Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen is about two teens, Bryce & Juli, who have lived next to each other since they were 7. Juli fell in love with Bryce the moment she saw him. Bryce on the other hand wishes Juli would just leave him alone. The story is told in both Juli's and Bryce's voices, in alternating chapters. This in itself is entertaining - the different take the two of them have on the same situation is quite enlightening. Over the years, Bryce and Juli both come to realise that sometimes first impressions aren't so reliable. This is a lovely story, filled with humour, well developed characters and a certain truth about it.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli tells the story of Stargirl Caraway, an unconventional girl who finds a deep and rewarding joy in making those around her happy. When she starts attending Mica High (having previously been home schooled) she quickly becomes popular, mostly as a result of her uniqueness. However, it doesn't take long before she gets offside with the in-crowd, and she is shunned. The story is narrated by Leo, who is fascinated by Stargirl, and wants to understand what makes her tick. Leo finds it increasingly difficult to be associated with Stargirl, especially once he too feels the effects of being shunned by the crowd.Stargirl provides an interesting commentary on how humans (and no, not just those of the teenage variety) tend to feel happier if they are part of a groups. And how unpleasant we can often be to those who we don't consider part of 'our group'.
Looking For Alaska by John Green has found a place in my all-time-fave-books list. This was a debut novel but what a remarkable piece of writing. The story is narrated by Miles as he transfers to a new boarding school, where he falls in with a group of teens lead by the enigmatic Alaska. The story is told in two parts - Before, and After. Before focuses on the group and their various pranks and antics; After focuses on how the group deals with a tragedy that befalls them.
The characters are skilfully drawn, and achingly real. It has humour, and pathos, and love, and lust, and tragedy. It had me laughing as I read one page, then crying just a few short pages later. I loved it. I felt quite lost when I finished reading it - I didn't want to leave these characters.
These three books are probably often considered to be "coming of age" books, and to be fair, they are aimed at different age groups (Flipped more for the tweens and younger teens; Looking For Alaska young adult and adult; with Stargirl falling somewhere in between) - and yet, as an adult, I found each of them left a little piece with me that I will keep and continue to reflect on.