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Young Adult Fiction Nominees: Nineteen Heartbreakers & Four Heroic Teens Tempt Fate

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The LA Times has nominated five books in each of nine different categories for the 2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. In the weeks leading up to the Festival of Books where the winners will be announced, LAist will take a quick look at each category and will wax poetic on a few favorites (or least favorites) along the way.

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The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson – Anderson’s book spans several genres and many literary traditions as it tells the story of Octavian, a young black boy who lives in 18th century Boston under the tutelage of his radical scientist & philosopher guardians. While he is given an excellent education, he soon learns that he isn’t free-–despite early illusions to the contrary—and he plots his escape. It would be too easy to call this science fiction. Too simple to call it fantasy or adventure. This novel is, dare we say it, uncategorizeable. It tackles the big subjects – freedom, patriotism, courage, racism and privilege – in a truly unique fashion, to devastating effect.

Why you might like it: It ends with a cliffhanger.
Why you might not: It ends with a cliffhanger.

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Tyrell by Coe Booth – Tyrell doesn’t have an easy life. His mother’s fraudulent welfare scheme has forced the family to move to a roach-filled homeless shelter, his father is in prison and at 15, he’s dropped out of high school. Between his mother pushing him to sell drugs to help the family get back on its feet and his girlfriend upset with him for dropping out of school, Tyrell is stretched thin. Too thin. He is faced with the difficult choice: easy money the wrong way, or slow money the right way. Booth’s treatment of this often-examined subject works because Tyrell’s story unfolds in unexpected ways.

Why you might like it: It’s tough and funny, with a few twists.
Why you might not: Familiar terrain, somewhat familiar refrain.

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An Abundance of Katherines by John Green – Colin Singleton has had many girlfriends in his short life. All of them were named Katherine. As he graduates from high school and ponders college (did we mention he’s a genius?), his latest Katherine flame dumps him & he’s a mess. Why? This latest dump means a total sum of 19 breakups in as many years. A road trip with his friend Hassan is deemed the perfect antidote and they set off to cure his broken heart. Through some nerdy math that involves a possible theorem of love, Colin & Hassan try to right the wrong of being dumped.

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Why you might like it: Consider it therapy for your own painful high school breakups.
Why you might not: The mere thought of revisiting painful high school breakups…

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Just In Case by Meg Rosoff – In a simple act of heroic grace, David Case saves his baby brother from falling off a window ledge. In the panicked moments of saving his brother, David realizes how quickly every day life can become catastrophic. After this event, he feels Fate is calling to him, warning him of future events that Fate planned for him. To elude fate, he changes his name to Justin Case and assumes a new identity complete with new clothes, a racy new girlfriend, a wild new set of friends and a new way of thinking. Can he truly outwit Fate and the foreboding messages it sends him? Or will it catch up with him and make him pay?

Why you might like it: A delicious up-ending of the typical coming-of-age story.
Why you might not: Why tempt Fate?

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The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin – Matt tells his story as only he can: the painful tale of protecting himself and his two sisters from the rapid mood swings, the dangerous personality shifts and the violently abusive tendencies of his mother. Seeking guidance, help--anything--from other adults in his life does no good and Matt begins to give up hope. Why won’t anyone admit that what’s going on at his house isn’t okay? Why won’t anyone do something about it? An unlikely bond is formed when Matt meets Murdoch, one of his mother’s many suitors. The only one, it turns out, who is willing to step in and defend these children that are not his own.

Why you might like it: An edge-of-your-seat page-turner, full of suspense.
Why you might not: Violence & abuse that's not for the faint of heart.