Wow! I am so sorry. I missed two weeks in a row, didn’t I? It’s amazing how fast Saturday whips around, no matter how far away it seems sometimes during the week. Two weekends ago I was occupied with my Winter Formal dance, and this past weekend, I spent basically every waking hour being a humongous geek at Ohayocon, an anime-and-other-geekdom convention where I bonded with other obsessives fans of Homestuck, a fantasy web comic and the best thing on the internet.
Pictured above: humongous geek.
But now I’m back!
This week, I want to talk about standalone books. The YA world has become incredibly series-centric, especially now that so many trilogies have blown the roof off of sales (and given birth to the sickeningly capitalistic trend of splitting third books into two movies, which really makes my blood boil, but that’s a chat for another day). And of course, when we love a story, we can never be sorry to get more of it.
But I know that I’m not the only reader right now who’s feeling ready to do some one-hit-wonder reading, too. There’s a certain elegance and power to weaving a rich cast of characters and a beautifully-sculpted story and wrapping the whole thing up into one complete package between two covers. So today, I have a list of three great standalone books that left a big impression on me, and that I wouldn’t have wanted stretched or expanded upon.
1. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. This is the book I had in mind when I started this post, honestly. I haven’t read it since elementary school. I tried to reread it in middle school, actually, but for some reason, I got so emotional that I had to stop. Elsewhere is like a potent inoculation: one dose of it is incredibly healing, but one is all you need.
Elsewhere is about a 15-year-old girl who is hit by a car and killed before the story starts; she wakes up on a ship that is taking her to a place called Elsewhere, where the deceased live out normal lives while aging backward, until they become babies again and are sent down a river to be reborn. Elsewhere follows Liz’s process of grief, anger, and eventual acceptance. It explores themes of life and death, our own mortality, and dealing with the mortality of the people we love; all in a way that is incredibly poignant, but in the end, very hopeful. It’s been so long since I read it, and yet I still feel it staying with me. I recommend it to everyone.
2. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart—okay, technically this is not a standalone, but it should be could be. It does stand on its own. I haven’t read any of the sequels, but I recall being weirdly enthralled by the original. It’s definitely one for the Lemony Snicket fans out there; it has a very loud Unfortunate Events flavor to it. The Mysterious Benedict Society is about a genius orphan boy who receives the opportunity to attend a special school for exceptional children, where he befriends three other children, all with wildly different personalities and each with a very specific set of skills, and finds himself facing a mysterious conspiracy of a sinister variety. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember never wanting to put it down.
3. Fairest by Gail Carson Levine. I thought about doing Ella Enchanted, Levine’s most famous work, but I decided Fairest should get its share of the spotlight; plus, I’ve read it more recently. Gail Carson Levine’s writing is so great for lovers of fairy tales and well-crafted fantasy worlds, and I love Fairest’s unique storyline and important message. The story follows Aza, a girl whose beautiful singing voice would make her a treasure in her highly music-centric kingdom—if it weren’t for the fact that she is considered irresolvably ugly, leaving her shamed into isolation. But there is a royal wedding being arranged, and circumstances surrounding this event pull Aza to the capital, where she ends up more in the spotlight than she ever could have imagined, and is wound into a web of secrets and schemes. The things Aza most wants are closer than she ever imagined they could be, but she soon learns that danger and calamity is just as nearby. This is a great, classic fantasy story with nods to the story of Snow White.
I’m currently reading, and loving, A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams. Hopefully I’ll have that finished and reviewed for you guys by next week. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find new heights of geekdom to conquer. Godspeed to you all.