I love the Alex Awards. I think it is a great toe-dip for teens into the waters of adult fiction, and even non-fiction. This is especially true for readers who are used to a young adult protagonist and that protagonists’ voice/perspective. I also think it is a good list for readers of all ages to check out.
My favorites from the 2014 list were:
Relish by Lucy Knisley
This graphic memoir is a coming-of-age story centered around food. I really loved Knisley’s voice and how she reminisces on her life. One of my best friends, Annie, loves to cook. She has a sublime blog here. I, on the other hand, am a nervous wreck in the kitchen. I make things like ravioli with blackberry jam (I was craving cheeze blintzes) and put green apples on my cheese pizza.
The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Alex Woods was such a lovable character. He lives an isolated life with his mother, but eventually finds friendship with a grumpy old widower. It’s a really good coming-of-age novel. Alex deals with a first crush and the morality of assisted suicide. There is such depth to this story and the flow of events allow the reader to critically think about the events as they unfold.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt was a winner in 2013. I read this for a book club I was in and it was interesting to hear everyone’s input.
On a related note, this has been on my mind lately:
Earlier this summer, Ruth Graham published an article about why adults should not read YA and basically shamed them, implying they were dummies. I don’t think that YA literature is confined to “reading level” or maturity level. Most stories in the young adult collections simply have a young adult protagonist, but are equally as complex as those in the adult collection. Graham mentions the all-consuming love that is evoked in many popular young adult books (e.i. Fault in Our Stars or Eleanor & Park), but I know plenty of adult books that contain characters with this same mindset (chick-lit anyone??). Anyways, Graham has gotten a lot of responses defending young adult stories. My favorites are here and here. It really is okay that Ruth Graham doesn’t read young adult books or have any desire to do so. What is not okay is that she tells people that they are wrong for enjoying a story and publicly condemns them. I didn’t read a lot of young adult literature when I was in middle and high school. I read Murakami, Valley of the Dolls, She’s Come Undone, and I learned that many adults are just as confused about life as teenagers. I still read books “for my age”, but now I read and fall in love with not just young adult stories, but junior chapter books and picture books.
And now I’ll jump off my soapbox…