I'm hitting the jackpot recently.
If there's one word I would use to describe Joan Bauer's books it would be...satisfying. Her books are full of memorable characters and solid storytelling; while she doesn't shy away from serious topics, her books are generally ideal for readers putting their toe into young adult fiction. Set in fictional Culpepper (that's the way it's spelled in the book), West Virginia, Close to Famous tells the story of twelve year old Foster McFee, cupcake maker extraordinaire. After Foster and her mother end up in Culpepper after fleeing from her mother's abusive boyfriend, Foster makes a name for herself with her delicious cupcakes, yet fears that her inability to read will be discovered. As in Bauer's other novels, there are intriguing secondary characters, including a faded movie star, and a small town struggling to survive. Although certain issues are a bit too neatly wrapped up (such as Foster's illiteracy problem) this is a heartwarming story written by a gifted storyteller.
Oh, you crazy dystopian YA novels. I always think that I don't really like you. When you're written well, you're compelling, but just as it was with people jumping on the romantic vampire bandwagon, it's getting to the point where there's entirely too many of you. I'm waiting for someone to do the ultimate YA trends mashup. Something involving vampires and fallen angels living in a society in which society elders decide everything for them.
But I digress. Let's talk about a dystopian YA novel that I can get behind. It has a surprising amount of romance in it for a dystopian novel (nothing beyond longing looks and quick kisses), and it's not outstanding literature, but I was entertained. It does has its haters (some think it's a leeetle too similar to The Giver). Bad news for the haters: this is the first in a trilogy (second one is out this fall), and Disney has picked up the movie rights. I can't tell you much without giving away too much of the story, but it involves a young girl and forbidden love. It truly stinks to be Cassia, because she's living in a society in which everything is decided for her: her status, her meals, her job, and her spouse. She doesn't think much about it until she falls in love... not with her Match (an old friend), but with one of the society's outcasts. Dun dun DUN. The title refers to the matching ceremony in which teenagers are matched to future spouses. The sequel, Crossed, will be released on November 1. I'm making no apologies-I'm looking forward to it.
Jessica's running ambitions are dashed when a horrific car accident leaves her an amputee. Understandably depressed, she thinks all her dreams are finished until she draws inspiration from her teammates, a young adult amputee, and a fellow classmate with cerebral palsy. I learned a lot about life as an young amputee while enjoying this inspirational yet realistic novel.
I still adore this beautiful story about a young mouse thrust into the outside world. The ending is gorgeous. I have my eye on upcoming novels (including the sequel to the wonderful Our Only May Amelia), but this remains my top favorite for the Newbery (yes, yes, it's only March...we have a way to go).