4 Thought-Provoking YA Novels


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

A genuine and stirring work, Speak reveals the weight of being both an outcast in high school and a rape victim. Fear and loneliness muzzles and disconnects freshman Melinda, who hadn’t told anyone what happened at a back-to-school party. Realistically portraying how it feels to be a teenager elicits even more empathy for the main character. The novel reminds me how prevalent, harmful, and hidden sexual assault to both men and women continues to be in our culture. Being kind to others is vital-we may have no idea what people struggle with.


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Four characters, each affected differently by WWII, fight to survive and eventually board the same ship. Sepetys skillfully juxtaposes her characters in order to highlight their brave, kind, or selfish acts. The reader gazes into the psyche of a Nazi soldier and sees an example of someone  drawn into a horrific army.  Based on a true and overlooked tragedy, the sinking of the MV Wilhelm- Gustloff killed more people on one vessel than any other recorded event.



Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Once called “America’s Fattest Teen”, Libby has recovered to the point where she can attend a normal high school. There her life clashes with fellow student Jack, who suffers from prosopagnosia (face blindness).  Libby’s voice is inspiring, challenging, and complex. Although she still faces challenges, Libby’s self- acceptance represents hope and success to those struggling with mental issues. Her character made me evaluate how I view my own appearance and other’s opinions.


How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

When a white man shoots an African-American teen named Tariq, everyone has a different perspective on the event. Was Tariq part of the local gang? Was he holding a gun or merely a candy bar? Was the act a hate crime?  In the aftermath, young men and women of Tariq’s community must decide how to react-in anger, grief, and courage. This novel highlights the fact that gangs and substance abuse still haunt neighborhoods today, and explores what happens in the weeks following a shooting like this one might see on the news.


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4 Reasons to Connect with an Author

Over the past few years, I have had the honor to connect with local author Felicia Bridges. As the writer of the series International Missions Force, she creates inspirational adventure stories of teens and their relationship with God. Her current titles include Czechmate (featured previously on this blog), BoliviaKnight, and an upcoming third novel. Bridges has been so kind and inclusive to me since I expressed interest in her works. I’m sure not all authors have the time or resources to respond to readers. However, if you know of someone who writes, visits a career day, or can find someone to contact through social media, I would highly recommend reaching out.

  1. They inspire you to write your own stories. After reading Bridge’s first book, I actually crafted a short story of my own missions trip. For me, seeing a woman pursuing her calling and being published pushed me to work more.
  2. You can ask them questions about writing/editing/publishing. During the launch of her first book, Bridges took questions about her journey toward becoming an author. I have messaged her questions of my own about publishing and other career ideas. In order to learn more about careers I’m interested in, I’ve also shadowed a lawyer and a advertising accounts manager. Although not everyone will respond positively, showing initiative and being polite might lead to a valuable opportunity.
  3. You might even be able to read/ help with an early draft. I was so excited to read a draft and make comments on Bolivia Knight.
  4. You get practice writing. If an author invests time with you, one of the best things you can do to help them succeed is to write their book a thoughtful review or endorsement. Try Amazon, your own social media, or blog. Evaluating a text and articulating what you liked about it sharpens your own literary skills. Writing about any topic can improve your ability to think and communicate clearly.

My endorsement of BoliviaKnight (bottom of back cover).

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7 Best YA Fiction Reads Set in Space

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1. Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Aboard the Godspeed starship, Amy and 100 other cryogenically frozen colonists are on their way to a new solar system. Elder, the only teenager and the leader of the ship’s crew, unfreezes Amy to see someone near his own age. When frozen colonists start to perish, Amy and Elder must discover who is behind these murders. Packed with plot twists, the Across the Universe Trilogy is an unpredictable ride containing realistically portrayed relationships.

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2. Salvage by Alexandra Duncan. When Ava makes a rash decision and ruins her future, she is smuggled to earth where she fights to survive. With the help of family and unexpected friends, she overcomes her past and forms her own identity. Racial and gender discrimination in Salvage artfully illuminates social issues in our society today.

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3. Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan. A desperate situation aboard the neighboring space vessel Empyrean leads to the capture of the girls aboard Waverley’s ship. Conflict brews on both vessels as the girls face a childless Empyrean crew while the boys must run the ship themselves. Glow features a strong female protagonist in a story woven with themes reminiscent of the darker side of Puritanism.

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4. The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid.  Nemesis, a genetically engineered humanoid, was made to protect a senator’s daughter named Sidonia. However, she begins to move beyond her biology after taking Sidonia’s place in the galactic court of a power-hungry Emperor. Nemesis now works with a surprising ally to save humanity from its harsh rulers and aging technology. The complex characters and original setting of The Diabolic make it an engaging read.

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5. Cinder by Marissia Meyer. A cruel stepmother feels justified in using the tinkering skills of her cyborg stepdaughter Cinder to support her family through a mechanic’s shop. An incurable disease and threats from the Lunar Queen Levana force young Emperor Kai to look for help. With Cinder’s talents and bravery and Kai’s position, they start a team that grows in members throughout the following books. While the first book Cinder was adequate by itself, the entire Lunar Chronicles is a series full of adventure, featuring new takes on classic fairytales.

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6. These Broken Stars by Annie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. When a luxury starship crashes, an unlikely pair must survive on a desolate planet. Lilac is the daughter of one of the richest men in the universe, while Tarver has faced hardship as a soldier. Together they uncover secrets about Lilac’s father and learn to understand each other despite their different backgrounds. These Broken Stars contains lyrical writing and a fulfilling romance for those who enjoy that genre.

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7. Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta. What happens when you mix rock n’ roll and The Hitcherhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? A story about a girl named Cade who uses music to fight the ringing in her head. Cade finds out she has been quantum entangled with boy named Xan. She gathers a motley crew in aid in her search across the stars for Xan. Entangled delivers a fun cast of characters and satisfying conclusion.

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5 Reasons to Convince You YA Books Are Not All the Same

First misconception about YA:  It’s all the same

Girl has powers! Love triangle! Save the world!  The authors are just ripping each other off, nothing’s original, the list goes on and on. I’m hesitant at times to mention that I like YA fiction out of fear of being bombarded or looking like I haven’t got a brain that could appreciate anything else. Here are five reasons  explaining why I think YA can appear to be this way.

1. Nobody is familiar with every book. Most people who aren’t into this genre probably only know a lot about The Hunger Games, Divergent, and John Green, two of which are very similar.

2. Everyone, especially young people,  see the world we live in and wish we could change it for the better.  We hear stories on the news and image how things might be when we’re older. We can feel so helpless in the scheme of things, so characters (sometimes with the aid of supernatural powers) who can save their world are inspirational in their own way.

3. Authors want to write a main character you can identify with. Whether or not their idea of their target readers is correct is something you can decide. If you agree with three or more of following, you might a be a YA main character!
A girl
15-18 years of age
Brownish hair
Often pessimistic
Thinks of themselves as average looking
Hard time making new friends
Crush on a guy outta her league
One or more of her parents is absent
Sarcastic, surly, or sassy

4. There is not an infinite number of good plots and storylines after all, even less so in a specific genre.

5. Authors look at what’s doing well and may incorporate popular elements into their novels, because they understandably want to sell their work and buy more coffee. I read an article by Simon and Schuster describing how publishers highly recommend putting at least a few trending themes in their books.

Hope that helped! Keep reading and be your awesome self!