Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest: My favorite 'dark' YA books

The I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest begins today. For Week 1 participating bloggers are sharing their favorite dark YA books. I had to wonder what is "dark"? After reading Kelley's insightful post about Dark YA at For The Love of Contemporary, I had a good idea of the titles I'd list.

First, I wanted to mention some of the articles from earlier this year which didn't put 'dark YA' in a good light. I wanted to tell the parent from the article she shouldn't have gone to the bookstore first, she should have done her research online: Goodreads, YALSA's book lists, Publishers Weekly, author websites and blogs, and the scores of book bloggers themselves. These are the places to go.

Before I share my list, I wanted to note some authors who deserve special mention. Judy Blume wrote real books for and to kids at a time when other authors weren't. Thank you, Ms. Blume, for showing me that my thoughts and feelings were real and, more importantly, okay. To Anonymous who penned Go Ask Alice, I am grateful for those nights flashlight-reading under the covers. Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, may your pens never stop moving (or keys stop clicking). Pioneers. Revolutionary. Capable of touching people of all ages. And to Jay Asher, for being at the helm of dark YA's resurgence, both with readership and authors willing to tackle sensitive subjects. Judy paved the way, Alice opened my eyes, Laurie and Ellen continue to inspire, and Jay made 'dark' cool. Thank you all.

Some of my favorite dark YA books (the links take you to their Goodreads page):
  • Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols. Can I say how much I love this story? Tremendously. Meg, her colored hair, her wounded heart. Officer John, harboring his own secrets, sets out to teach another a lesson and instead is taught one himself. Together their story is melancholy beauty. I can s hear the train whistle and feel the ground shake whenever I think about this book.

  • If I Stay/ Where She Went by Gayle Forman. Love. Death. Choices. Forman's writing is breathtakingly beautiful, gritty, painting lush landscapes and wringing feelings from places I never knew existed within me. Mia and Adam's journey back to each other is still one of my favorites in YA.
  • Jackie Morse Kessler's Riders of the Apocalypse series: Hunger and Rage (and I can't wait for next year's Loss and Breath in 2013). Anorexia and self mutilation are certainly dark themes but Kessler takes them and infuses them with a paranormal twist. I read a ton of paranormal but I consider these two as truly dark. 
  • Some Girls Are/Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers. These girls are so realistic I swear I know them. Their snark, the real situations Parker and Regina face, their feelings, such individuals. Summers writes her way under your skin and stays there long after her books are closed.
  • Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. Uncomfortable, terrifying, touching, realistic. The first YA book I had to put down. And pick back up. This story remains with me to this day. Add one more word to my list: unforgettable.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Put YA dystopian on the map. A true testament to the perseverance of the human spirit. Katniss gets kicked around, bloodied, witnesses horror after horror, and is still determined to beat President Snow at his sadistic game. When men would cower or hide, she gets up with bow and arrows in hand, only to get tossed back into the mess again. Scarred and damaged, Katniss Everdeen is the poster girl for true grit.
  • By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Ann Peters. Daelyn's story unravels in Peter's prose and shows us what a truly damaged girl is. This book is heartbreaking and yet ends on a hopeful note.
  • Hold Still by Nina LaCour. Caitlin begins to understand why her best friend Ingrid committed suicide. The writing is gorgeous.

  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. A classic. Melinda could be me, could be you or the girl next to you on the bus/chem/orchestra. The thing is she exists. I don't care what lists 'they' can place this book on, it's power and voice should never be silenced. 
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. One of the the first YA books I borrowed from the library. Was recommended and I could see why. Charlie, what a character.
  • The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith. What a thrilling, strange, awesome ride this is. Not for everyone but what is? I disregard the naysayers and experienced this for myself. Wow.
So this is a list of some of my favorites. Inevitably, there will be some I omitted by accident. The one prevalent thing I noticed about these books and why I can still remember them is  they all have tremendous staying power.

What are some of your favorite dark YA reads?


  1. The only one I've read is THE HUNGER GAMES. But, you've given me several books to add to my TBR list. Also, I love/loved Judy Blume's books as a kid. Loved them.

  2. Judy definitely deserves mention, so true! There are quite a few on your list that I haven't read. I'm jotting them down. My favorites are from Ellen Hopkins. They're very dark, but so honest.

  3. There are so many great reads out there. I've also only read The Hunger Games from your list. I agree with your advice for the parent who caused the brouhaha this year. RESEARCH would have gone a long way in picking out good YA ficiton.

  4. Yes, Brinda, there are so many great books available! And Judy is so important. Thank you RaShelle and Heather.


  5. I'm with you - dark YA fiction is my favorite, the more dystopian dys-functional the better LOL

    The Hunger Games are excellent! Good choices, all of them. Right now I'm reading Dark Inside which is chock full of earthquakes & assorted mayhem - it hooked me from the very first page :D

  6. Dark YA is my favourite genre of fiction. And I absolutely LOVE this post of yours. The books you've mentioned are either my favourites or are already on my wishlist.

    And I love it that you chose to mention Judy Blume. FOREVER taught me all about sex and so much more.

  7. TML by Andrew Smith is my FAVE! So glad to see it get some love here too.

  8. This list includes so many of my favorite YA novels, and some of my favorite novels, period. Speak, The Hunger Games, Where She Went and The Perks of Being a Wallflower... all terrific!

  9. Wow, extensive list. I love that you included GO ASK ALICE. I was going to mention that one but for the controversy surrounding it not being genuine. Personally I don't care. It moved me and affected me as a teen.

  10. Great list! I've read a lot of these, but definitely putting the ones I haven't in my TBR pile. I love Wintergirls, The Sky is Everywhere, Twenty Boy Summer, Stolen, Forbidden...too many! I'm a sucker for heart wrenching :) Happy I Love Dark YA Blogfest from a fellow participant!