I’ve always had this idyllic image of winter break: wearing fleece pajamas and slippers, drinking hot chocolate, and reading a novel by a warm fireplace. Unfortunately, I spent the last 11 years of my life in Florida, so that was never what my winter breaks looked like. My winter breaks usually incl (full story below)
I’ve always had this idyllic image of winter break: wearing fleece pajamas and slippers, drinking hot chocolate, and reading a novel by a warm fireplace. Unfortunately, I spent the last 11 years of my life in Florida, so that was never what my winter breaks looked like. My winter breaks usually included shorts, flip-flops, and even dips in the pools at the Disney World resort hotels. (Yeah, we snuck in, so what?) Temperatures below 60F are still pretty foreign to me and my thin Florida blood.
This year, though, I’ll finally get a chance to live out my winter break dreams—I moved to eastern Tennessee a few months ago, so fleece pajamas, slippers, and fireplaces are actually components of my winter now. I’ll also be spending the first two weeks of December up in northern Vermont for an artistic residency, and the campus has a reading room with comfy chairs next to a fireplace that I’ll get to sit in and read while it snows outside…let’s just say I’m a little more than excited.
Still, as I’m getting ready to pack for my trip, I’m faced with the decision of which books to bring and read while I’m there. Since I’m not much for eBooks, I have to pick only a handful of paperbacks to bring with me in my carry-on so I don’t end up dragging it down the jetway.
So, here are a few of the books I plan to bring with me on my trip. Grab a copy (or download it to your tablet), make some hot chocolate, and settle in with these awesome YA picks.
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
I’m always intrigued by a good cover, and this one really hooked me at first glance. This book arrived in our Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature a few weeks ago, and I immediately took it home to save it for this trip to read. According to the book’s synopsis, the story is centered around 17-year-old Charlie, who is living in a mental health facility as she struggles with self-injury. Released early from the treatment center and feeling lost, the book follows Charlie’s journey as she recovers, and learns more about herself—including how to define herself outside of her disorder, and outside of the losses she has faced in her life. It definitely seems like a book that deserves to be read on a snowy day beside a fireplace, so this one is first up on my to-read list this winter break.
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Jandy Nelson became one of my favorite authors after I read her second novel, I’ll Give You the Sun. She is an incredibly special writer—her ability to create unique and original character voices is irresistible. In The Sky is Everywhere, narrator Lennie is reeling from the loss of her sister Bailey when she meets Joe, a new kid in her town, whose eccentricity and energy begins to coax her back into happiness. But the other half of Lennie is attached to her sister’s boyfriend, Toby, as he shares something deeply with her: grief over Bailey. Nelson parallels Lennie’s journeys through love and loss in a novel that Gayle Foreman (author of If I Stay) calls “[an] addictive, romantic, heartbreaking and wise tale of one girl’s epic loss—and equally epic self-discovery.” The LA Times book review suggests that this one be “devoured in a single sitting,” so I’ll be sure to take their advice.
Replica by Lauren Oliver
ReplicaI first encountered Lauren Oliver with her book Before I Fall back in 2010. Since then, though, Oliver has pretty much taken over the young adult lit world. You might recognize her name from the alluring cover of Vanishing Girls, which was a New York Times Bestseller. Replica is especially unique, though—it’s two stories in one book. Read the book one way to read Lyra’s story, and flip it over to read Gemma’s. According to reviews and the book’s jacket, readers can choose to read either story first, or they can even read the stories in alternating chapters. I snagged a signed copy from Target a few weeks ago, and I was immediately intrigued by this fresh new approach to storytelling. I’m not usually much for a fantasy/dystopian story, but this one will definitely be an exception. Lyra is an experimental human created at a research facility off the coast of Florida. Cool, much?
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
The last few years have racked up an upsetting number of mass shootings all over the world. These tragedies have occurred everywhere from school cafeterias to peaceful streets in Paris. No matter where you’ve lived for the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly been exposed to the unfortunate news of a shooting. In This Is Where It Ends, Marieke Nijkamp reconstructs the events of a fictional school shooting through the eyes of four different students. One morning, outcast Tyler decides to open fire on a group of his fellow students, locked inside the school’s auditorium. What immediately drew me to this novel was the subject matter—it definitely hits close to home for many of us in this current climate. Also, the prospect of multiple narratives attempting to unravel an event of this magnitude is promising, no matter the fact that I’m already bracing myself for heartbreak. Kirkus Reviews promises that This Is Where It Ends is a “compelling story of terror, betrayal, and heroism.”
So, whether you plan on spending your break binge-watching How to Get Away With Murder or sleeping in until 3pm, try to find some time to squeeze in an awesome young adult novel or two. The semester is always full of academic reading and textbook chapters, so give your brain something good to read with one of these picks. Even if you won’t be going away for two weeks with no other obligation than to read and write like I am, anyone can find an afternoon in a comfy chair to devour a delicious book.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sara Walters is a writer, college instructor, graduate student, dog mom, and The Walking Dead enthusiast. She is completing her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of South Florida, then will begin her Ph.D. in Education at the University of Tennessee in fall of 2016. Her creative work has appeared in Bridge Eight, Barely South Review, Lunch Ticket, So to Speak: a feminist journal of literature and art, and The Queen's Head, among others. She is 99% certain that she and Leonardo DiCaprio were married in another life.
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