Remember a time before Twilight? A time before vampires that sparkled?

Well, between 2001 and 2008, I worked as a full time bookseller specialising in a peculiar mixture of cookery, crime fiction and Children’s books. I loved the Young Adult section and loved getting lost in a world of romance, adventure and fantasy. I saw the Twilight phenomenon unfold in the U.K. and while I love vampire books I was somewhat offended when I saw this icon on livejournal ->

Yes, I know that there are a lot of vampire books being published right now, but we mustn’t forget the quality non-fang fiction that has come out of the Young Adult section over the years. So I thought I would share some of my favourites with you all.

STARGIRL – JERRY SPINELLI

She’s as magical as the desert sky, and as mysterious as her own name. Nobody knows who she is or where she’s from. But everyone loves her for being different. And, she captures Leo’s heart with just one smile. “Stargirl” is a classic of our time that celebrates being true to ourselves and the thrill of first love. It is a life-changing read that touches souls of all ages.

This book first came out in 2002, with a bright pink cover – great for girls, but considering that the book is actually written from a boy’s perspective I was glad to see that they introduced an alternative cover that wouldn’t scare teenage boys away. This is a sweet and beautiful story about acceptance. It’s subtle and has a naive simplicity to its tale that really captured my heart. I can not recommend this book enough.

WITCH CHILD – CELIA REES

When Mary sees her grandmother accused of witchcraft and hanged for the crime, she is silently hurried to safety by an unknown woman. The woman gives her tools to keep the record of her days – paper and ink. Mary is taken to a boat in Plymouth and from there sails to the New World where she hopes to make a new life among the pilgrims. But old superstitions die hard and soon Mary finds that she, like her grandmother, is the victim of ignorance and stupidity, and once more she faces important choices to ensure her survival. With a vividly evoked environment and characters skilfully and patiently drawn, this is a powerful literary achievement by Celia Rees that is utterly engrossing from start to finish.

Witch Child is page-turning Young Adult at its best. The diary construct used in this novel allows Celia Rees’ to get right to the heart of Mary. A great blend of history and fiction really brings the characters to life.

JUNK – MELVIN BURGESS

This is an uncompromising, compelling and true-to-life story of two teenagers drawn into the dangerous and destructive world of heroin addiction. This tour de force by an acclaimed and provocative writer should become a definitive teenage novel on this subject.

This book is still one of my favourite YA books that I’m too scared to read again! It’s not scary, but boy is it dark! The downward spiral that our two leads makes this book a tough and emotional read, but it’s totally worthy it! The voices of the main characters are perfect and the different POVs of the different chapters allow for a personal and intimate, yet well-round look at the whole story.

Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together through desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing all the while that their lives are hanging in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthdays, they can’t be harmed. But when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away…Neal Shusterman challenges readers’ ideas about life – not just where it begins and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive.

I read this a year and a bit ago and it’s by far my favourite of Neal Shusterman’s books. It’s a brilliant idea and the way that the alternate world is set up you could almost (almost!) see amputation and donors going to the next level… Twisted and dark, this book introduces some great characters alongside some really thought-provoking ethical themes.

to be continued…

And yes, I will be highlighting my favourite vampire books in the next few weeks as well!!

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