(even if you don't like YA or being told what to read)
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going - Take one fat kid with no self-esteem add one almost homeless kid multiply that by one genuine first person narrator then divide by several all too realistic situations = a simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming coming of age tale featuring the unlikeliest of punk rock bands. (For additional raving see my review.)
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff - This book shattered all my illusions of the novel in verse. Like, if you pretty much can't be bothered with poetry, you won't enjoy this book or this is just a sad excuse to make reading easier for a generation of lazy readers. This book is simple in a way, but in a way that is stunningly profound. It illuminates the struggles of poverty and single motherhood and the importance of getting a "book" education but also the importance of learning to understand and care for the people around you regardless of how different from you they may be. (Again - here's my review for additional raving)
Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger - I'll admit that the first book I read by Wittlinger didn't quite thrill me, but Hard Love was an entirely different story. This story is about John whose mother and father are so emotionally distant that he's not quite sure who or how to love. When John meets the quirky, and unfortunately for him, not straight Marisol, he can't help falling for her. John is an incredible narrator, and this is a great story. (Say, would you like to read more raving?)
Wild Roses by Deb Caletti - Okay, so maybe I'm just a sucker for a really genuine, realistic teenage first person narrator. Wild Roses has one, too. Cassie has divorced parents, a mentally unhinged stepfather, and a love interest she knows can lead to no good. She's also got a funny imagination and certain sarcastic wit about her. This is a book that tackles so many real "teenage" things with flair and accuracy. (But if I haven't convinced you yet, there's always some more raving)
Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty - We've entered the pure fun category with this one. The others I love for their depth and their realism, Feeling Sorry for Celia I love for its utter hilarity. Told entirely in letters and notes to her and from the main character's mother via the refrigerator, not to mention letters from an imaginary entities like "The Cold Hard Truth Association" and something like "The Society of Cool Teenagers"(the name of which I can't quite recall) alternately awarding and revoking the main character's membership which are even more hilarious and to which I could often relate. I remember devouring this in one laughter filled evening.
The Reluctant God by Pamela F. Service - All right, so I was only going to spotlight five titles, but I couldn't let this one go by. I'm not even sure if it's in print anymore, but if you can grab a copy it's a total guilty pleasure sort of historical fiction/time travel romp featuring the twin brother of an ancient Pharaoh in "modern day" (er...1980s) England attempting to rescue some sacred urns he was commissioned to protect, even well beyond the bounds of his natural life. I love the beginning with its depiction of Ancient Egypt, and the time travel thing it's got going on makes for an entertaining romp.
All six are very worthy reads that I hope you'll consider, if you haven't already. For more posts and the master list of underloved YA titles being spotlighted today, don't forget to check out YAnnabe!