Deanne Wilsted is the indie author of “Betting Jessica” which is currently available on Amazon. Today, Feb. 10th, Amazon will be running a promotion on the book, which will be free for the entire day.
1. “Lock and Key” by Sarah Dessen – The heroine in this story is Ruby, a 17 year old girl whose ideas of family have been challenged by a narcissistic mother and absent sister and father. Now, she is forced to live with her sister and her life takes a new turn as she discovers that real family isn’t necessarily biologic and does stand by you in the good and bad times. As with all of Sarah Dessen’s writing Ruby is funny and honest while still managing some very difficult subjects. Ms. Dessen has a beautiful way with description and dialogue, creating imagery that adds to the complexity of her characters and storyline.
2. “Little Blog on the Prairie” by Cathleen Davitt Bell – A really fun read. 13 year old Gen Welsh finds herself back in the 1800s when her parents sign them up for a family summer camp firmly based in this time period. No cell phones, no internet… no technology at all; you can imagine her angst. For a while, at least, she has the use of her cell phone which she has snuck in. She is able to blog about her experiences, but has no idea that more and more people are following her often crazy and always hilarious escapades. With only limited access to the outside world, however, there is more time to build relationships; including those with her family and with one of her cute campmates. Her family may not win the camp award for best prairie family, but they still come out the winners overall.
3. Flat Out Love by Jessica Park – You know you are reading Jessica Park by the punchy dialogue and insane story. Julie, the main character, has moved to Boston for college. When her housing falls through, she moves in with a family friend and is confronted by a young girl who carries around a cardboard version of her eldest brother, Finn, who is on an extended trip. There is obviously more to this family than is evident on the outside, but the only one willing to talk seems to be Finn, through Facebook. Julie’s friendship grows with both him and the bother who is still at home, Matt; until it becomes clear that more than simple friendship is at stake in both relationships. Jessica Park moves the story along at such a fast pace that there is little time to wonder at its plausibility. And though the story suffers from this improbable plot, the characters and their relationships pull the reader through any questions they may have.
4. The Nanny Diaries: A Novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus – Still one of my favorite reads for the way in which the heroine, Nan deals with her tough decisions. Many people have probably seen the movie, but the book is so well written it should be read in its own right. Nan’s job as a Nanny in an Upper Eastside NYC family shows the insane rituals that money demands. Torn between her care and love for the boy she nannies, and the stress and dislike of the job requirements, Nan has to decide for herself how to tear off the band-aid and illuminate the gaping black hole in the boy’s life. Funny and complex, with a little bit of romance, The Nanny Diaries should be read by every YA in preparation for the tough choices of work/life balance.
5. The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey – Clearly not a YA contemporary romance, this book is pure fantasy told in the very best way. It is such a favorite, I re-read it every year. And, because it is science fantasy, I encourage readers of the contemporary genre to take a leap of faith and pick it up. This book actually includes the first three novels in the Pern Series. On the planet of Pern, young adults apprentice where their talents lay, music, agriculture, or, in rare cases, Dragonriding. It takes a special bond between the dragon and their rider to fight an environmental menace, called thread, which falls from the sky at different intervals. This relationship, between the dragon and rider as well as within each of the talent groups (think of them like the houses from Harry Potter) provides the backdrop for exploring similar themes to those presented in contemporary YA books. Like J.K, Rowling (but much earlier) Anne McCaffrey is a master at description and detail; every aspect ties together, not just in these three books but throughout the entire series. Once you get started reading them, like me, they will stay on your shelf forever.