Welcome to Authorology, where twelve authors talk about their favorite parts of YA books.
Let’s talk about the best YA titles. Because hey, we like titles.
Court of Fives hits the ground running with a fearless heroine who fights for herself and her family. Jessamy struggles against the constraints of her class and upbringing all the while secretly training for the Fives, an intense competition for the privileged elite – something she’s technically not allowed to do. Kate Elliott weaves a fantasy world not based in many of the Euro-influenced worlds we see. She layers in class and privilege and friendship and family and what you would give up (or not) to save them. It was one of my absolute favorite reads of last year and Kate became an insta-buy author because of it.
– Tristina Wright, author of the upcoming 27 Hours
Best title in YA? I’m going to have to go for Lily Anderson’s upcoming debut, The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You, a wickedly clever retelling of Much Ado About Nothing. I mean, come on. Even without the deliciously Lichtenstein-inspired cover-work, I would snap that book up based on its super-sassy, step-off title in a heartbeat.
Runners-up: Anna Breslaw’s Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here; Tom Cahill’s The Cat King of Havana; Unscripted Joss Byrd by Lygia Day Penaflor; The Pistachio Prescription by Paula Danziger and Ann M. Martin; The Outsiders S.E. Hinton; The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter.
Hall of Fame: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Judy Blume is the Queen. You may now bow.
– Kathleen Glasgow, author of the upcoming Girl in Pieces
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, from the Tiffany Aching series. It’s such an evocative title to me, and it also fits the story and the heroine’s growth arc through the series.
– Shanna Swendson, author of Rebel Mechanics
The long and the intricate.
I love long, intricate titles, like The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and led the Revels There. But I am also drawn to titles like Tell The Wolves I’m Home (which, as a title at least, always reminds me of The Mountain Goats’ “Up the Wolves”) and All The Light We Cannot See. I also have a special fondness for the titles of John Marsden’s Tomorrow series, especially Darkness, Be My Friend and The Other Side Of Dawn.
– Marieke Nijkamp, author of This Is Where It Ends
I have never wanted to read a book after hearing its title more than I wanted to read the first Gallagher Girls book. I’m a huge fan of puns and plays on words, so this grabbed me right away. I mean, the title alone is amazing, but then to discover it’s about an all-girl school for spies? I snatched this off the shelf at Barnes & Noble the day I saw it and haven’t looked back.
– Ella Martin, author of Will The Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?
A spark in the darkness.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. I love the idea of a spark about to take off, to set fire to the world even when it appears that it’s about to die. I love the hope in it, because that’s what we all want, right? Hope that even in the darkness, there will be a light.
– Joy N. Hensley, author of Rites of Passage
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen.
Who is Henry? Why K? Why is the journal reluctant? Why should I care? Almost all the questions that Susin has you searching for in the book are asked in this title – before the book even opens. Of course Susin has a way with great titles. Other books includes We Are All Made of Molecules, Word Nerd, and Dear George Clooney, Please Marry my Mom. Susin is a master of mixing the angst (and sometimes horrors) of teen life with humour and believable characters.
– Kevin Sylvester, author of MINRS
Who doesn’t love Judy Blume?
– Heidi R. Kling, author of Paint My Body Red
Going Bovine. It’s a hilarious title that sums up the tragicomic tone of the book. Plus Libba signed her copies with little cow-faced smilies.
– Lisa Amowitz, author of Until Beth
This Song Will Save Your Life.
I have total title envy for a lot of books (titling books for other people is my superpower, but I suck at titling my own books) so this was a hard one. But This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales is not only one of my favorite titles, but it’s one of my favorite Young Adult books. It’s smart, demanding, and an authentic portrayal of depression and loneliness and our collective craving for a place where we belong. I like titles and books that have some force behind them, that leave nothing up for questions. It’s not “This Song Might Save Your Life.” There’s no room to say no. This Song WILL Save Your Life. Stop fighting it and start living.
– Katherine Locke, author of Second Position
First, let’s talk about how fearlessly Latino this title is. Even as their stories center diverse characters, some authors are uncomfortable advertising this on the covers of their book. Not Meg Medina. Meet Yaqui with a Y. Don’t mispronounce it. (And the novel’s unapologetic Latinoness doesn’t end there.)
In just seven words, we have a host of questions that demand answers. Who exactly is Yaqui Delgado? Who’s delivering the message and what stakes, if any, do they have in this drama? Whose ass does she want to kick and does this person have this ass-kicking coming? That would be Piddy Sanchez who narrates the story and never loses her place as the protagonist despite having such a compelling adversary.
It’s also pretty gutsy to buck respectability and let us know up front that Yaqui Delgado wants to. Kick. Your. Ass. Medina isn’t worried about your presumptions. She knows she has written a novel with characters who are more than what they seem, and if you pass on this book thinking, “Oh, no, not another chola tale,” shame on you. The loss is yours. You don’t deserve this read.
Finally, the in-your-face title also hints at the humor that is peppered through out this story. It’s a humor that knows its audience. Throughout Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, Medina understands how teens speak when adults aren’t in earshot.
And yet the novel handles some substantive issues with the depth they warrant. Medina’s humor doesn’t skate around such themes as bullying and identity development and policing among others. Through a working-class Latinx lens, she depicts universal challenges that both teens and the adults who care about them can relate to. And while the title is alluring, finding out whether or not Yaqui Delgado does kick Piddy’s ass isn’t the reason why you keep reading.