The Rule of 13, Or YA that Won’t Make You Wanna Die

In this rapidly changing, information-spastic world, we all want to be able to anticipate the newest fad, if only to have a chance of appreciating it before it becomes passé. For some time now I’ve been searching in vain to identify the new and upcoming trend in young adult literature. Not so long ago, the It-Genre was amped-up drug culture stories à la Crank. Sweeping in like Scarlett O’Hara to take its place were the Twilight knock-offs, the zombie apocalypse(s) and the fairy/witch/mythology-drenched fantasies. Currently, high-octane dystopian fiction like The Hunger Games consumes the limelight.

And yes, I have loved them all. But, what’s next?

One night, while studying the shelves in the children’s room, I had this brilliant idea (flimsy notion) that I could calculate the newest trends in YA lit using the (bum ba da da!) RULE OF 13! By taking a random selection of books (every 13th, alphabetically) and analyzing the common themes, I hoped to be able to project the overreaching arc and discover the one clear, front-running genre.

Did it work? You bet it didn’t.

What I ended up with was a remarkably well-rounded gaggle of books that represented every genre under the sun. There were no universal themes, no bridges uniting these disparate kingdoms of lit. These were books that addressed first love, betrayal, coming out, family trauma, drug abuse and the trials and tribulations of friendship; there were genres ranging from vivid realism to dark paranormal romances, old-school Southern Gothic ghost stories and dystopian futures.

I was at a loss. The only theme that held them together was this: being a teenager is freaking hard. So, when someone on Questionland asked me to recommend some YA that wouldn’t make him want to die (I paraphrase), I said, “Ah ha, Eureka!”

What we all need is a break. A break from grim dystopian sagas, from stories heavy with sexual or physical abuse, from unhealthy relationships with vampires, witches, fairies, zombies, and shape-changers, a break from the uncertain future, from dire reality, from never-gonna-happen fantasy. We need some levity in our lives. Clearly, without my trusty Rule of 13  revealing the new It-Genre, we’ll have to wait with baited breath; but at least we can cleanse our palates before the next big course. Having said that, I have pulled from some of my favorites, polled the staff and done my research to provide you with this list, in case you too need a breather from all the teen angst. Pared down to its basics without the bells and whistles of genre, this is just good, fun storytelling. I hope you enjoy these as much as we have.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

En route to the Miss Teen Dream Pageant, the plane carrying the contestants crashes on a desert island. As the surviving beauty queens struggle to endure in an unforgiving land of dangers they’ve never dreamt about, they encounter snakes, eat grubs, and outwit sinister island inhabitants. Armed with their wits and excellent fashion sense, these girls show that they are not to be trifled with. A little bit Lost, a little bit Lord of the Flies, with a dash of Miss Congeniality, Bray has created a charming and comical novel about a group of young women that learn how strong they can be. –Casey S.

The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To by DC Pierson.

At 15, Darren’s life revolves around sci fi books and video games. But when he betrays the secret of his friend–a boy who cannot, and doesn’t even need to sleep–Darren embarks on the action-adventure of his life.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

When two authors come together to write one book, one never knows how it’s going to turn out. In the case of Green and Levithan, two talented young adult authors, sharing a book seems to come naturally to them. In alternating chapters, each author takes a Will Grayson, two angst-ridden Chicago teenagers that share the same name and some of the same insecurities, and sets them on separate paths that inevitably intersect to hilarious consequences. Buoyed by a fantastic set of supporting characters and a treatment of teen issues that is at once thoughtful and humorous, Will Grayson is a superb entry into the YA pantheon. –Casey S.

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Boganni.

This is a brutally funny novel about self-discovery, family bonding, outcasts and punk rock. I think that’s really all I need to say here.

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

This is the feel good book of the year I wish everyone would read, and it’s not just another teen rock-n-roll book. High school senior Piper Vaughn would be voted “Least Likely to Manage a Rock Band” by her classmates—not because Piper is deaf, but because she is the antithesis of rock; staid, safe, practically invisible. So when a bet goes wrong, landing her as manger for the school band, Dumb, Piper is faced with a myriad of challenges—the least of which is her hearing. In the process she learns much about friendship and family and inner strength. Sooo good! –Holly

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan.

With their unstable father carting them around the country, Sam and Riddle have practically raised themselves. When Sam meets Emily, though, the brothers finally have a chance at normalcy and that best of human connections: love.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork

Marcelo hears music in his head, which his doctor thinks is a symptom of his autism-like condition. He’s lived an insular life Even though he’s always felt comfortable at his school which caters to kids with special conditions, his dad gives him an ultimatum:  face public school his senior year, or spend one summer interning at his dad’s law firm.