Our topic this month is “random recommendations,” but my recommendations aren’t random, they’re tied together with much in common: I'm recommending YA books with fierce, funny (or at least fun) protagonists and, well, death. It’s my birthday today, and time weighs on me like a slightly heavier jacket, so I get to do what I want. (Actually, since I write full time now, I pretty much always get to do what I want.)
Martine Leavitt’s National Book Award finalist Keturah and Lord Death is beautiful, charming, and difficult to describe. It’s got a feisty female protagonist, Keturah Reeves, who wants to help the other people in her medieval village. It also has a quest for true love, and Death (Lord Death) as a major character. This book is so much my jam, if I read it three more times, I’ll probably develop diabetes. Everyone I’ve ever given a copy to (a long list) has loved it. Hemingway once said all true stories end in death, but in this case, there’s a happy ever after version of that. Five stars and several planets.
Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere has laugh-out-loud observations from narrator-protagonist Lennie, achingly beautiful poetry, and a journey from grief through mistakes to love. I once wrote a really good sibling loss grief novel with little bits of poetry in it, Dessert First, and Jandy Nelson’s is way better. Five stars and the glow of countless distant galaxies.
I have still never recovered from reading A.S. King’s breakout novel (and Printz Award finalist) Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Vera grieves for her dead friend Charlie, and for his shattering of their friendship before he died, and she holds a terrible secret about an arson blamed on Charlie, which was actually committed by another girl. It’s beautiful, breathtaking, and delightfully weird in the way that Amy King’s surrealistic novels are. Five stars, a dancing chorus of weirdly shaped nebulae, and several chapters narrated by a pagoda.
Anyway, happy my birthday to you all. There's a certain randomness in all our lives, but sometimes we can surf the chaos. Enjoy the wonder of the stars (or something) while you're still alive. And read good books. Be well.
Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. It is actually his birthday today, as he's mastered the art of (very slow) time travel from the distant past. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His current novel is about two funny brothers who have to team up with their friend Claire to save the world. It has the usual Dean Gloster novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and an off-kilter sensibility, including a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is missing 54 percent of his soul.