4 min read

YA Book Yelling


I have spent a significant portion of the last three weeks walled into a tower. The tower is made of bones, and the bones are stacked higher than your lying eyes can see, and there are no doors, and there are no windows, and there is no wifi. The bones don't keep the wind out of the tower, so the insides of the walls are lined with books. When the storms arrive, the paper flutters and the books sing a high whistling song, and the only way to make the song stop is to take the loudest book down and read it, damning the cold that seeps through the cracks in the bones.

These four books were worth shivering for.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

When I read this book, thunder rattled the bones of my tower until I thought the walls would come down around me. Allegedly is Tiffany D. Jackson's debut novel, and it's completely goddamn stunning. It's focused on 16-year-old Mary Beth Addison, a teenager who was accused of infanticide when she was a child. It's a devastating indictment of the social service system, and a raw, breathtaking exploration of what makes a narrator unreliable. The prose is clean and direct and unmerciful. When I finished this one, my entire tower settled into the loam by several inches, and the other books hissed with envy.

Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

One of the walls of my tower is composed entirely of teeth, each tooth the height of a man with a child standing on his shoulders. I don't know what kind of creature has teeth like these; I think it's a creature that eats plants, because the teeth have broad, flat bottoms, perfect for stacking on one another to form smooth, unclimbable planes. I picked up Anger Is a Gift the day after a lightning strike split one of those teeth, leaving a long dark chasm in the center of a supporting molar. I read this gorgeous debut aloud, letting the bones of my tower soak in the story of Moss Jeffries, a boy who learns how to fight the injustice in his community and in our country. Oshiro's debut is intimate, honest, and stunning, and by the time I read the final words of the book, the crack in the wall had healed itself over with fresh white enamel.

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

After the impact of Allegedly, I couldn't resist reading Tiffany D. Jackson's sophomore novel, Monday's Not Coming. This one bruised me deep; Monday's Not Coming is the story of Claudia, a middle-school girl whose best friend goes missing, and no one seems to notice except for her. My tower keeps me far from my own best friend, and as I read Tiffany Jackson's devastating story of friendship and loss and fear and uncertainty, my heart ached. I'm keeping this one off the wall, letting the wind whistle a little stronger through my tower, a crisp and cutting reminder of who is missing.

Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

Yes, this is a bit on the nose. When this book sang at me, I hoped it was a harbinger of freedom. Bones & All is the haunting story of a teen girl cannibal. She doesn't want to eat people, any more than I wanted to do any of the things that led to my confinement in this tower, but she has little choice in the matter; she's compelled by forces darker than intention and stronger than will. Her story is one of self-knowledge, the shape of acceptance, and dedication to survival. DeAngelis has wrought something beautiful and terrible, and I would happily take another lifetime in the tower if it meant getting more books like this one. I may yet get my wish; when I made to return Bones & All to its space on the wall, the notch where it had rested was smooth, the bone a few inches thicker. The wind won't whistle through that place anymore, but the walls are a little closer now. They're a little closer every day.