Badass Best of 2014: YA & NA Contemporary Fiction

Best of 2014

We’re continuing with our favorite YA and NA reads and today we’re going to share with you some of our favorite contemporaries. Read on to see the ten books that touched our hearts this year and let us know some of your hidden gems in the comments!

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Best of YA Contemp

YA Contemp

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu || Published June 3rd 2014 by Roaring Brook Press ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. But did you know Alice was sexting Brandon when he crashed his car? It’s true. Ask ANYBODY. Rumor has it that Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the bathroom stall at Healy High for everyone to see. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumors start to spiral out of control. In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students—the girl who has the infamous party, the car accident survivor, the former best friend, and the boy next door—tell all they know. But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.

Why We Love ItThe Truth About Alice is a powerful book about bullying, slut shaming, rumors, and gossip gone wild.   In many ways, this book could be a handbook for how to ruin someone’s reputation. High school is such a difficult time for many kids and the way in which Alice was picked on happens everywhere.  We found all of the characters interesting, and fairly representative. You have a Queen Bee, A Wannabe, A Jock, and a Nerd.  Our one qualm with the book would be that parents were not involved, nor was the school administration, but overall we felt like all of these characters just worked and that this is a very important issue to expose children to as they don’t tend to think of their actions in relation to how they might affect the lives of others.

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang || Published September 9th 2014 by Greenwillow Books ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road. Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

Why We Love It: Falling Into Place was a very powerful novel and we were surprised to learn that the author wrote this while in high school.  This story focuses on popular mean girl Liz Emerson and her attempt at suicide.  As Liz lays in a coma, the people she loved and the people she wronged remember their experiences with her through an omnipotent narrator’s voice. We enjoyed this one immensely and highly recommend it as well.  Readers should be aware that it does deal with very serious subject-matter like suicide, bullying, and drugs & alcohol, so don’t go in expecting a light read.  It is emotional and moving though and we will definitely be checking out whatever Amy Zhang writes next.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart || Published May 13th 2014 by Delacorte Press ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth.

Why We Love It:  This was one powerful book. It made us crumple into a teary-eyed mess.  What we enjoyed most about this story was Cady’s use of fairy tale imagery to move the story along. We also loved the camaraderie between the cousins as well.  Do yourself a favor. Do not click on any spoiler tags. Go into this book with a clear mind if you are interested in reading this book.  This is the first book we’ve read by this author but we’ll be looking for more books by E. Lockhart in the future.

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens (Book #1 in Faking Normal) || Published February 25th 2014 by HarperCollins Children’s Books ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  + ½ || Review

Synopsis: Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer. Ashamed and embarrassed, she hides in her closet and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does. When Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in “the Kool-Aid Kid,” who has secrets of his own. As they lean on each other for support, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her find the courage to finally face the truth.

Why We Love It: This book will break your heart, but it will also make you believe in the power of friendship and kindness.   Courtney C. Stevens has a simple, yet elegant way with her prose that just brings these characters and their struggles to life.  There are trigger warnings for this book – rape, physical abuse, self-harm – but the issues are dealt with in a realistic yet sympathetic way.   Faking Normal was a beautiful but heartbreaking novel about dealing with pain and learning to share it with others.  We recommend that you definitely have a couple of tissues handy while reading it.

Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley || Published September 9th 2014 by Harper Teen ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died. So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him. As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out. At any cost. Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

Why We Love It: This was a fascinating read. We really could not put the book down.  The story is well written, exciting, and will keep you on the edge of your seat as you read. A fantastic debut for author Joy Hensley and we can’t wait to read more of her books in the future.  A must read for lovers of strong female heroines.

Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga (Book #3 in Jasper Dent) || Published September 9th 2014 by Little, Brown ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

SynopsisJazz Dent has been shot and left to die in New York City. His girlfriend Connie is in the clutches of Jazz’s serial killer father, Billy. And his best friend Howie is bleeding to death on the floor of Jazz’s own home in tiny Lobo’s Nod. Somehow, these three must rise above the horrors their lives have become and find a way to come together in pursuit of Billy. But then Jazz crosses a line he’s never crossed before, and soon the entire country is wondering: “Like father, like son?” Who is the true monster? The chase is on, and beyond Billy there lurks something much, much worse. Prepare to meet…the Crow King.

Why We Love It: This book kept us reading late into the night, which probably wasn’t the best planning because, well, Billy Dent is one freaky scary evil serial killer. Every sound and creak in the house made us jumpy, but we just had to finish reading this book. We won’t go into all the details, it is really best to read this book with a clear mind.  Think Dexter’s son meets Criminal Minds and you have an idea of what to expect in this book. It’s not for the squeamish and perhaps younger young adult readers may be disturbed by the content. If you can stand the blood and gore, this is one addictive series.

Big Fat Disaster by Beth Fehlbaum || Published April 18th 2014 by Merit Press ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Insecure, shy, and way overweight, Colby hates the limelight as much as her pageant-pretty mom and sisters love it. It’s her life: Dad’s a superstar, running for office on a family values platform. Then suddenly, he ditches his marriage for a younger woman and gets caught stealing money from the campaign. Everyone hates Colby for finding out and blowing the whistle on him. From a mansion, they end up in a poor relative’s trailer, where her mom’s contempt swells right along with Colby’s supersized jeans. Then, a cruel video of Colby half-dressed, made by her cousin Ryan, finds its way onto the internet. Colby plans her own death. A tragic family accident intervenes, and Colby’s role in it seems to paint her as a hero, but she’s only a fraud. Finally, threatened with exposure, Colby must face facts about her selfish mother and her own shame. Harrowing and hopeful, proof that the truth that saves us can come with a fierce and terrible price, Big Fat Disaster is that rare thing, a story that is authentically new.

Why We Love It: Being a teenager is difficult. Being an obese teenager is horrible.  When you are a teenager, all you want to do is to fit in with the crowd. It’s very difficult to do so with a weight problem.  The story is told through Colby’s point of view and her voice is poignant. This is one sad little girl who is treated like a doormat by her mother. She is screaming for help and her mother is in serious denial. Her mother believes that Colby is the way she is on purpose and that all she needs to do is to stop eating.  Big Fat Disaster was a fascinating read about a girl’s struggle with weight, body image issues, and self-worth. It’s not only about food, it’s about life, friendship, and relationships.

Me Since You by Laura Wiess || Published February 18th 2014 by MTV Books ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  + ½ || Review

Synopsis: Are there any answers when someone you love makes a tragic choice? Before and After. That’s how Rowan Areno sees her life now. Before: she was a normal sixteen-year-old–a little too sheltered by her police officer father and her mother. After: everything she once believed has been destroyed in the wake of a shattering tragedy, and every day is there to be survived. If she had known, on that Friday in March when she cut school, that a random stranger’s shocking crime would have traumatic consequences, she never would have left campus. If the crime video never went viral, maybe she could have saved her mother, grandmother–and herself–from the endless replay of heartache and grief. Finding a soul mate in Eli, a witness to the crime who is haunted by losses of his own, Rowan begins to see there is no simple, straightforward path to healing wounded hearts. Can she learn to trust, hope, and believe in happiness again?

Why We Love It: We don’t mind a good tearjerker and this was definitely that.  We also like a good contemporary now and then and we thought this one was pretty fantastic.  Laura Wiess handled all the difficult situations throughout Me Since You beautifully and with a compassion you don’t see in many contemporaries. She made the situations and the characters’ reactions vibrantly real and played our heartstrings like a harp.  We give this one 4.5 stars but also put out a trigger warning for those with personal connections to suicide and its effects. This is a highly emotional read and we look forward to seeing what the author tackles in the future.

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes || Published September 2nd 2014 by Harper Children’s ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school. Inside, she’s a freak: a mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA (after all, her father is Romanian). But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life hell. So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life? Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it? Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates? Who?

Why We Love It: This is one of the best young adult books that we’ve read this year.  Written in the first person point of view of the main character Anika Dragomir, we get a glimpse of life in small town Nebraska through the eyes of a 15 year old girl who is near the top of the popularity pyramid.  Anika has a wonderful sense of humor and her observations had us chuckling throughout.

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson || Published July 1st 2014 by HarperTeen ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Girls started vanishing in the fall, and now winter’s come to lay a white sheet over the horror. Door County, it seems, is swallowing the young, right into its very dirt. From beneath the house on Water Street, I’ve watched the danger swell. The residents know me as the noises in the house at night, the creaking on the stairs. I’m the reflection behind them in the glass, the feeling of fear in the cellar. I’m tied—it seems—to this house, this street, this town. I’m tied to Maggie and Pauline, though I don’t know why. I think it’s because death is coming for one of them, or both. All I know is that the present and the past are piling up, and I am here to dig.I am looking for the things that are buried. From bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson comes a friendship story bound in snow and starlight, a haunting mystery of love, betrayal, redemption, and the moments that we leave behind.

Why We Love ItThe Vanishing Season is a character study about a small town and its people, isolated by cold and fear, coping as best they can with life and the challenges it brings.  This is a story about love, loss, friendship, jealousy, and most of all, growing up.  It is a slice-of-life story where very little actually happens, but Ms. Anderson’s prose and the depths of her characters’ emotions are so beautiful that we just didn’t care.  Jodi Lynn Anderson gives us a gentle, nuanced character study that forces us to face the harsher truths of reality but wraps it in some of the most moving prose we’ve read this year.  This is a dreamy, atmospheric story to get lost in and is the perfect read for in front of the fire, warm and safe from the snow falling outside.



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Other Badass Best of 2014 Lists:
Urban Fantasy
Speculative Fiction
General Fiction
Romance (Part One)
Romance (Part Two)
YA & NA Romance
YA & NA Speculative Fiction
Our Best Discoveries
Our Literary Slambook
Our Most Anticipated Reads of 2015

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