Five Young Adult Books I Loved

From a guest post I did at Fiktshun:

The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler

The Basic Eight is a psychological thriller in the vein of Fight Club and Gone Girl, only set in high school and full of even more black comedy. Written by Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, it’s one of the best portayals of dark, obsessive high school friendships I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring. My friends and I passed this book around when we were in our early 20’s, and we all found it hilarious and deeply poignant. I think I might have to go reread it right now, just to sink back into Handler’s perfectly sinister clique and relive the shocking plot twists all over again.


Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

I read this book in two feverish days, rapt and anxious about how the narrator, a hard-bitten girl named Lynn, would defend her meager water supply in a world where there’s not enough of the stuff to go around. The stakes here are impossibly high throughout, and everything feels so real because of how well McGinnis knows the techniques of wilderness survival. A gorgeous and all-too-plausible dystopia.


Here Where the Sunbeams are Green by Helen Phillips

This middle-grade adventure story is about so many things: endangered birds, a creepy fountain of youth, first kisses, volcanoes, magic, sleuthing. But it’s the sometimes-strained relationship between sisters Roo and Mad that made this one of my favorite books of last year. Roo and Mad each have their own path to hack through the jungle as they put together clues about their missing father and a scary eco-resort called La Lava, but in the end, we know they couldn’t possibly solve the mystery alone.


Bunheads by Sophie Flack

For anyone who’s into the dark underbelly of professional ballet, Bunheads goes way beyondThe Nutcracker and tutus. Sophie Flack was once a professional ballet dancer, so she nails all the juicy details—the starvation, exhaustion, passion, and broken bones—of her former life. This is the book I go back to when I need to re-immerse myself in the raw hunger of young women willing to do anything to survive in the cutthroat microcosm of a ballet company.


The Pure series by Julianna Baggott

I’m reading this action-packed series right now, and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. Baggott’s poetry background shows on every page—I’ve never seen such grotesquely beautiful imagery in a story told with so much heart. In Pure, detonations have altered people’s cellular makeup and fused them with objects, the earth, even each other. There’s a boy with birds stuck to his back, babies fused forever to their mothers’ hips, a man who joins the underside of a car engine. This book will leave you shaken and terrified and desperately wanting to know how the main characters, Pressia and Partridge, will survive and maybe even fix their post-nuclear world.


"Institutions seemed to be places where women were sort of held and prodded, and I would have to figure out my freedom from in there."

“I always think that females are insiders, and that female rebellion starts someplace where you’re really trapped…” - Eileen Myles

Sheila: Can you explain what you meant when you wrote that females are insiders?

Eileen: It started with that idea of males being outsiders, which I had been fed for a long time – the idea that the male artist is howling outside of the culture. He is transcendent, omnipotent, or you know, just a rebel; the institutions can’t hold him. And my own female existence was often about trying to imitate a male existence, because all the images of artists I had were of men, so how could I be like that? How could I be Kerouac? But then persistently seeing that in On The Road the girls were jumping off the roof, the girls were fading into the background. And if I really thought about my female existence, it was very much about what it felt like to be in the Myles family, what it felt like to me at my job – feeling oppressed by who had a crush on me, or who didn’t. Institutions seemed to be places where women were sort of held and prodded, and I would have to figure out my freedom from in there. So often it was a hollow pain; the pain of being inside, not the yop of freedom of being outside. Whether I was in a mental hospital or in a job as a camp counsellor, I was institutionalized. So it began to seem like to get wild and crazy would be to say what that really looked like. To really camp out in being female and say how it is.

— from Sheila Heti’s recent interview with Eileen Myles (via sheilaheti). Reading Heti now and keep thinking of Myles’ Cool For You.