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I have a confession. I read all four Twilight books cover-to-cover and saw every one of the movies. No, I am not a Twi-hard; I just feel a strong pull to be aware of my generation's pop culture obsessions, and Twilight made such a splash that I had to read it for myself. But after devouring four poorly written books about a pathetic girl whose only ambition hinges on a man who quite literally endangers her life, I left the series feeling angry for strong women and intelligent readers everywhere. So on the day Twilight: Breaking Dawn opens in theaters, I'm calling for a revolution. If you’re a fan of young adult fantasy fiction, even if you're embarrassed to admit it, here are some insightful books you can read proudly.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling
$10.99. 320 pages. Scholastic Paperbacks.
The Harry Potter series does everything right that the Twilight series does wrong. Harry, the main character, struggles with intense emotional and physical challenges, not to mention the most powerful evil wizard in the world trying to kill him all the time. But through it all, Harry retains a set of indomitable values, especially loyalty to family and friends. There's a reason he's permeated the hearts and minds of societies all over the world; he is a universal role model for how to lead a loving and righteous life, all religion aside. Author Stephen King said it best: "Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend."
The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
$8.99. 384 pages. Scholastic Press.
Suzanne Collins' bestselling series explores post-apocalyptic societies in a fresh, thought-provoking way. Her main character is a bad-ass girl named Katniss who goes out hunting to feed her family and sacrifices her well-being for her little sister's within the first few chapters. She is quickly thrown into a terrifying competition called the Hunger Games, where 24 children—two from each of the empire's districts—battle to the death. Every citizen is required to watch, including the parents of the children inside the battle arena, who are unable to do anything but look on as their sons and daughters perish. The last child standing is showered with praise, wealth, and glory in a twisted reward for brutally murdering others.
by Gail Carson Levine
$6.99. 288 pages. HarperTeen.
One of my all-time favorite books, Ella Enchanted taught me at a very young age what it means to have courage. It may be written for middle-school reading levels, but Ella's story is riveting enough for me to continue to read it over again year after year. In this new take on the classic Cinderella story, Ella is given a fairy's "gift" at birth to always be obedient. As she grows up, she must obey any order given to her, even if it means chopping off her own hand. After her mother dies, her greedy father sends her away to finishing school, where a young girl discovers her secret and begins to make her life a living hell. All the while, Ella resists her orders for as long as her curse possibly allows and maintains her strong personality and perfect wit. When she finally escapes the school, she sets off on a journey to find the fairy and make her take back the curse, fighting off mind-reading ogres and falling in love with the most wonderful prince of any book.
Uglies (Book 1)
by Scott Westerfeld
$9.99. 432 pages. Simon Pulse.
A favorite of our executive editor, Uglies depicts a world in which everyone is forced to undergo an operation to become society's definition of beautiful. The gorgeous generation is free to frolic in a care-free life, while younger, average-looking people are dubbed the Uglies. Tally Youngblood is a mischievous member of the Ugly clan who battles against her own desires to be physically perfect. After getting into trouble with her elders, she is forced to make a terrible choice between betraying her own friends and finally achieving glamorous perfection. Tally's brave journey chronicles every human being's issue with insecurity and self-worth in a world of rampant conformity.
Boy Meets Boy
by David Levithan
$8.99. 192 pages. Alfred A. Knopf.
At this high school, the concept of straight and gay has disappeared, and sexuality is no longer a cause for separation or exclusion. Here, the gay-straight alliance was formed to help straight kids learn to dance. Paul is a sophomore with friends like homecoming queen Infinite Darlene, who is the star quarterback of the football team and used to be Daryl. Paul falls in love for a boy named Noah, and he and the rest of his friends stumble through a high school world of hopeful romance that is still confusing and painful, but void of the hateful realities of today's world. This is a love story for our generation, and a glimpse into how bright the future could be.