A new feature we’ve meant to launch for ages is a list of recommendations from some of our favorite booksellers at indie bookstores. Months and months ago, I asked my local children’s bookseller Phyllis Chovitz, co-owner and book buyer at Child’s Play in Rockville, Md., for a few YA recommendations, and she indulged me in a rare moment she wasn’t helping a throng of parents and kids with their book and toy purchases. Phyllis keeps Child’s Play’s book department stocked with only the best of the best. She is all about quality, and unlike the local chain bookstores, where employees often have no clue about, you know, actual books, Phyllis and her staff read incessantly and have an encyclopedic knowledge of what’s available for kids and teens. Here’s what she had to say:
This is one of my very favorites from the past couple of years. I really enjoyed it, because it really showed the difference between teens and their need to be technologically competent (and that it’s totally party of their social being right now) and what it would be like to be without it. It’s about a family that goes to a specialized camp where they live like pioneers for a week, and it’s really, really funny; and it’s really, really clever. It’s a book that teens will like, preteens and adults would like it too. It’s just so topical in a funny way.
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
Another book that I really like, and I know a lot of people love it too. You really get in the head of a young Native-American boy who lives on a reservation, who doesn’t really fit in, so he decides to go to school in the neighboring town outside the reservation. There he fits in — in a lot of ways — even less. It really shows the bridge between Native-American reservation culture and the culture of living in a small town in the American West in a very funny way. He’s a cartoonist, and the book has a lot of funny cartoons that the protagonist in the book draws. It’s a really well-done book.
I also really enjoy recommending books that aren’t necessarily for teens, like Jon Krakauer’s books, particularly “Into Thin Air,” because he can take hard, scary topics and writes them in a really accessible way. The one I really recommend is “Into Thin Air,” which is about a failed attempt on Mount Everest, and how people died up there on a trip he was on. It gives teens a feel of why people do extreme sports and extreme adventure kinds of travel. It’s done in a very accessible and exciting way.
“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak and Anything By Libba Bray
I picked it up thinking my teenaged sons might read it, and I was just blown away, and that was actually before I started selling books for a living! Some of the most popular young adult books are really appreciated by adults too, not just teens. I do think one of the best authors is Libba Bray, who wrote “Going Bovine” and “Beauty Queens.” She’s smart, funny, and her books can be read by teens or adults.