Good (and Cheap) Reads for Young Adults (and Adults)

“If it’s not good enough for adults, it’s not good enough for children. If a book that is going to be marketed for children does not interest me, a grownup, then I am dishonoring the children for whom the book is intended, and I am dishonoring books.” –Madeleine L’Engle

Not only should children read, they should also learn to appreciate the reason a great story is called a “page turner.” Growing up in this computerized world, kids will benefit from a search among the stacks instead of a search online.

Taking into consideration good “children’s” books, I’m sharing some of my recent Young Adult reads AND the places these books, like the treasures they are, have been found.

Disclaimer: I acknowledge that the library and chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble are choices. The following are alternative places to buy books (though they do require the resurrection of our baser hunter-gatherer instincts).

Half-Price Books—No coffee drinks, no comfy couches, just great prices on brand new and gently used books.

I bought—

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (hardcover) for $7

Hattie Big Sky (softcover) for 50 cents

My daughter bought—The Tales of Toad and Frog (She remembered it from childhood, and although we could have simply ordered it from Amazon, there was a triumphant glee in finally finding it after a fairly long search through used books.)

The Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party, M.T. Anderson

This could be a tough read for anyone under 13, but I also remember as a child being told by library aids — “You’re too young to read THAT!” That being said, the archaic 18th Century language is a challenge and might quickly deter some from reading what will probably be one of the most unique reads of their lives; plus, the subject matter of this Revolution-era story is a bit startling. The latter, however, is what I most appreciated, because of the truths that lay in its darkness.

Synopsis that does not do this story justice: Octavian and his mother, an African princess, live in a house full of scientists and philosophers, men whose actions toward them range from sacrificial love to brutality. The young man comes to discover he is worse than a slave in the eyes of the master of the house; he is, in fact, the subject of a life-long experiment.

Hattie Big Sky, Kirby Larson

This story initially piqued my interest because of the novel I’ve been working to rewrite over the past two years, A Chasing After the Wind. Coincidentally, our main characters have the same name and the stories are both coming-of-age, historical. The author, like me, was also inspired by actual family histories.

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Hattie leaves her current guardians to “prove up” on her late uncle’s homestead claim on the Montana prairie (hence, Big Sky). The plot is simple, but, alongside our brave protagonist, the reader staggers to the cabin while lashed by icy winds, rallies against the anti-German sentiment of WWI, and learns the meaning of “home” when it is lost.

Thrift stores—Books are alphabetized according to the Sanskrit alphabet, and you may smell like a hamper upon exiting. But most books don’t cost more than $1.

I bought—

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle for $1 ($29.95 new), David Wroblewski

Although not technically a Young Adult novel, the protagonist, Edgar, is a teenager, and more mature readers may enjoy the incredible journey story, especially if they like dogs. (Readers may be disappointed in the journey’s end, however.)

Synopsis to make a long story short: The tale begins as mysteriously as Edgar’s life does. Edgar can hear but for some unknown reason never has the ability to speak or make sound. His parents breed dogs that are unlike any others in the world, dogs that seem to think critically and possess a human-like gaze. Edgar communicates with the dogs through sign language. Three of the doges become his companions when he runs away, carrying with him the horrible knowledge that his uncle has murdered Edgar’s father.

NOTE: I recently reviewed Lena Roy’s first Young Adult novel Edges

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