I’ve been keeping a list all year of books I thought flew under the radar with the intent to make this round-up post at the end of the year. Then, both Jamie at the Perpetual Page Turner and Dahlia posted their own lists and it spurred me to finally write this post instead of just listing titles down in a notebook.
My Under-the-Radar YA Picks of 2014
1. My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter
I really enjoyed this book for it’s look at a messy friendship. Relationships of all sorts can be tough, and I thought My Best Friend, Maybe did an excellent job at showing all the ups and downs of a friendship with a lot of baggage. Also, I thought the struggle of the main character as it related to her faith and the faith of her parents really well-done without ever being preachy or dismissive. Plus, it’s set in Greece! Want more convincing? My review.
2. The Fourth Wish by Lindsay Ribar(sequel to the Art of Wishing)
I seriously do not understand how this series is not more popular. For one, it’s a complete duology. It’s also charming, adorable, and thoughtful. There’s action, adventure, cute romance, serious discussions, characters who grow, drama(the fun kind–the main character is into theater), etc. Want more convincing? My review here.
3. Some Boys by Patty Blount
Out of all the books I’ve read that deal with the topic of sexual assault, Some Boys is my favorite. It examines not only a sexual assault but also the culture surrounding it, including the way sports culture sometimes hides misdeeds done by athletes and the way so many people are slow to believe victims for a variety of reasons. Want more convincing? My review here.
4. The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely
I am truly confused as to how this book skated under the radar in 2014. If I had to pick only one book from this list to feature, it would be The Gospel of Winter. This book also deals with sexual assault, but focuses on sexual and spiritual abuse in a religious institution. It’s incredibly nuanced and careful. It’s quiet and heartbreaking, and absolutely worth reading. Need more convincing? My review here.
5. MARY: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan
Let’s switch gears now and talk about YA horror. I haven’t read much horror, but what I have has left me mostly unimpressed. If I’m going to read horror, I want the shocks and the scares, but most of the books I’ve read felt like the were holding back. Well, MARY certainly does not. You thought the legend of Bloody Mary wasn’t terrifying enough on its own? Well, then step right up and give this one a try. Need more convincing? My review here.
6. Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu
Life by Committee made me shake my head more than once, but in a good way. The main character is a mess, makes dumb mistakes, is “unlikable”, and is. . . well, a teenager. A human, really, and I loved this book a little for it. It’s also fast-paced in a way few contemporaries are. Need more convincing? My review here.
7. Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters
Lies My Girlfriend Told Me ended up being nothing at all like I thought it would be. Despite the title and the summary, Lies My Girlfriend Told Me is much less about Alix finding out the lies and more about coming to terms with an unhealthy relationship. I particularly enjoyed this book for the contrast of a clearly unhealthy relationship(and the coping afterward) and a much healthier relationship. Need more convincing? My review here.
8. This Side of Salvation by Jerri Smith Ready
One thing I’m noticing as I write this list is that there were a good handful of YA books in 2014 that dealt with religious issues really well. This Side of Salvation is one of them. David’s parents got very religious after the death of David’s older brother–so religious, in fact, that they’re preparing for the rapture. What ensues in this book is an exploration of faith, relationships, and loss. Like so many other books on this list, the topic is handled respectfully and with so much nuance, and it’s heartening to see. I actually did not write a review of this one because some of the themes hit too close to home, but it’s definitely worth picking up.
9. The Chapel Wars by Lindsay Leavitt
Linday Leavitt writes adorable books and The Chapel Wars is no exception. This book in particular has such a fun premise(competing wedding chapels in Las Vegas!), some serious threads(the main character is dealing with getting her family’s chapel back in business after the death of her grandfather), and a fairly cute romance. I didn’t like this one as much as Leavitt’s 2013 Going Vintage, but I still think it’s an under-appreciated book. Need more convincing? My review here.
10. Free to Fall by Lauren Miller
This has been a mostly contemporary-heavy list, with a few exceptions, so for my last pick I want to highlight Free to Fall. This book may be long, but it never feels that way. It’s an exciting science fiction thriller that’s different from anything I’ve read before. I think what I like most about Free to Fall, though, is that it’s science fiction set in the relatively near future. It’s a fun read, but it’s also very accessible science fiction for readers who might be a little wary of the genre. Need more convincing? My review here.