“Underrated” is pretty much an Estelle buzzword. I love talking and sharing books with people but nothing gets me more excited than sharing a less known title and author, and having others fall in love with them too. Almost 4 years into the blog and it’s still the best high in the blogging universe. So I’m back for Top 10 Tuesday by the brilliant folks at The Broke and the Bookish!
Today I’m talking contemporary young adult (so dear to my heart) and decided to divide my list in half: books and authors. I can’t wait to discover some new writers and books this week, and — fingers crossed — hope this list does the same for you! xoxo
(five) underrated authors
1. Miranda Kenneally: I’m still shocked when I hear readers haven’t picked up a book in the Hundred Oaks series. Is it the titles? Is it the book covers? I have no idea. I’ve reread the books for the third time through this year, and I was even more amazed by how sex positive they were, how much they had their characters exploring their beliefs in tough, sometimes self-destructive ways, and, especially, strong imperfect female characters. Miranda’s writing continues to get stronger as the series goes on and her latest, Breathe, Annie, Breathe, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Period. It’s a book I believed in so much that I gifted it to 4 people who don’t read a ton of YA but I thought would get something out of it. (I’ve heard from 3 of the 4 so far and it’s been a hit; if that doesn’t say something then I don’t know what will.) From friendship to healthy family to moving on to college and dealing with all the pressures of teenage life? This series has you covered. (Tip: you don’t necessarily have to read these in order.)
2. J.H. Trumble: If you are looking for some seriously great, multi-dimensional gay characters who feel like they are practically your best friends at the end of of your reading experience then I can’t recommend J.H. Trumble enough. Her books are addicting, and I love how her characters explore love, sex, complications with family, and making friends. Like Hundred Oaks, all the characters tie into each other but they don’t necessarily have to be read in order. I am dying for an announcement about her next book.
3. Jessica Martinez: The Vow, about two best friends who decide to marry so one can stay in the country for senior year, blew me away last year. I went back and read Virtuosity, and I can anxiously awaiting Kiss Kill Vanish. I don’t see too many people talking about Jessica, and I’m not sure why. First of all, her tweets are honest and amazing and second, she brings such depth and a fresh voice to the young adult genre. You want diversity? Read The Vow. You want focused, strong female characters? Read The Vow or Virtuosity. (I haven’t read her second book, but I swear it’s on my list.)
4. Terra Elan McVoy: Terra has written a lot of books, and I’ve read four of them and have a fifth sitting on my bookshelf. The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, Being Friends with Boys, Criminal, and this year’s In Deep? She’s a genius because each of her books are so different, and keep me captivated just the same. Her characters are well-developed, imperfect in the most relatable way, and you can see (especially if you read them back to back) how much she challenges herself in each piece. I love that because it also means she is making her readers work too. I am so jealous of all of you who get to read her for the first time.
5. Tara Altebrando: YOU GUYS. I went to Coney Island for the second time in my life last weekend, and all I could think about was Dreamland Social Club — this gorgeous book that Tara wrote years ago. This year, she wrote a middle grade (loved it) and last year she wrote an amazing in-between senior year and college book with Sara Zarr called Roomies. Her books hit me right in the heart. I love the writing, the characters, the lessons, the relationships. I want all of her books in my collection and I want her to write forever.
(five) underrated books
1. Starstruck series by Rachel Shukert: 1930s Hollywood, different female perspectives, well-researched, and so readable. I just realized I shifted from contemporary to talk about a historical YA but oh well. I talk this one up as much as I can because I think Rachel takes this glam time (fashion! stars!) and manages to integrate the political nature of the time too. It’s a very smart book, and does not talk down to its readers.
2. Bumped series by Megan McCafferty: Whoops. I messed up again. Yes, this is young adult. But it’s also dystopian. The author known for the Jessica Darling series took a leap writing about two girls with such varied beliefs stuck in a world where having a baby super young is the way to be because people are buying babies right and left, and glamorizing the whole thing like you wouldn’t believe. In our internet, celeb-saturated world, McCafferty provided some interesting commentary on who we are today and where we can go.
3. The Comeback Season by Jennifer Smith: I cringe when I hear/read that Jennifer Smith’s debut was The Probability of Love at First Sight because no dammit, The Comeback Season is and it is ah-mazing. Jennifer parallels the history of the cursed Chicago Cubs with a young girl dealing with the delayed grief of her dad’s passing, as she meets a boy (a fellow cubs fan). The prose I have come to love from Smith is so superb here; I read the book in close to one sitting and it cemented by ultimate devotion to this author and her work. For baseball fans, for those who love some gorgeous, visual writing, you must check out this gem.
4. Past Perfect by Leila Sales: This book needs a new cover. Pronto. I never reviewed this book on the blog, but it was a lovely birthday present from Hannah (So Obsessed With) and I loved the dialogue between the two best friends, the historic village summer job wars, great romance, and ugh — I flew through it, marking a ton of quotes I loved. Read it, read it, read it. It’s my favorite Sales book (and I was a huge fan of This Song Will Save Your Life).
5. Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Schiedt: Another one I didn’t review but oh my god, if you love really crisp, amazing, emotional writing styles, Uses for Boys is a must for writers. Yes, it’s painful and heartbreaking and we don’t always understand why the main character does what she does (I mean, do you understand all the decisions your friends make) but I like to think the main character was searching for home, searching for a place where she could be herself. She took a lot of detours but I couldn’t put the book down. The language was beautiful despite all the darkness of the story.
I could probably keep adding and adding to these lists until I have an ungodly number of recommendations.
So basically, it’s just a little taste. (But if you want some more check out Marisa Calin, Jason Myers, Colleen Clayton…)