I recently completed the first draft of Borrowed Time. While I was writing, I made sure to stay away from any other YA books that are narrated by someone who has died, as the second part of my manuscript is narrated by a ghost. Technically, I completed the ghost portion in early 2011 and then worked my way backward, but still, I didn't want to be influenced by other "ghost" stories, so I stayed away. Once the first draft was done, however, I was curious to see how my work compared to published works that had a ghost as a narrator.
I recently finished reading The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg. I liked the book enough that I will definitely read her future work, that being said, my opinion swayed over the course of reading the novel. I loved opening. The narrator, Brie, has just died, quite literally, from a broken heart after her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her. As a narrator, Brie is funny, sometimes laugh out loud funny and her voice pulled me into the story. I was intrigued by the idea that Brie must go through the stages of grief. Enter Partick Darling, Brie's guide to the afterlife. Brie doesn't fall for Patrick right away, but it's obvious from the beginning that the two will end up together. (Trust me, there are enough plot twists that saying they end up together is not a spoiler.) Brie struggles to accept the fact that life must go on without her. She watches as her family falls apart and one of her best friends seemingly betrays her. Toward the end of the book, Brie realizes things are not necessarily as they seem--both the events leading up to her death and the months after. One of the things I grew frustrated with was that there seemed to be a few points where the book dragged on. Then things would seem to be wrapped up nicely. Was the book over? Nope. There were a few plots twists in the story, a couple I loved and a couple I thought the book could have done without. Still, TCHOYAM was carefully planned and well-written, one that YA lovers should check out.
I started reading Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin yesterday. I haven't finished, but so far I'm not loving it as much as TCHOYAM, probably because even though both protagonists are 15 going on 16 when they die, Brie has a voice that will resonate with readers of Upper YA, specifically ages 16-18. Elsewhere seems like it would appeal to a younger audience, maybe 13-15. Elsewhere tells the story of Liz, who has just died after being hit by a car. Liz then learns that she will live her life backward, that the dead reverse age in Elsewhere. This story is told in third person. Although the plot sounds interesting, the narration isn't as clever as Brie's. I'm trying to hold off judgment until I finish the book. Elsewhere isn't a bad read. I just don't think I fall into the target audience.
UPDATE: The first part of Elsewhere is slow, but it gets better. I did enjoy it in the end. Didn't love it, but it did get better and was a cute book. I'd recommend it for the 12-16-year-old crowd.
Another book of note is The Book Thief, which is narrated by "death." Markus Zusak has a phenomenal command of language. I read The Book Thief this summer and was completely enthralled. For me, The Book Thief is one of those books that is so powerful that it is next to impossible to describe because anything I write won't do it justice. Adults and older teens will love this book.
So what's next on my reading list?
Number one is 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma: Unfortunately, it won't be released until 2013, so I have to wait. In the meantime, I hope to get my hands on her other work, Imaginary Girls. UPDATE: Read Imaginary Girls and wasn't a big fan. There were some great descriptions, but the plot did nothing for me. Chloe seemed way too in love with her sister. I read a sample of 17 & Gone and it seemed more interesting.
Send me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt: this will be released pretty soon, so I won't have to wait too long. UPDATE: I could not put this book down. There might have been one too many "friend fights" for my taste, but overall, this is a wonderful YA contemporary book about a high school senior who finds out she has leukemia and decides to try to keep it a secret from her best friends and boyfriend. Plus, Tiffany Schmidt seems super nice.
After You by Jessica Corra: again, not released yet, but I'm patiently waiting.
Also on the radar are:
Insurgent and Divergent by Veronica Roth
Slide by Jill Hathaway UPDATE: Read this and enjoyed it. It's a series, so I will be patiently awaiting the next book. I thought the premise was interesting. The main character "slides" into other people's bodies by coming into contact with something they've touched. Onlookers think she is a narcoleptic. Anyway, she witnesses a murder but can't exactly tell people why she knows the girl who died was murdered and didn't in fact commit suicide.
The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily danforth
Wonder by R.J. Palacio: This is more of a middle grade book than YA, but I think it will have crossover appeal. It's a heartwarming story of Auggie, a boy with a facial deformity, who goes to public school for the first time in fifth grade. The story switches POV, starting with Auggie, then switching to his 14-year-old sister, then his classmates.
See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles
This one was pretty good, though I'd argue the little brother's character was inaccurate at times for a three-year-old. It delves into an interesting family dynamic.
Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy
Very cute middle grade story (and great title) about a young medium who gets a little help from the great beyond to deal with tween problems like a first school dance and dealing with the school bully. A great read for the middle school aged crowd.
One for the Murphys Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Read an excerpt. Did not purchase yet.
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Still on my to-do list.
The List by Siobhan Vivian
Told in 3rd person POV, alternating into the heads of a full cast of characters, The List tells the story of high school girls, two from each grade, one named the prettiest, the other the ugliest. I loved this story and am reading more of Siobhan Vivian's work.
What are you reading?