In order to compile this list, I asked two YA writer friends of mine, Molly Backes and James Klise (; also a school librarian) to help me with some suggestions. The following list will get anybody—boy, girl, youngster, adult—itching to read. I know, I know, a lot of good ones were left off this list, but consider this a jumping off point, and offer your own reading suggestions in the comments!
, by James Klise
This book, by my friend James Klise, was the first that jumped to mind when I tackled this topic. Any teen who has ever wondered how he or she can force themselves to be different will identify with the sweet, yearning Jamie in this book, who undertakes a dangerous experiment when he starts using an experimental drug in an attempt to make himself straight instead of gay. I was touched by how easy it was to identify with Jamie, who just wants to find a way to soothe his inner turmoil.
, by John Green
It’s hard to pick which of Green’s first three books to choose from, as they all feature intelligent, quirky, sensitive males as their protagonists, but let’s go with the Printz Award–winner that kicked off the canon. It follows Miles, a lover of biographies and great last words, as he attends boarding school (in this case by choice, instead of being sent there by unfeeling parents) and tries to track down enigmatic classmate Alaska, whose existence and disappearance fascinate Miles.
, by Richard Bradford
This 1968 coming-of-age novel is considered a classic. In a tale told with deadpan humor, Josh Arnold and his family relocate from Mobile, Alabama (where, like their neighbors, they are white), to New Mexico (where they become minorities) during World War II. “It’s very old, but it’s so [bleeping] wonderful, ” says Backes. “Everyone should read it. It’s like Catcher in the Rye out west.”
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