I attended the School Library Journal Virtual Trade Show last week and once again was introduced to some amazing gems in YA Literature. Una LaMarche's Like No Other explores the relationship between a Hasidic Jewish girl and an African American Catholic boy. Alsaid Adi's Let's Get Lost follows the interactions a 17-year-old girl has on a cross-country trip to see the Northern Lights. Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun introduces artistically talented twins who struggle with jealousy and loss. These three unique novels mine the depths of emotion teens experience when they face struggles with family, illness, death, sexuality and ultimately growing up.
In Like No Other, Devorah, a Hasidic Jew, meets Jaxon, an African American Catholic, when they are stuck alone together on a hospital elevator during a storm. The bond they forge is something they can't ignore. Sneaking around to see each other, Devorah is terrified of being caught and disowned by her family, but Jaxon feels like they are destined to be together. Each has arrived at a pivotal moment in their lives, where their relationship gives them the strength to tackle the challenges that face them. But will their love be strong enough to weather the disapproval of their families and society in general?
Let's Get Lost introduces 17-year-old Leila who is on an epic road trip from her home in Louisiana to see the Northern Lights. Along the way she encounters four different teens, whose lives are enhanced immeasurably through meeting her. Hudson, an honor student and excellent mechanic who repairs her car, falls madly in love with her. Bree, an orphaned runaway, hitches a ride with Leila, only to land them in jail through her reckless disregard for the law. Elliot, reeling from unrequited love, enlists Leila help after he steps out in front of her car in traffic. Using 80's movies as inspiration, she helps him prove his love to the girl of his dreams. Sonia, whose soul mate dies unexpectedly, needs Leila's support for moving on. Meanwhile Leila works through her own problems in aiding these strangers.
Jude and her twin brother Noah, who have spent their childhood trading parts of their universe for favors, (thus the title I'll Give You the Sun) are both talented artists hoping to be accepted by an elite art school. Jealousies, misunderstandings and loss complicate their relationship and the once inseparable twins become estranged. Told in alternating chapters, Noah chronicles their lives at age 13, Jude at age 16. Both are struggling with their sexuality, Noah with his love for the boy-next-door, who fears losing his sports scholarship if anyone finds out, and Jude with her self-imposed celibacy after a forced sexual interaction. As they find their way back to each other, they find that love can tear people apart, but it is ultimately what heals.
All three of these authors have created deeply affecting characters, whose struggles are at once unique but relate-able. The endings include reveals that may take the reader by surprise, but are completely satisfying. I found all three books to be page-turners and can't wait to share them with teen and adult readers alike.