TFIOS, then you should read Deadline. Chris Crutcher has a solid place in the YA hall of fame, but nothing like John Green’s rockstar status. This is a shame, because his kids are just as smart and snarky as Green’s, while still somehow still sounding like actual teenagers. Deadline begins with soon-to-be senior in high school Ben finding out he has a terminal illness. Rather than, you know, telling anyone, he decided to handle it on his own, living his life with an ironic fearlessness. Funny. Sad. Thoughtful. Also, Crutcher writes the only sports novels I’ve read where I don’t skip over the actual sports scenes.
If you like the Lunar Chronicles, then you should read Truly Grim Tales. (If you don’t like the Lunar Chronicles, I don’t know if we can be friends.) Sure, it’s a collection of short stories, not an epic series, but the spirit of taking the core of a fairy tale and doing something new and exciting with it is there. Plus, the final line o the final story made me burst into laughter.
This one is a bit of a stretch, but if you like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, you should try The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez. I wanted to include this book, and I thought to myself, “What better known work deals with a young woman trying to figure out her life despite the struggles and limitations placed on her by her family?” Just, you know, a 21st century Latina in LA version. I’ve recommended this to several students, and it always goes over well.
Here’s another weird one—if you like Bridget Zinn's Poison, you should try to find a copy of Song of Sorcery. I still have the copy I had in middle school, and it was obscure even then. It’s a light-hearted fantasy road story with a strong female lead and a sweet romance.
Another one I struggled to place is Chime. I’m going with if you like Lips Touch: Three Times you should try this. It is haunting, and strange, and mysterious. Only—I gotta be honest here—I was expecting it to be weirder after reading the reviews and blurb for it. It’s not THAT odd. But it is that good. (And if you like the Daughter of Shadow and Bone trilogy, then you should read Taylor's earlier collection, Lips Touch: Three Times!)
If you like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, you should read another great book about outsiders finding their place, Tales of the Madmen Underground. In mandatory school counseling with the same group of misfits for years, Karl decides it’s time for him to start passing as normal. This despite still having a dead dad, alcoholic mom, and enough smartassery to fuel a rocket ship. (That is what they’re fueled with, right?)
If you like All the Bright Places, you should read DarknessVisible: A Memoir of Madness. William Styron’s short memoir about his struggle with severe depression offers a new perspective on Violet and Fitch’s mental health battles. I read this because someone close to me was dealing with suicidal depression, and I found much to relate to, and much explained in words my person couldn’t access.
Finally, on a slightly lighter note, if you liked Bone Gap, then you should read Blankets, because Petey references this book constantly. If you weren’t already familiar with it, reading it now will make you say, “Oh, THAT’S what she was talking about!
This was hard! But good practice for me. I hope you found something new to investigate.