Thursday, July 26, 2012

Best YA Novels: Contemporary

To Recap:
On Tuesday, I spend much of my day agonizing over my choices for NPR's "Best-Ever Teen Novels" voting.  You can see my process for creating brackets, as well as my fantasy bracket and discussion of fantasy choices here, and my dystopian/magical realism/science fiction bracket here.  Today is the contemporary bracket.  Spoiler alert: lots of John Green.

The Bracket: Contemporary

 The Gut-Wrenchers: 
  • Listen, I loved Looking For Alaska a lot a lot a lot.  So it's not that I really considered going the other way, but I was dismayed that it went up against Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, which surprised me: I had not expected to get so invested in it.  It's a really beautiful little book.  
  • Every single match-up in the second round.  Even when the answer was clear, all of those books were excellent, and I think they actually paired off kind of fittingly.  I've been thinking in particular about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks: it has really stayed with me as a book that was deeply satisfying and perhaps needs to be upgraded to five stars on my Goodreads page.  (Actually, yeah.  Done.)    Of course Anna and Lola would go up against each other; I did not plan that but why not?   
  • I suspect picking How To Save A Life over TFIOS will be my most controversial choice, and maybe one that I would reverse if I re-read TFIOS like I've been meaning to...but How To Save A Life really did a number on me.
The Upsets: 

  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks vs. Paper Towns.  Again:  lots of love for everything John Green.  I really liked Paper Towns, actually.  But there's just something about Frankie.
  • Wintergirls vs. Thirteen Reasons Why.  The style of Wintergirls sealed the deal here.  Both books are incredibly thoughtful and moving investigations of teenagers with huge, huge problems; everyone everywhere should probably read them both.  But when forced to choose, I'll go with Laurie Halse Anderson's genius voice and the shifting, tilting world inside Lia's head.
  • Anna and the French Kiss vs. Lola and the Boy Next Door.  Both amazing.  Stephanie Perkins is the ultimate happy-contemporary-romance writer.  I loved creative, passionate, messy Lola just a little bit more than sweet, serious, tidy Anna (and, FWIW, Cricket is more my type than Etienne--I know, HERESY, but come on: supernerds FTW!)  So 6th-seeded Lola took the win over 3rd-seeded Anna.
  • And of course, the biggest upset, which I've already addressed: How To Save A Life (#8) over TFIOS (#1).  I am anxious about releasing this information onto the internet, because, real talk, even though I am 26 I still worry about what my friends will think of me sometimes and I want people to think I'm cool--and TFIOS is arguably the coolest book of the year.  But really, you must read How To Save A Life, if you haven't already.  I have my reasons.  (And hey--a John Green novel did win this division.  Just not that John Green novel.)
The Votes From This Quarter (out of a total 10):
  • Looking For Alaska (winner)
  • How To Save A Life (runner-up)
Check back throughout the week for the rest of the bracket and my overall list!  And I'd love to hear where you disagree!  What contemporary books from NPR's list would have made your top 16?  Which of these match-ups would you have called differently?

**CALL FOR GUEST POSTS: If you'd like to share your thoughts on any aspect of this NPR event--a bracket of your own, a discussion of your list, books you wish had made the list--email me at to set up a day within the next two weeks!** 

Other Brackets:
Dystopian/Magical Realism/Science Fiction

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