The world of YA fiction can be a tumultuous place. With vampire novels around every corner and series upon series overflowing with bitchy fourteen year olds itching to stab each other in the back, you can hardly be blamed for wanting to avoid the genre at all costs. But there are hidden gems buried deep beneath what seems like mountains of wasted trees at your local bookstore or library’s teen section, believe it or not. And as both a young adult fiction enthusiast and a glutton for punishment, I offer you this blog as a field guide in hopes that finding a perfect read – and avoiding a bad one – will become just a little bit easier.
Read This: Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain
When Harper gets rejected from the one, single college she so arrogantly applied to, she figures that lying to her three best friends is a small price to pay in exchange for her dignity. But upon her announcement to “forgo” her first year of college to pursue her dream of writing a novel, the last thing Harper expects is for her friends to follow her lead. Now headstrong Sophie’s on her way to Los Angeles, hellbent on becoming Hollywood’s next big star, and perfectionist Kate throws caution to the wind and defers her Harvard acceptance to backpack through Europe all on her own. And although Becca decides to stay the course and attend Middlebury College, she enters her freshman year with a fresh goal in mind: forget her family drama and find herself love. So begins what the foursome affectionately refer to as “The Year of Dreams.” Sure, the phrase is hokey – so much so that I can’t help but cringe whenever I read it. And admittedly, the prose is a little adjective-heavy and it takes a while to really get into the meat of the story. But I also can’t remember the last time I was so deeply engrossed in a book that I came home from work, curled up in my papasan, and killed three hundred pages in one sitting. Once you’re invested in Harper, Becca, Kate, and Sophie, there’s simply no turning back.
The beauty of Bass Ackwards and Belly Up can be found in its commitment to realism. This isn’t a book about sickeningly sweet endings or perfect relationships. These girls are fun and troubled and triumphant and flawed, and so are the boys to whom they inevitably find themselves drawn. Things don’t always end up the way they – or even you, the reader – might expect or hope for them to, but there’s something intensely satisfying about the unpredictability of it all. Every conversation feels natural, every action appropriate of an eighteen year old striking out on her own for the very first time. Best yet are how distinct each of the four main characters are from one another. Too often have I encountered young adult books featuring a group of girls that all sound like one single person with four different names. Authors Craft and Fain have mastered the art of telling a story from multiple perspectives while still ensuring that each voice, thought, and decision is unique to either Sophie, Becca, Kate, or Harper.
This book rides along the same lines as Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, minus the pants and the formulaic nature of the Pants quartet. Bass Ackwards and Belly Up is an unexpected adventure into following your dreams and discovering yourself, no matter how risky or unconventional the path. And perhaps that’s a little cliché, but this book (and its impossibly better sequel, Footfree and Fancyloose) will take you on a ride that is anything but.