By Jillian Bietz
Although many young adult protagonists often seek guidance by and experience life with their best friends by their sides, some characters find their way on solo journeys. Sometimes not fitting in can be an interesting path. Check out these page-turners for a taste of an independent spirit.
Tales of the Madman Underground: A Historical Romance 1973 by John Barnes. It's 1973 and all Karl Shoemaker wants is to be normal and shed his reputation. Despite working five jobs to support his often-raging, other times kooky, hippie alcoholic mother and her countless cats, and each day be reminded of the situation that got her there, Karl's only goal for his senior year of high school is to get out of group therapy! Since fourth grade, Karl has been forced to attend the school-sanctioned treatment with his fellow "troubled kids" who call themselves the "Madmen Underground". But in his quest for normalcy, Karl struggles with abandoning his fellow Madmen and their own dysfunctional, tortured stories that have become his friends over the years. And then there's the intriguing new girl in the group. With a darkly comedic twinge, this book chronicles a week is Karl's life as he comes to terms with life, love, friends and more and that maybe normal doesn't really exist after all.
And Off Year
by Claire Zulkey. High School graduation is a turning point for most teenagers. All of Cecily's classmates are excited about college and the prospect of starting their new lives. But Cecily isn't like her peers. After arriving at college, an overwhelmed and unsure Cecily has a change of heart. She doesn't want to go to this school. She might not want to go to any other school, either. Cecily doesn't like the unknown so she leaves. For a year, Cecily lives at home, not doing much but ruminating over what she is supposed to be doing or not doing. Though she feels lost and out of place with her confused dad, secretly admiring of her siblings and friends who have moved on into the "real world," the somewhat-cynical and judgmental Cecily is determined to repair her relationships and live the life she ought to be living. Whatever that may be, anyway.
The Miles Between
by Mary Pearson. Destiny has bounced around from one fancy boarding school to the next. Mad at her parents who sent her away as a child, Destiny vows to never make friends who will leave her too. All she wishes for is to have "one fine day" where everything goes right. Except that it happens to be October 19th, Destiny's seventeenth birthday- and the day is just as boring as usual. Until out of nowhere, Destiny comes across an abandoned car with the motor running. Obsessed with coincidences, this is opportunity she just can't pass up and enlists a few classmates to join her. Along the way, strange, magical even perfect things start happening. And much to her chagrin, Destiny finds herself becoming attached to her fellow passengers as they share their stories. Except Destiny has a secret she hasn't shared with anyone ever. And it has to do with where they are going and why. Filled with mystery, and chance, the trip turns out to be just as twisty as the twisting road.
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Jillian Bietz, Teen columnist, enjoys reading, creative writing, acting and cooking.
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