YA Books You Need to R

Online lists about which books need to be read by everyone at least once are plentiful, but they never have the books I think are most needing of attention. For instance, Ender’s Game is on several of them, and for good reason; but Ender’s Shadow, which I confess to loving even more, rarely is.

That said, some of the books on this list are probably on others. Some are not. They aren’t a particularly literary selection. One is a Star Wars novel. One is dystopian. Perhaps a better title for this post would be “YA Books I  Love” but I’m not going to call it that, because that title would require a list too long for this blog post, and because they really are good books I think most fiction lovers can enjoy.

The Beyonders Trilogy by Brandon Mull

  A teenager falls into a magical world. This sounds like the premise for an enjoyable, but familiar story about heroes and adventurers and dragons, but that’s not how Beyonders works. The heroes of Lyrian have all been systematically bribed, corrupted, tortured or killed out of hero-ing. There are no dragons, which is a serious mark against the series in my book, but the creatures that are there are each fascinating in their own way–giants and zombies and wizards and things that we don’t have any stories or names for on Earth.

It’s an exciting story about integrity and the true meaning of courage. And sword fights, because obviously there have to be sword fights if there’s no dragons.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

This is the first of the Discworld books focused on Tiffany Aching. I don’t know if everyone considers it YA, but that’s where it’s shelved at my library and it’s about a girl as opposed to the adult protagonists of most of the other books.

The book is excellent for its dry humor and magic, but it also has this quote:

“All witches are selfish, the Queen had said. But Tiffany’s Third Thoughts said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine!

It’s a very Slytherin way of choosing to protect those in need of protecting. I love it.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I’m fortunate to have never been forced to read this book for class, since the way I had to read and analyze literature in English class tended to make me hate them, though maybe I’d have hated The Crucible anyways.

The Giver is early dystopian fiction, and some of the best work in the genre. In a society where everyone is more or less the same, a boy named Jonas is surprised to stand out when he is chosen to be the new Reciever of Memory.

Some of my favorite themes in the book are the value of having differences between people, and whether and why emotions are important. The movie is really good too.

Ahsoka  by EK Johnston

This is a more recent book, part of the new Star Wars canon. Ahsoka Tano, former apprentice to Anakin Skywalker, survived the Jedi purges and is on the run in the Outer Rim. With an assumed name and her skill with droids, she is able to stay out of the Empire’s way as a mechanic.

Then the Empire comes to the small farming town she’s been staying in, and she is faced with the choice of running again, or helping the people she’s beginning to befriend and being targeted as a Jedi. Can she fight again after losing everything?

Also, it’s very fun to read Star Wars from a non-human’s perspecive.



They say home is where the heart is.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but my heart is inside my chest, next to the lungs and the ribs.

It isn’t necessarily the place you were born, since a lot of us are being born in a hospital these days, or the place you grew up in.  I moved around a lot as a kid, grew up in lots of places.  Home isn’t always the place you live now, either.

It’s a lot harder to define.  Apparently Dory will be looking for it in the upcoming Finding Dory movie.

In the last Fablehaven book, Brandon Mull wrote, “Some imagine the difference between heaven and hell to be a matter of geography.  Not so.  The difference is much more evident in the individuals who dwell there.”  I think that applies to homes as well as heavens–don’t parents aspire to make their homes a heaven for their families, or at least a haven?  So home can mean being with the people you love, who love you, so that wherever you actually are you feel comfortable.

What about those of us who can only take a certain amount of social interaction, even with our favorite people?  What about the people who can’t be with their loved ones?

Harry Potter thought of Hogwarts as his home, not because of the castle or the lake, but because it was a place where he was allowed to be himself without being called a freak.  Until it came out that he could talk to snakes, anyway.  The Doctor takes his TARDIS with him wherever he goes, so even if his home planet isn’t around anymore he still has a home of sorts.

I think a big part of a home is being able to feel safe.  Which makes even my own bed not at all homelike if there’s a spider in the room.

Have you ever felt homesick, even when you were at home?

I was a weird kid, and an even weirder teenager, and so even though my family was (and still is) pretty great, I thought about what a home was and what I considered home to be a lot.  I decided that I had many homes, though they were homes at varying levels.

There was the house where I lived with my family.

There was my grandparents’ house.

There were church buildings, which I love even if I don’t love big congregations.

There were the art classrooms at school.

There was my best friend’s house.

There was this bit of wild high mountain desert outside my neighborhood.

And even when I couldn’t get to those places or be with the people who helped make them homelike, I still carried home in my backpack, locked in the pages of a sketchbook.  I found home in making art, in hearing my favorite music, in stories, in peach ring candies and Starburst jelly beans and Star Wars.  I figured that any place could be homelike, with time.

I’m hoping that’s true of university campuses.  I’m definitely more at home than I was my first few weeks.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss home.

Maybe that’s part of being human, missing things.  Even if you can go back to the home you remember, it isn’t the same.  Either home’s changed or you’ve changed, or both in the case of Frodo Baggins and the Shire, and you have to adjust.  It would take some serious warping of spacetime to get you back to exactly the way things were before you left, and you’d lose all the things you’d gained in the leaving.