Under-the-Radar Books by Jody Casella

I don't want to write about "under-the-radar" authors because lately I am feeling like we're all sort of under-the-radar unless our name happens to be John Green. And even if your name happens to be John Green--and you are THE John Green--I hate to break this to you, but there are people outside of the YA world, who do not know who you are. 

My father-in-law, for example. Also, my brother and his kids. My next door neighbors. My hair stylist. And half of my bunco group. I could go on. 

But I won't.

You're welcome.

Instead, I want to give a shout out to a handful of books that I love. Maybe you love them too, or maybe you missed them along the way, which is a damn shame that I am now going to do my best to rectify. 

Let's start with a John Green book. Haha. Just kidding. 

Let's start with Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard. 

Eighteen year old Bria is traveling to run away—from her grief over the end of a bad relationship, from her ever-arguing, preoccupied parents, from her failed dream of being an artist. The opportunity to travel to Central America seems like a blissful escape from an upsetting past and depressing future. 

But Day One in Guatemala with the tour group of timid, middle aged women is just as depressing. When Bria has the chance to jump off the beaten path with a very cool backpacker brother/sister pair, she takes it. 

Coming of age, exotic travel, art and romance. What's not to love? 

Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff. 

The story of two summers in the life of Kid. Summer #1: a fire destroys a warehouse where homeless teens lived. Kid’s best friend may or may not have died in the fire. Kid may or may not have started it. 

Summer #2: Kid meets Scout, but is clearly still tormented by the past. There’s a mystery at the heart of this story. What really happened last summer? How was Kid involved? Why is Kid living on the street in the first place? 

Oh, and the genders of Kid and Scout are never revealed,

This one will push you to think... and possibly break your heart. 

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle. 

Justine is one of five teen friends featured in a documentary film every five years. Last time she was the film's breakout star, but stardom wasn't all that great. Now Justine's finally at the point of figuring out who she is--without the glare of the camera, and she'd like to keep it that way. 

Thought-provoking and timely, with lots of questions and no easy answers:

What's it like to grow up on film? What if many of your childhood memories have been edited and manipulated? Is it ethical to portray people's most intimate moments for an audience's entertainment?

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

Life changes for sixteen year old Sid Murphy after a school ski trip, when she realizes that the handsome stranger who was flirting with her the night before may have drugged her --and raped her. 

This novel totally transcends the genre. (Note: the rape occurs off the page and Sid herself doesn't remember most of the details.) She's a complex character, wise-cracking and funny, doing her best to cope with the aftereffects of the trauma, while also dealing with friends, a well-meaning mom, and a potential boyfriend.

This one's riveting and real. 

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Seventeen year old Kiri Byrd's home alone for the summer planning to spend her time practicing piano and palling around with a band-mate she's secretly crushing on. But all of that changes when she gets a call from a stranger who announces that he's got Kiri's beloved older sister Sukey's belongings. 

Sukey died in a car accident when Kiri was twelve. Or so Kiri always believed. 

The summer--and Kiri--slowly spiral out of control--as Kiri attempts to figure out the mystery behind what happened to Sukey.

Lots here about music and madness, finding love and finding yourself.

Ah, what the hell. Let's wrap things up with a John Green book.

Forget The Fault in Our Stars. My favorite JG book is the first book of his I ever picked up, An Abundance of Katherines. If you somehow missed this one along the way, and you happen to be going on a long car trip, I recommend listening to the audio.

Colin's just been dumped, for the 17th time, by a girl named Katherine (if you can suspend your disbelief, you'll be fine) and he's ready to drown himself in a tub. Instead, at the urging of his friend Hassan, he takes off on a summer road trip that manages to include feral hogs, the grave of the Archduke Ferdinand, and the mathematical equation for romantic break-ups.

Absurd, laugh out loud funny, and often a little too painfully real...

like all of the books written by What's His Name.



  1. I am still constantly amazed by the number of books and authors I never heard of! (I have heard of John Green, however.) :-)

  2. I also enjoyed Wanderlove, and An Abundance of Katherines is one of my favorite Green books.

    1. The audio is wonderful. Another good one to listen to is Will Grayson Will Grayson. Two actors speaking for the two POVs and one of them even sings.

    2. I would TOTALLY go for an audiobook with singing...

  3. Jody, this is just plain mean! Every time I come close to making a dent in my TBR pile, I read about more books I really want to get my hands on...Many from posts on this blog. I'll need to live to 120 just to get through what I have already. Seriously, I agree that there are a ton of authors who have almost no name recognition and write excellent YA fiction. Thanks for this post.

    1. This is the story of my life, Berek... the never-ending, teetery tottery TBR pile :)


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