YA books comprise one of my favorite genres. There are a number of interesting options now, and many authors are engaging creatively with narrative styles. I plan to return to this category often as there are a wide-range of sub-genres and so many excellent reads. Although cross-over books are pretty widely recognized, thanks to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, YA books still remain an elusive genre and one not easily defined. Are they defined by reading level or content? Authorial intention or marketing plans? Readers or teachers/parents/and librarians?
In honor of this ambiguity, my first YA recommendation also poses a number of unanswerable questions, by challenging our conceived notions of fixed boundaries. David Levithan’s Every Day (Knopf, $16.99) is a unique inquiry into the relationship between body and soul. Is ‘who we are’ distinct from ‘what we look like’? Is love really blind or do we fall for the ‘package’ as much as the ‘person’ inside? What makes us human anyway? Readers will start asking these and other philosophical questions when they read A’s fascinating story.
A wakes up every day in a new body, crossing gender, race, ability, and sexuality. Creating a personal code of ethics, A discovers what can (and cannot), should (and should not) be done when you’re living in someone else’s life. One day A wakes up as Justin, meets Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon, and on that day A’s own life finally begins.
Every Day was just released in August 2012, but it’s already showing up on Picks of the Year lists. It’s edgy, thought-provoking, and has enough respect for teenagers to not force any conclusions on them. I’d love to see it on school reading lists, but because of it’s gender and sexual fluidity I wouldn’t be surprised if instead it’s frequently challenged. Families with teenagers should read it as a family. I’m sure it will spark lively discussions at dinner.