The Daily Monocle

Critical book reviews from a literary skeptic.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Guest Post with Sean Beaudoin

Posted by J. P. Wickwire

Sean Beaudoin, author of You Killed Wesley Payne and Fade to Blue, offered to do a guest post for The Daily Monocle on five YA books you should read. So enjoy, and don't forget to leave us comments and feedback! Who would you like to see guest posting on The Daily Monocle?

Five YA Novels You Should Immediately Read

I’m not sure that my opinion of what defines “Young Adult” is typical, but in general I see it as encompassing just about any book that would have made me a more perceptive, kinder, less self-involved, and better informed sophomore. You know, with some exceptions. And chain store shelving practices to the contrary.

1. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut’s open prose and deceptive ease of expression, let alone his resignation at the futility of finding meaning or assigning rationality to anything, influenced me powerfully. The book, with a typical lack of ambition, deals with ecological catastrophe, the military industrial complex, the effects of institutionalized religion. Not to mention the near-inevitable end of the world due to the hubris of modern science. Cat’s Cradle is also narrated by a failed writer, which seemed to me to be the ultimate sarcastic aside, and which desperately made me want to be a failed writer, too.

2. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson

This is a novel of immense scope and sheer intellectual urgency, written in a mix of crystalline prose and Revolutionary War-era argot. There’s no way it should work on any level, and yet it does, setting an impossibly high standard within YA and without, while investigating notions of individuality, altered history, slavery, classical education, fecal heft, and the evolution of language.

3. The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll

This book terrified and fascinated me as a fifteen year-old. It deals frankly and honestly with drug use, but also just about trying to grow up tough and cool. The prose is very simple, and often extremely funny. It’s sometimes hard to stomach, but has a sweetness about it that’s very appealing. Even so, it’s probably not the book you want Mom to leaf through after you forget it on the kitchen counter next to your peanut butter and jelly. This one’s for under the mattress.

4. Dune by Frank Herbert

Most people would categorize this as straight sci-fi, but my money, it’s the perfect YA novel. It’s a coming of age story about a boy in a privileged family who, through a series of dire events, ends up developing extraordinary powers. Sound familiar? Well, this was written forty years ago. But it could have been written yesterday. It’s a political saga, but is also full of action, cool gadgets, sword-fighting, mind-reading, intrigue, evil siblings, more-evil barons, giant worms, and tons of generic treachery. Fantastic.

5. Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One Before by David Yoo

Albert Kim falls in love with the astonishingly beautiful Mia while working a typically crappy summer job. Really, what else do you need to know? Consistently hilarious and full of truthful observations that may cause you to cringe. But also surprisingly subtle in turns. A read for people who like their hearts broken. At least literarily. And maybe literally.


Here's another big thank you to Sean Beaudoin for working so closely with The Daily Monocle!


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