Let’s see. I’ve been very diligent in reading books the past six months or so. I know I’ve been reading a lot of young adult fiction lately, but I have to admit, I’ve underestimated its quality all these years. I always thought YA books are for teens. You know, high school students who are just beginning to know the perils of being in love and maintaining a relationship for the first time. But there are really great books today that are not shallow and instead discuss really important and current themes.
So here I am listing my favorite books for 2012. Not all titles in the list are YA books, but most are. I hope I get more people to read these. And for those who think that YA books are too lame? I’ve been there. I owe my love for John Green and Sophie Kinsella to friends who’ve recommended them. And you really can’t judge a book by its cover (or title, or author), quite literally.
1. Perks of Being a Wallflower – this is how I learned about the book: One afternoon, I was listening (yet again) to RENT songs. Then, out of nowhere, I started wondering who wrote the movie’s screenplay and if that person had other download-worthy movies. So I looked it up on Wikipedia. I found out Stephen Chbosky wrote the screenplay and that he has a well-received coming-of-age novel, for which a movie was already in production, and in which Emma Watson was starring! Needless to say, I needed to read the book. It was well-written and felt very personal. I’m sure Charlie connected to the readers in different ways, but the beautiful thing about the book is that it also allowed readers to connect to one another. And that in itself is already a great reason to read it.
2. The Fault in Our Stars – I finished reading the book in less than 24 hours. It wasn’t the first John Green novel I read, but it was because of this book that I decided John Green is one of the best writers today. Not only did he drift away from the normal triviality that some YA books focus on, but he does it with such flair that he has created an entirely new standard for writing young adult fiction. He understands pain and he gets the readers. Plus, he has the panache for storytelling that many writers today lack.
3. Looking for Alaska – the first John Green novel I’ve read, it was a very refreshing book. The novel is split in two parts, Before and After. John Green is known for writing very smart teenagers (some might say too smart to be believable), and Alaska Young was the perfect heroine for his style. All the unusual elements made up for a profoundly moving book. The format was unusual, the characters were new to me, and the story was complex; it evoked a certain familiarity that I’m sure everyone understands on some level.
4. Will Grayson, Will Grayson – the first novel I’ve read that’s a collaboration between two authors. I really enjoy reading unconventionally written novels. I love people who defy some of the rules and just enjoy writing. The book is about two boys named Will Grayson who don’t know each other but will eventually meet because of special circumstances. The two Will Graysons are worlds apart, but there is something that connects them the way coffee is always connected with donuts and Marco is always connected with Polo. I think it’s fantastic how John Green’s and David Levithan’s styles molded into one coherent, distinctly different but amazingly connected narrative. John Green writes characters you wish you knew and are friends with in real life, while David Levithan writes characters that mirror the version of yourself you don’t want anyone else to know about. And you know what? It works.
5. Every Day – another unusually written novel. Not only does it defy rules, it also defies logic. And as Jerry Seinfeld said in his book, when you want to enjoy something, you must never, ever let logic get in the way. Every Day is like that. Have you ever started things in your life that you know can’t end well, but you did them anyway because you knew that despite losing a lot of yourself in it, there is also still something to gain? That is our lives at one point or another. And that is this book. I absolutely love the narrator’s idea of falling in love with an individual, regardless of the gender. I know it’s a tall order for most people, but it sounds liberating, if only in theory.
6. Let It Snow – Let It Snow is a collaboration among three friends and authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle. I admit that I bought this book mainly because of John Green, but I must say I also enjoyed Maureen Johnson’s story equally. It’s an easy read, perfect for days that you just want something short and feel-good to read—perhaps on a plane to somewhere? While sunbathing on a beach? Or just when you have an hour or two to spare?
7. Love is a Mix Tape – one of two nonfiction books on this list. Love is a Mix Tape is a homage to Renee, Rob Sheffield’s Great Love. The author is generous enough to share his love, life and loss story with Renee in a manner sharing of mix tapes. He opens up his story while in his New York apartment alone and playing the mix tape Rumblefish, made by his late wife. It’s a bittersweet experience. Personally, it taught me that the best and worst things in our lives happen when we least expect them. We can never prepare for them. Falling in love? Complete surprise and overwhelmingly scary. Losing the love of your life? The same. But it doesn’t matter. Whether you feel like you’re on top of the world or at the bottom of the ocean gasping for air, all you need is the right person, the right song, and you’re all set.
8. Twenties Girl – I’ve read this book twice last year. It’s the book that made me realize how good Sophie Kinsella really is at comedy. I’ve always thought she was overrated, and I didn’t enjoy The Undomestic Goddess that much when I read it back in college, but this book absolutely changed my mind. Sophie Kinsella is funny. And not tongue-in-cheek funny. She is really, genuinely, laughing-in-public-places, embarrassing-myself hilarious. And it doesn’t hurt that she writes the most drop-dead gorgeous leading men for her heroines. I applaud her for not succumbing to the temptation of making her books sexy for the readers. Because seriously, more often than not, making a story erotic cheapens it. And yes, I’m taking about the Fifty Shades trilogy.
9. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – one of my favorite modern classics. Yes, I’ve seen the movie first before reading the book, but it’s okay. Both are amazing. Holly Golightly is not your typical heroine. She makes you want to go out there and let go a little, enjoy life more, and not take yourself too seriously all the time. She makes losing yourself seem fun and, at times, necessary.
10. Nicholas and Alexandra – another nonfiction in the list. I am not usually into historical accounts, but I’ve loved Nicholas and Alexandra since I was a kid. It’s weird, I know. I don’t know how many times I’ve read this book. Their story is just… WOW. From the moment they met, how Nicholas proposed to Alexandra, Nicholas ruling Russia, to their deaths and fictionalizing some parts of their life (you know, the Rasputin part and how Anastasia allegedly escaped and lived to be an old lady)—it’s all very unbelievably amazing and sad and beautiful all at the same time. My heart goes to Russia’s last Royal Family. And my God, Robert K. Massie did a great job writing this biography.
This year, I promise to read more books, explore more genres, and share them to friends.