Unsung YA: The 17(ish) Best YA Books You Haven't Read

I love this outreach, started by YAnnabe! So here's my list. I loved many more books than these in 2009, of course, but these are 17(ish) I reviewed for I Heart Daily -- and they are favorites.NothingButGhosts HC c.jpg1. Everything by Beth Kephart (I guess in 2009, that would be the fabulous Nothing But Ghosts). 2. Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah (Scholastic). Jamie has a double life. At school, she's a bleached-blond Aussie; at home she's Jamilah, a Muslim girl from a traditional family with an ultra-strict dad. The quest to find your true self is a common theme in Young Adult books, but Abdel-Fattah's swift, smart and hilarious writing makes Jamie's a standout journey. 3. Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten (Scholastic). For three years, 17-year-old Ellie's older sister Nina has been missing--and Ellie is determined to find her. Following clue after clue, Ellie embarks on a road trip that brings her closer to romance, danger, and the shocking truth about her sister's disappearance. Between the fascinating characters and moving sisterly love, Weingarten layers thrills with emotional depth in this edge-of-your-seat adventure. (Read the Cover Story adventure here!) same difference cvr.jpg4. Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian (Scholastic). Emily, 16, has the chance to spend half-days at a prestigious art school in Philadelphia, splitting her summer between the city and her hometown of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Soon, she finds herself torn between the art world--where everyone wants to be unique, and the suburbs--where fitting in is practically required. Throughout this book, there are moments when you feel like you are Emily; it's a beautifully written coming of age novel. (With a great -- you guessed it! -- Cover Story.) 5. We Were Here by Matt de la Peña (Delacorte). When Miguel is sentenced to spend a year in a group home, he's angry, guarded and alone. Despite his surliness, you will love him instantly. He meets two unlikely friends -- Mong and Rondell -- who are both also trying to overcome intense personal tragedies. You'll love them too. The voice is sharp, and the plot is riveting and full of unexpected turns that feel honest. Bravo! anoffyear.jpg6. An Off Year by Claire Zulkey (Dutton). When Cecily Powell finds herself at the door to her college dorm room, she has the urge to turn and run. So she does. She spends the year sitting on her couch at home, trying to stay connected to high school friends who are in their new college worlds, and going to therapy at her dad's insistence. Zulkey's sharp, witty voice makes Cecily a total pleasure to hang out with as she figures out what the heck comes next. (And Claire has a supercute Cover Story too!) 7. How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford (Scholastic). Beatrice moves a lot, and she never gets attached to anyone. But when she ends up in Baltimore for her senior year of high school, Jonas, aka Ghostboy -- a loner who has zero friends himself -- somehow wins her over. As Bea helps him deal with his troubled family history while figuring out her own mixed up parents and listening to the quirksters on a late-night radio show, she turns from robot to just a little bit emo. And that makes me love her. blondea.jpg8.The Blonde of the Joke by Bennett Madison (HarperTeen). Val is one of those girls who's easily led. Francie is one of those girls who leads with ease. Watching their magical friendship develop against the bland backdrop of a suburban shopping center is a total delight. They turn palming lip gloss and shoplifting Gap sweaters into an otherworldly accomplishment and the book sparkles with the fantasy of their illusory friendship. I want to hang out at this mall. (Read Bennett's epic Cover Story!) 9. Love is the Higher Law (Knopf) by David Levithan. This book follows three teenagers -- Claire, Jasper and Peter -- who experience the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. Each wades through shock, grief, and fear in their own way as the novel progresses. And as they move forward, searching for a path back to "normal," I found myself reliving many of my emotions from late 2001, in a very cathartic way. Whether you remember September 11th or not, this book will bring you into the history of that day on a very personal level, and lead you toward the hope that Love is the Higher Law, even when our world is changed forever. mexicanhighhardcover.jpg10. Mexican High by Liza Monroy (Spiegel & Grau). This one just came out in paperback with a cool new cover (hardcover is pictured). Milagro "Mila" Marquez, spends her senior year at the International School of Mexico, where she encounters snobby ultra-rich cliques, easy drugs and, eventually, a few truths about herself. Monroy is a raw and real writer -- this book doesn't sugar coat anything -- and that's just one reason why it rules. (Also: cool Cover Story.) 11. Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson (Scholastic). If you haven't read Girl, Nelson's 90s-defining debut novel, get that immediately. It's relevant and realistic and perfectly paced. Then check out his other work, including Destroy All Cars, which is pretty much the ideal anti-consumerist love story. Protagonist James's charming frustrations will make you laugh out loud and shake your head in recognition. pretty.jpg12. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster). Combine a beach house, long-term friendships and unrequited love, and I'm there. Seriously. What more could you want in a book? Oh, you want a main character with depth and charisma and relatability? Yeah, well this book has that too. Read it. (And read the Cover Story!) 13. Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald (Candlewick). A student exchange lands hard-partying UC Santa Barbara sophomore Tasha at Oxford University, while her studious British opposite, Emily, suddenly finds herself amid bikinis and beer pong. The switch thing's been done, but McDonald pulls off an incredibly smart debut that addresses big questions of identity and feminism, all through two charming and likable protagonists. 14. Surface Tension by Brent Runyon (Knopf). In this novel told in four summers, Luke goes from 13-16 years old, and we follow him on a two-week vacation at a family lake cottage every year. Runyon's teen-boy voice is pitch perfect (well, I think it is anyway), and the nuances of each summer are alternately hilarious and heartbreaking. That's vague and reviewery, I know, but it's hard to nail down a plot on this one--it's just a fantastic read, full of honest emotion. 15. Gentlemen by Michael Northrop (Scholastic). A dark first novel about four high school misfits -- Micheal, Tommy, Mixer and Bones -- who are suddenly confronting the notion that one of their teachers may have harmed a close friend. Tension mounts, the characters freak out, and you're drawn into this world through Northrop's dead-on narrative voice. You care about these guys, but you also fear them. It's a fantastic reader experience. (And so is its Cover Story!) 16. Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (St. Martin's). Parker Fadley had it all--the right grades, the perfect friends, the dream boyfriend--until events at one party spun majorly out of control. When the book begins, Parker is self-sabotaging to the brink of no return. This debut novel has a narrator who'll tick you off and break your heart, then win you over with her raw vulnerability. (Plus it's a paperback that's under $10--bonus--and you can watch a trailer for the book here.) 17. Elizabeth Scott! Pick up all of her books, please. Stat. (2009's would be Something, Maybe--fun and swoony--and Love You, Hate You, Miss You--gorgeous.) Okay, I'm having trouble stopping myself, but I must. Have you read any of these? What are your picks? I'd love to hear! PS-If you're on Twitter, you can follow all the Unsung YA Heroes action by watching the #unsungYA tag.