Two Great Books for Older Teens

by Justine Larbalestier

I am generally not fond of books with unreliable narrators — they simply seem to add to my already abnormally high level of anxiety. Call me naïve, but I usually want a narrator that I can believe. Which makes it all the more interesting that I am recommending Justine Larbalestier’s Liar (Boomsbury, 2009), in which the main character admits right away that she seldom tells the truth, can’t be trusted, and may (or may not) be guilty of a horrendous crime. And that’s all that I can tell you about the plot of the book without giving away too much. I want everyone to experience it just as I did, one page at a time. I will say that it’s a spectacularly imaginative and gripping story, and the narrator is a young woman whom I won’t soon forget. If your adult book group is interested in trying a teen novel, this will make for a great discussion.

by Libba Bray

Another novel that I suspect teens will enjoy a lot is Libba Bray’s Going Bovine (Delacorte, 2009). I don’t love the cover (although we all know you can’t judge a book etc. etc. etc., but it’s hard not to), but the plot hooked me right away. Told in the voice of a 16-year-old boy, the story begins when Cameron Smith is diagnosed with Mad Cow disease. As his doctors search desperately for a cure, Cameron spends his time trying to save the world (and himself) by trying desperately to locate a mysterious Dr. X. Aided on his journey by his classmate Gonzo, a Mexican-American hypochondriac dwarf, a punk rock angel named Dulcie, and a lawn ornament who was once (perhaps) the famed Norse god, Balder, Cameron sets off on a complicated quest. Based loosely on Don Quixote (a comparison I didn’t get until near the end of the book) and both comedic and tragic, this is another novel that will leave readers talking about what really happened: how much of Cameron’s trip is simply a delusion caused by his disease and how much really happened. I know which of the two I’m hoping for.

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