Top 10 Things on My Reading Wishlist
If I could enlist authors to do the following things in 2014, all of my readerly wishes would come true!
10. Putting romance in where it doesn’t fit.
Is it just me, or does every single YA book right now, regardless of genre, seem to feature a romance between characters? I realize that books in all formats/categories often build their plots from universal experiences related to love and relationships, but things have gotten out of hand. To me, some problems, settings, and casts of characters just don’t lend themselves to romance. And YET, in a romance must go. An epic battle breaks out between an evil alien race and human teenagers. Just as one badass chick is about to off an alien dude…she sees something in his eyes, a sparkling that tells her he’s not all bad. Maybe she can save him–after all, he just needs a girl who understands his extraterrestrial ways. Bleh! Or…a high schooler discovers he has special powers that can be used to stop an impending terrorist plot. But first, he absolutely must ask that hot cheerleader out; you know, the one who had never noticed him before but that improbable circumstances have made her see his true boyfriend potential. Ugh. Romances, especially unrealistic, insta-love ones, should not be forced into every YA novel published. I know from working with middle school kids, even the hormone-crazed teenage ones, that they want more from a book than just a love story. And sometimes they don’t want that at all. Also, stop the love triangles. Just stop.
One last thing I have to get off my chest about romance in YA books. I would love to read more books in which authors don’t set their MCs up to rely on the love interest to overcome their conflicts. I wanna see more strong, independent characters who don’t need a significant other to prevail.
Romance-free novels I already love (links go to Goodreads):
9. Bring on the historical fiction!
I looked through my list of books read recently, and the number of those falling in the historical fiction category is abysmally low. The same is true of most of my students. Historical fiction can be an amazing genre but, for some reason, many teens (and adults, clearly!) are scared off by it. I don’t know my students’ reasons, but I know that I’m sometimes hesitant because of the risk that the author hasn’t done his/her research. So in 2014, I would love to see more quality historical fiction. (Or just fun, fluffy, but accurate, historical fiction—ahem, Anna Godbersen novels!)
Historical fiction I already love (links go to Goodreads):
8. I will devour all food-themed novels…
I love food, especially junk food, and I recently realized that I also love to read about junk food. Authors, can we please work more storylines around cupcakes and pizza?
Foodie books I already love:
7. Horror audiobook + Keith Morrison = AAAAAGGHHHHHH!
Keith Morrison of Dateline fame must start narrating for audiobooks. Especially if the story he’s telling is in the horror genre. Here he is telling The Night Before Christmas – not horror, but I think you’ll see the potential.
6. Sports novels…about those less popular sports
Of course, my students are always asking for books about sports. Mike Lupica, Carl Deuker, and Chris Crutcher have more than satisfied many of their requests. However, my students enjoy more than just football and baseball. I have a lot of hockey players…where are the books about hockey? What about golf? Tennis? These sports just aren’t represented enough. And at the hands of the right author, I think even I could get in to a book about golf. 🙂
Sports novels I already love (links go to Goodreads):
5. More humor, please
“Do you know of any funny books I can read?” is something I hear a lot from my students. I have to think that humor is one of the toughest emotions to elicit in readers. I’m sure most authors don’t set out to write a “humor” novel; that’s not really a genre. Complicating this further, I think a lot of my teen students expect the kind of constant, laugh-out-loud moments they get in a slapstick comedy movie. I have definitely laughed so hard I’ve cried when reading (read: Bossypants), but it’s always a completely different experience than watching and listening to something that’s funny. Either way, I would love for more YA authors to incorporate those laugh-out-loud moments in their books.
Humorous books I already love (links go to Goodreads):
4. Characters overcoming chronic diseases
I realize this one sounds very morbid. The thing is, I’ve read some really fantastic YA fiction with characters coping with cancer (or cancer with loved ones). It can be very inspiring to see characters deal with and overcome something that is both very frightening and very real. What I would love to see some authors tackle is characters conquering chronic, life-changing, but maybe not fatal, conditions. I have students who have things like Type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s disease. It would be nice to see their problems reflected in literature.
Books with characters who cope with disease that I already love (links go to Goodreads):
3. Age appropriate thrillers
My students love a good thriller, and so do I. For middle schoolers, though, I feel like horror novels fall into one of two camps: low-level, low-threat ghost stories, a la Mary Downing Hahn or graphic, sadistic YA for older readers like Barry Lyga’s “I Hunt Killers” series. Can we get something that is slightly in-between?
Horror novels I already love (links go to Goodreads):
2. Natural disasters and environmental problems and climate change, oh my!
Some of the most frightening fiction I’ve read is not in the horror genre at all: It is about natural disasters. I was paranoid for weeks after reading Life As We Knew It! Despite the anxiety well-written apocalyptic books can cause, I love reading them! I’m also ready for YA trends to shift from dystopian to apocalyptic. Specifically, apocalyptic fiction centered on natural disasters. On the topic of the environment, I would also love to see more books with a problem related to environmental issues (think Carl Hiaasen).
Science fiction books I already love (links go to Goodreads):
1. Narrators, of the Unreliable Variety
Anyone who knows anything about my reading tastes knows I am a sucker for an unreliable narrator. I don’t care if the narrator is lying to me, suffering from amnesia, too immature to understand, or inflicted with a mental disability – I just love the natural mystery that is built in when the author makes you really think about the validity of that perspective. I also like the reading challenge it provides for my students. The concept of the unreliable narrator is really new to them at eighth grade; so those who usually don’t have to work at inferring or constructing meaning have to with an unreliable narrator (wa ha ha ha ha!).
Books with unreliable narrators I already love (links go to Goodreads):
I would love to hear any recommendations you have of books that may fit my wishlist!