Top Ten Tuesday | Hidden Gems in YA

10 Virtually Unknown YA Books

I’m betting that some of you are thinking that YA is not a genre, and I would completely agree with you.  It’s not a genre, it’s a classification.  Basically, yes I am cheating.  See, I realized as I was looking through my read books that I don’t consider a lot of them Hidden Gems.  I feel like if they have 18,000 Goodreads ratings, that’s a decently well known book.  I purposely looked for books that had less than 10,000 ratings, and if I stuck to one genre I’d have like 3 books to highlight.  I wanted ten, so I had to broaden my scope.

Here are 10 Young Adult books that I really enjoyed, but are rarely discussed.  (With synopsis, because I need to entice all of you to read them too!)

friday-brown1. Friday Brown by Vicki Wakefield

From Goodreads: 1,429 Ratings  ·  228 Reviews

I am Friday Brown. I buried my mother. My grandfather buried a swimming pool. A boy who can’t speak has adopted me. A girl kissed me. I broke and entered. Now I’m fantasizing about a guy who’s a victim of crime and I am the criminal. I’m going nowhere and every minute I’m not moving, I’m being tail-gated by a curse that may or may not be real. They call me Friday. It has been foretold that on a Saturday I will drown…

Friday, 17, flees memories of her mother, granddad, and the family curse. She joins Silence in a street gang led by beautiful charismatic Arden, and escapes to a ghost town in the outback. In Murungal Creek, the town of never leaving, Friday faces the ghosts of her past. Sometimes you have to stay to finish what you started, and before you can find out who you are, you have to become someone you never meant to be.

Friday Brown was probably one of the most emotional books I’ve ever read.  I love the set up, with the curse and Friday dying on a Saturday, but what I really loved was Friday’s friendship with Silence.  Actually, I just really loved Silence.  I’ve always said that Australia has the best YA writers, and this book is the perfect example.

Birdie’s Rating – ★★★★★

delphi-effect2. The Delphi Effect by Rysa Walker

From Goodreads: 795 Ratings  ·  194 Reviews

It’s never wise to talk to strangers…and that goes double when they’re dead. Unfortunately, seventeen-year-old Anna Morgan has no choice. Resting on a park bench, touching the turnstile at the Metro station—she never knows where she’ll encounter a ghost. These mental hitchhikers are the reason Anna has been tossed from one foster home and psychiatric institution to the next for most of her life.

When a chance touch leads her to pick up the insistent spirit of a girl who was brutally murdered, Anna is pulled headlong into a deadly conspiracy that extends to the highest levels of government. Facing the forces behind her new hitcher’s death will challenge the barriers, both good and bad, that Anna has erected over the years and shed light on her power’s origins. And when the covert organization seeking to recruit her crosses the line by kidnapping her friend, it will discover just how far Anna is willing to go to bring it down.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I requested The Delphi Effect from NetGalley.  I thought I was jumping into something that was Science Fiction, but it wound up being more Paranormal.  I loved Anna’s ability, and I thought the author did a great job of building suspense.  The second comes out soon, and I can’t wait to read it.

Birdie’s Rating – ★★★★

Trailer Trash3. Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton

From Goodreads: 814 Ratings  ·  195 Reviews

It’s 1986, and what should have been the greatest summer of Nate Bradford’s life goes sour when his parents suddenly divorce. Now, instead of spending his senior year in his hometown of Austin, Texas, he’s living with his father in Warren, Wyoming, population 2,833 (and Nate thinks that might be a generous estimate). There’s no swimming pool, no tennis team, no mall—not even any MTV. The entire school’s smaller than his graduating class back home, and in a town where the top teen pastimes are sex and drugs, Nate just doesn’t fit in.

Then Nate meets Cody Lawrence. Cody’s dirt-poor, from a broken family, and definitely lives on the wrong side of the tracks. Nate’s dad says Cody’s bad news. The other kids say he’s trash. But Nate knows Cody’s a good kid who’s been dealt a lousy hand. In fact, he’s beginning to think his feelings for Cody go beyond friendship.

Admitting he might be gay is hard enough, but between small-town prejudices and the growing AIDS epidemic dominating the headlines, a town like Warren, Wyoming, is no place for two young men to fall in love.

Some people might call this an Adult book, because it’s probably the raciest book on my list.  It is written by a M/M romance author, but it’s also about High School kids in the 80’s.  It has a strong romance, and great characters, but it’s definitely for the mature Young Adult.  If you don’t mind a little more steam, I highly recommend it.

Birdie’s Rating – ★★★★

Not if I see you first4. Not if I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

From Goodreads: 5,050 Ratings  ·  1,070 Reviews

Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react—shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened—both with Scott, and her dad—the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

Combining a fiercely engaging voice with true heart, debut author Eric Lindstrom’s Not If I See You First illuminates those blind spots that we all have in life, whether visually impaired or not.

Not if I See You First is the story of a blind teenager who has erected walls around herself by creating a list of rules.  Should someone break those rules they will be forever expelled from her life.  That part of the story was good, but what I liked even more was Parker’s commitment and strength.  She was a runner despite her disability, and that’s what I always think about when I remember this book.

Birdie’s Rating – ★★★★

Five Flavors Dumb5. The Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

From Goodreads: 9,055 Ratings  ·  1,047 Reviews

The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.

The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band’s manager and get her share of the profits.

The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she’s deaf?

Piper can’t hear Dumb’s music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.

Five Flavors of Dumb was also about someone who overcomes their disability to work in a capacity some may say they shouldn’t.  I definitely enjoyed that, but in this one I also liked the dynamic between Piper and the band.  Also, I don’t tend to read a lot of rock n roll YA books, or adult, but there was something about the way Piper interpreted music that I loved.

Birdie’s Rating – ★★★★

Living with the Fall6. Living With the Fall by Hannah Thompson

From Goodreads: 29 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews

In a dystopian future ravaged by a zombie virus, teenaged Flo dreams of becoming a hunter. Instead, he becomes infected, and while plagued by hunger, he is able to control his urges. Hoping his life can still hold some meaning, Flo agrees to travel with hunters Hulme and Dihr, and he discovers a world unlike anything he imagined.

On the continent, people are struggling to hold back the apocalypse by finding a cure to the disease, and Flo might be the key. But friendships and trust are tested as the trio crosses hostile territory and faces dangers beyond the zombie infestation. In the end, only Flo can decide if he can live with what he’s become.

I don’t know anyone else who has read this book.  Oddly enough the author is pretty unknown too.  I keep waiting for a followup, because it’s a book that needs a sequel, but nothing.  It was just so darn good that even though I read it 2 years ago, I still can’t stop thinking about it.  It was a really excellent zombie novel that nobody has read… except me.

Birdie’s Rating – ★★★★★

Rise Renegade X7. The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell

From Goodreads: 2,417 Ratings  ·  228 Reviews

Sixteen-year-old Damien Locke has a plan: major in messing with people at the local supervillain university and become a professional evil genius, just like his supervillain mom. But when he discovers the shameful secret she’s been hiding all these years, that the one-night stand that spawned him was actually with a superhero, everything gets messed up. His father’s too moral for his own good, so when he finds out Damien exists, he actually wants him to come live with him and his goody-goody superhero family. Damien gets shipped off to stay with them in their suburban hellhole, and he has only six weeks to prove he’s not a hero in any way, or else he’s stuck living with them for the rest of his life, or until he turns eighteen, whichever comes first.

To get out of this mess, Damien has to survive his dad’s “flying lessons” that involve throwing him off the tallest building in the city–despite his nearly debilitating fear of heights–thwarting the eccentric teen scientist who insists she’s his sidekick, and keeping his supervillain girlfriend from finding out the truth. But when Damien uncovers a dastardly plot to turn all the superheroes into mindless zombie slaves, a plan hatched by his own mom, he discovers he cares about his new family more than he thought. Now he has to choose: go back to his life of villainy and let his family become zombies, or stand up to his mom and become a real hero.

Renegade X is currently one of my favorite series, and I’d love to have more people to talk to about it.  The Rise of Renegade X was a solid start to what is a progressively excellent series.  It is a superhero story, but it’s also really relevant to our every day world.  It’s about being lumped into a stereotype based on your DNA.  Each book makes me think, and I have fun.  It’s a win win.

Birdie’s Rating – ★★★★

Whale Talk8. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

From Goodreads: 9,440 Ratings  ·  875 Reviews

There’s bad news and good news about the Cutter High School swim team. The bad news is that they don’t have a pool. The good news is that only one of them can swim anyway. A group of misfits brought together by T. J. Jones (the J is redundant), the Cutter All Night Mermen struggle to find their places in a school that has no place for them. T.J. is convinced that a varsity letter jacket exclusive, revered, the symbol (as far as T.J. is concerned) of all that is screwed up at Cutter High will also be an effective tool. He’s right. He’s also wrong. Still, it’s always the quest that counts. And the bus on which the Mermen travel to swim meets soon becomes the space where they gradually allow themselves to talk, to fit, to grow. Together they’ll fight for dignity in a world where tragedy and comedy dance side by side, where a moment’s inattention can bring lifelong heartache, and where true acceptance is the only prescription for what ails us.

I never would have picked up Whale Talk if it hadn’t been for a friend telling me how good it was.  That’s what made me look at it closer, but then when I saw it was a sports story I knew I was sold.  It was really good, and I did like reading about swimmers, but what really made me love it was the relationship between TJ and his teammates.  TJ taking the schools misfits and not only working with them, but caring for them.  I loved it.  I also loved TJ’s father.  It’s definitely worth a read.

Birdie’s Rating – ★★★★★

The SToryteller9. The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

From Goodreads: 6,331 Ratings  ·  1,199 Reviews

Anna and Abel couldn’t be more different. They are both seventeen and in their last year of school, but while Anna lives in a nice old town house and comes from a well-to-do family, Abel, the school drug dealer, lives in a big, prisonlike tower block at the edge of town. Anna is afraid of him until she realizes that he is caring for his six-year-old sister on his own. Fascinated, Anna follows the two and listens as Abel tells little Micha the story of a tiny queen assailed by dark forces. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that Anna comes to see has a basis in reality. Abel is in real danger of losing Micha to their abusive father and to his own inability to make ends meet. Anna gradually falls in love with Abel, but when his “enemies” begin to turn up dead, she fears she has fallen for a murderer. Has she?

The Storyteller was one of those books that you’re sure you didn’t like, but then you can’t stop thinking about it afterwards.  The story reads on the slower side, but there’s a beauty to the writing, almost lyrical, that lent itself to the fairy tale that Abel is telling Micha.  The whole book feels like a fairy tale, one where you don’t realize how much the characters mean to you until you finish and close the book.

Birdie’s Rating – ★★★★

crazy10. Crazy by Han Nolan

From Goodreads: 2,677 Ratings  ·  373 Reviews

Fifteen-year-old Jason has fallen upon bad times—his mother has died and his father has succumbed to mental illness. As he tries to hold his crazy father and their crumbling home together, Jason relies on a host of imaginary friends for guidance as he stumbles along trying not to draw attention to his father’s deteriorating condition.

Both heartbreaking and funny, Crazy lives up to the intense and compelling characters Han Nolan is praised for. As Jason himself teeters on the edge of insanity, Nolan uncovers the clever coping system he develops for himself and throws him a lifeline in the guise of friendship.

I am always pushing this book.  Crazy is written in such a unique way, with the commentary by Jason’s imaginary friends throughout, that even though the story is darker you still find yourself smiling and laughing. Jason is a character you can empathize with, in a situation that breaks your heart.  It’s definitely one of my favorites.

Birdie’s Rating – ★★★★★

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

About Birdie

Don’t look for her in any bar, club, crazy raging party, or anywhere there may be a large gathering of strangers. She’s more likely to be found tucked into the corner of the couch watching one of her favorite shows, or preferably under a comforter with her current novel.

35 Responses

  1. I haven’t read any of these, sadly. I’ll definitely have to check them out! One of my favorite hidden YA gems is John Corey Whaley’s Where Things Come Back ❤


  2. Ooh I’ve never heard of Not If I See You First but it sounds really interesting! Parker sounds great like really funny and relatable. And I’ve never actually read a book where the main character is blind so it’ll be interesting to see how else the author describes things to you because so much of books is imagery. thanks for the rec!


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