The Top 10 Book About Finding Yourself by Amy Steinbauer
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
I’ve never been a cheerleader, but an old roommate of mine was, and this book reopened the doors to that life of pom poms, ribbons, spirit gifts, and high kicks. But as with any group of people, there is more than meets the eye. Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading squad; one that has won many awards and is extremely well regarded. The summer before her senior year, they attend their last Summer Training Camp for cheerleaders and a tragedy occurs that redefines everything. My favorite part of this book was the strong female friendship. It’s rare to see a friendship take a positive focus in a teen novel. I loved the strength and bravery of that friendship, and Hermione’s personal growth, as she has to redefine herself.
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Agorophic books are slightly “in” right now for YA novels, but this one is the best of the bunch. Solomon is an agoraphobic teen, and he is perfectly okay with that. He hasn’t left the house in three years, due to some serious anxiety and mental illnesses.
Lisa is an ambitious teenager desperate to set her college application a part from others and secure a spot in a prestigious psychology program. In order to do so, and to satisfy some curiosity of her own, she tracks down Solomon and tirelessly works to “fix” him. Her lovable boyfriend, Clark, tags along, and the three of them start to open each other up in new and unusual ways. As the three of them get closer, and walls break down, you can ponder the boundaries that we sometimes create in our relationships and whether they protect us, or keep us a part from others. Bonus points if you’re a Star Trek fan; you will really be delighted by Solomon’s obsession.
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Laurel is having a hard time after the death of her older sister. When she gets an English assignment to write a letter to a dead person, she runs with the assignment and starts writing to lots of dead celebrities. The story is told through all the letters that she writes. I love how the author uses the letter to format to enlighten us a little about the lives of these famous people like Kurt Cobain and Amelia Earhart. I learned a lot about the lives of lots of famous people, while watching Laurel transform through her grief and the memories of her sister, to the new person she is now.
Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey
This is a weird book, but I couldn’t stop reading it. The cover alone is gorgeous, and you can buy it online https://www.inprnt.com/gallery/frenchprinter/no-one-is-ever-missing/
One day, Elyria steps out of her boring and stable life, and flies to New Zealand to stay with a writer she met years ago. As she travels to the remote ranch, she mentally slides through her life and what brought her to where she is now. It’s written in a stream of conscious style, which allows you to float through her thinking and really “see” her point of view. I found it immensely engrossing, and as you wait and hope for Elyria to figure her life out, you can’t help but think about the choices you have made in your own life.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
It took me way too long to start this book… everyone else had already read it and loved it, but I was still waiting for it to hit my library! When it arrived, I sat down and read it in one sitting! Willowdean Dickson or Dumplin’ is fine living her life as a “fat” girl, until she takes a new job and meets a hot guy. These changes start to create an uneasiness in her that shakes her solid confidence. To remedy this, she decides to enter the Miss Clover City beauty pageant, and along the way finds herself again, as well as serves as a leader for a few new friends as they walk their own journey toward self-discovery.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
IMHO, this book would be required reading in high school. Gabi is a girl who is trying to find herself in a world that longs to define her. The book chronicles Gabi’s last year of high school as she tries to finish college applications, her friend’s pregnancy, another friend’s coming out, along with her father’s drug problem, all while listening to what society and others want her to be. It’s a very interesting time to be a woman, and Gabi’s story speaks to all of us, as she struggles to find herself in a world where no one is asking for more than what they see/perceive.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Warning: reading this graphic novel will make you want to re-watch Whip It. This book is a little younger, but it really speaks to that growing pain of becoming your own person, versus doing what your friends always do. I personally love Astrid’s transformation— especially the blue hair! My dream come true!
Astrid and her best friend, Nicole, have always done everything together, but when Nicole wants to do ballet, and Astrid wants to do roller derby, the girls part, and both start their own lives. Astrid learns that things change, but one door closing may open so much more. Also, my roller derby name would be “The Killer Mermaid.”
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
This book is a tearjerker. You have been warned. That being said, it’s worth the read. I mistakenly read it on the train, and just put on my sunglasses and went ahead and cried. Aysel has had enough of life, and has a plan for her own death. She just needs a little help, that’s what brings her to a website called: Suicide Partners. There she meets, Roman, a boy with his own plan. As they get to know each other, and flesh out their plans, Aysel starts to realize that there may be another way out of a bad situation; hope. This was a very dark, but worthwhile read. Jasmine makes a home in the dark places that we all feel from time to time, and that allows us to see all the light in our lives.
Today Means Amen by Sierra DeMulder
I love a great book of poetry. It truly does speak to your soul, if you are ready to listen! This book is beautiful… I read it and felt like I was seeing the world anew. There is a reason that Sierra DeMulder has partnered with the organization, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) https://twloha.com/, a mental health advocacy specializing in suicide awareness. If you read this book, you will mostly likely be able to look at your lives and see all the wonderful things around you, and you will feel better.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
I don’t think there are enough words to say what I would want to say about this book, but I will try: it’s beautiful. Twins Jude and Noah have been inseparable for all their lives, until their mom passes away, and everything changes for them. Three years later, the twins barely speak, and have become entirely different versions of themselves. This story is about what happens when you fall apart, and how to find your way back. There is so much art infused in this book, and it’s worth checking out the author’s page for some of the inspirations. http://jandynelson.com/gallery/
Amy Steinbauer is a children’s librarian in the District of Columbia. She reads at least a hundred non-picture books a year, and maybe a thousand picture books. She loves mermaids, and is always on the lookout for a great one! You can follow her on Twitter @Merbrarian.