5 Things -- Books (YA)

As an emerging author (of, hopefully, multiple books and a wildly popular blog) I think it's important for everyone to get to know me, my writing process, and my influences a little better. Also, aiming for transparency here, who doesn't like talking about themselves? So I've decided to start a new series called

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For the record, I got this idea from a list of blog ideas I pinned to my writing board on Pinterest (it's called Writerly -- check it out) and I ran with it. For this series, I'll list five things in a particular category that have inspired my writing journey in some way. Today's post is about works of literature that have made an impression on me.

Now, being a library assistant and long-time reader, I clearly love books. It's literally impossible for me to choose just five books that have inspired me out of all the ones I adore, so I'm splitting this particular category into three parts: young adult fiction, adult fiction, and nonfiction.

Today, we're talking YA!

Nearly half of the novels I have planned or have written are young or new adult, so this is a genre that speaks to me. Even so, I don't read much YA. The reason for this, honestly, is that a lot of stories in this genre tend to run together for me. Publishers market YA books according to what's popular, so many book covers tend to look similar to one another. In some cases the content is also similar, making me feel like I'm reading the same story multiple times.

This is in no way a dig at the genre or the authors who write for it! Clearly, people are going to write stories that work and resonate with their target audience, and they're smart to do so. That's the way this business -- and the world -- works. But because of this, I find myself taking frequent breaks from YA, reading only about a book a year. An exception I make is when a new book comes out by an author who doesn't put out books that often and who usually delivers pretty original material (looking at you John Green, Nicola Yoon, and Rainbow Rowell).

So, out of my comparatively limited list of works I've read in this genre, here are my top five titles:

(*I own personal copies of each of these titles, and all photos of their covers were either taken by me or used legally*)

1. The Fault In Our Stars -- John Green

I read this book in 2014, right after conceiving the concept for We Are Eternal. It makes sense, then, that We Are Eternal -- the story of a girl who meets a boy who's just received her father's heart in a life-saving transplant operation and the whirlwind romance that ensues -- has a similar feel to this novel. The sarcastic humor, whip-smart characters, and air of hope overshadowed by inevitable despair was just what I envisioned in my early ideas of my own novel. John Green writes from a teenage girl's perspective in a way I didn't think a grown man could, and he invented a tale of devastating star-crossed love that is equal parts sweet and heartbreaking. I loved everything about it. I aimed to destroy people the way Green had destroyed me. We Are Eternal wouldn't be what it is today without The Fault in Our Stars.

2. Everything, Everything -- Nicola Yoon

I read Everything, Everything in one three-hour sitting in late fall of 2015... it captivated me that thoroughly. I'd borrowed it from my job after seeing it on a list of debut authors to watch out for, and once I finally got a hold of it, I knew I had to own it so I could re-read Olly and Maddy's story whenever I wanted to. The suspense, whirlwind romance (once again... I like that stuff), and insane plot twist kept this girl turning pages until I realized, glumly, that there were no more pages to turn.

This is another story that directly influenced We Are Eternal; I'd let the second draft version of my novel sit on my computer for about a year and a half without paying it much attention, and when I went to edit it in the summer of 2016, I realized the characters in Everything, Everything reminded me a lot of my own: multiracial cast of individuals with a black female protagonist and a white male protagonist (something you don't see often in literature). Once again, the plot centered around a main character who was sick, but the details made it one-of-a-kind: Maddy has severe combined immuniodeficiency (SCID), or the "Bubble Baby Disease," and going outside could kill her. When a cute boy moves in next door, they're both drawn to one another. The theme of risking it all for love is more prevalent in We Are Eternal because I read Everything, Everything, and that's why I must give props to Yoon. I hope this fact will one day make her proud, and I hope we can be collegues down the line*.

*I follow her on Twitter, and she once liked (!!!) my comment on her tweet about the film adaptation of her latest book... so that means we're halfway there, right?

3. Pumpkinheads -- Rainbow Rowell

Pumpkinheads is downright precious, as most of Rowell's stories are. I'd read her work before and follow her on Twitter (another author who's liked a comment of mine -- ladies, let's hang out and talk books!). My writing style feels similar to hers in the willingness to delve into difficult topics and use of interracial love stories; Pumpkinheads itself features Deja and Josiah, a black girl and white boy who are best friends and work at the same pumpkin patch every year. Deja has a strong, quirky, and hilarious personality, and vows to help sweet and romantic Josiah finally talk to the girl of his dreams.

I don't read many graphic novels, but this one tells a story I couldn't put down. It's my latest YA favorite, and it's stuck with me ever since I read it... seven months ago. I aspire to be a writer who tells my stories with as distinctive a voice as Rowell.

4. Pieces -- Chris Lynch

I read Pieces after I'd finalized my manuscript for We Are Eternal. I had been looking for a book I may be able to compare to my own when pitching it to literary agents. To say I felt moved by this story and its characters is an understatement; emotional and unique, I fell into the life of Eric, his grief over his brother's sudden death, and his quest to track down the recipients of his brother's organs. Pieces shows one of the hundred ways one navigates the grieving process, and it was interesting for me -- a woman with no siblings -- to read from a teenage boy's point of view and look back with him on the impact of his relationship with his brother. This is a deep story, but at the end there is the relief of hope.

5. Twilight -- Stephanie Meyer

This one's gonna be a little controversial.

Twilight was (and still is) a global phenomenon, sparking five million-dollar films, a graphic novel, a couple of prequels, and even fan-fiction that became its own global phenomenon. In other words, Twilight showed me what I could achieve by writing what I loved.

I read Twilight in the fall of 2008, weeks before the first film came out. I had no idea the book existed before then. The story entranced me in a way I hadn't been by a book in a long while. I hadn't read much fantasy before that point, but I had been tinkering with the idea of a vampire novel, based on my love for the Underworld movies. I naturally assumed I would be writing my idea as an adult novel until I met Bella, a normal girl close to my age, and Edward, a "beautiful" vampire, and watched their worlds collide. It opened up a whole new world, creatively, for me.

I did end up finishing that novel I had been tinkering with, although it's no longer about vampires -- there are so many of those out there right now, partly thanks to Mrs. Meyer. It's shelved on the back burner for now, but it's finished, and this is also due in part to Meyer. This novel was the first I'd ever completed, my first ever full-length project, and my drive to see my dreams come true like they had for Meyer fueled its completion.

Twilight made an impression on me because it sparked my desire to not only write, but support myself by writing, and see my novels on the big screen one day. This book is not for everyone, and adult me is a little beyond it, but I must give credit where it's due.

Did you enjoy my first "5 Things" post? Want to send me suggestions for future lists? Go to the "Contact Me" portion of my website and send me comments, or follow my Twitter and get at me!