If you’ve just watched The Fault in Our Stars and need something else to get your paws on, I’ve compiled a list of ten (unusual) books you might want to try. In no particular order:
Winger by Andrew Smith – This coming-of-age novel tells the story of Ryan Dean “Winger” West, the only fourteen year old eleventh grader at his private school for rich American slackers. He’s understandably insecure, and Winger is the story of his maturation from scrawny-ass to a guy whose weight is “half made up in balls” (that’s a quote). Read it for: Smith’s fantastic cast of characters and his unbeatable style.
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith – This is Smith’s most recent and unconventional novel that transcends every genre there is. It’s 33% part sci-fi, 33% part apocalyptic, 33% part horny coming-of-age and it’s 100% Grasshopper Jungle. You’ll never have read anything as crazy or as good as Austin Szerba’s story leading up to the invasion of Ealing, Iowa, by six-foot tall praying mantises. Read it because: you’ll never have read anything like it: it’s bizarre, funny, true and most of all indescribable.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan – A more obvious choice, Levithan’s latest is a wonderful manifesto of gay love in America, with all its variations. This is a must read whatever your sexual identity. Read it because: it’s uniquely narrated by all the victims of AIDS in the eighties and nineties.
Trouble by Non Pratt – This is a teen pregnancy novel with a brilliant cast of characters, told from the perspectives of Hannah and Aaron: two polar opposites who have to work through their differences achieve their potential. Read it because: It’s the British version of Juno with a more controversial twist.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – unlike her debut, Between Shades of Gray, this isn’t completely depressing, yet it’s just as engaging. Josie grows up in 1950s New Orleans with a prostitute-mother, dreaming of a world beyond the warm summer jazzy streets of the Easy. Read it for: Sepety’s amazing sense of period, the lovable characters and Josie’s big dream.
Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood – This slim tale follows a relationship as ill-fated as Romeo and Juliet between Traveler Trick and English girl Iris. C.J. Flood’s prose is rich and beautiful and illustrates the pain of prejudice. Read it because: it’s an unpretentious bildungsroman about first love.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler – An unusual twist on the typical hook-up novel, Min’s story of a relationship gone wrong is filled with references to fictional films and filled with beautiful illustrations by Maira Kalman. Read it because: it’s an honest portrayal of failed love.
Naked by Kevin Brooks – 1976 is the summer of punk and love. Sixteen year old Lili gets caught up in London’s underground punk music scene as things get heated for the band Naked. Brooks’ prose is searing and intense. Read it because: it feels like re-encountering a long lest memory of London’s sun-baked pavements.
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta – this Australian classic is as much about the vast landscape as it is about Taylor Mackham, who one fateful summer is put in charge of the Townies as they wage war against the Cadets in the Australian bush, fighting over tracks, tree houses and tunnels. Read it because: it’ll make you want to go to Australia and spend a summer trying to find the fictional Jellicoe Road.
Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers – this quiet British bildungsroman is about a bereaved man’s journey with eighteen year old Karl, whose girlfriend has just dumped him. Intent on getting her back, the two men enjoy quiet companionship and the occasional conflict as they try to understand and help each other. Read it because: it’s a lovely slow-moving tale of inter-generational friendship.