Pairs Well: Ali Bryan's Awesome YA Reading List

Book Cover the Hill

The Hill is a feminist YA dystopia and something new and different from Ali Bryan, celebrated author of Roost and The Figgs. According to Booklist, The Hill "hits all the right apocalyptic notes" and is "a great pick for forward-thinking feminist teens."

In this recommended reading list, Bryan shares other great titles to complement her novel.

*****

Dystopian Worlds & Wayward Girls

Book Cover the Marrow Thieves

The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline

Dimaline single-handedly flips the dystopia genre on its head with her runaway hit, The Marrow Thieves, a gritty coming-of-age story in which Indigenous people are hunted for their dream-containing, world-saving bone marrow in a landscape ravaged by climate collapse and madness. A deftly woven and brutal tale of colonialism and environmental neglect but also of community, culture, resilience and hope. Inventive, rich, important.

Pairs well with Doritos and activism.

*

Book Cover Winterkill

Winterkill, by Kate A. Boorman

Boorman’s Winterkill series tackles issues of religiosity, control, and fear in a world where leaving and love are forbidden and marriage ain’t up to you. Headstrong, “stained” and wayward, Emmaline ventures beyond the Wall in pursuit of the truth and triggers a twisty chain of events culminating in a terrific cliffhanger.

Dystopia with a feminist edge, Winterkill hits all the right post-apocalyptic notes. Atmospheric, defiant, romantic.

Pairs well with hand-warmers and missing curfew.

*

Pulse Point, by Colleen Nelson and Nancy Chappell-Pollack

Nelson and Chappell-Pollack explore themes of confinement, parentage and propaganda in a sci-fi drama ripe with conflict, secrets and a touch of romance. Climate change has made the outside world inhospitable, but the domed City provides hope and sustainability, operating solely on the energy produced by the citizens. The catch? You’re offed when you can no longer produce your energy quota. Tense, engaging, thoughtful.

Pairs well with a treadmill and lying to your parents.

 *

Rough Girls Roughing It

Book Cover The Wild

The Wild, by Owen Laukkanen

A snappy, sucker-punch style thriller with switchbacks, swear words and high stakes. After a series of bad decisions involving drugs and other shenanigans, Dawn is shipped off to a wilderness therapy program where it turns out setting up camp is the least of her problems. Gripping, physical, sharp.

Pairs well with trail mix and survivalism. 

*

Book Cover You Don't Have to Die at the End

You Don’t Have to Die in The End, by Anita Daher

Daher’s book revolves around hot-headed, grief-stricken Eugenia, whose volatile behaviour gets her sent to a remote ranch rehabilitation program. A story about connection and the wild, but also an important read that awards girls the right and space to feel and process anger.

Pairs well with a cowgirl boots and second chances.

*

Book Cover Blood Red Road

Blood Red Road, by Moira Young

A riveting, wasteland adventure, complete with landfills, kidnappings and sibling rivalry. Saba’s quest is triggered by her father’s killing and the capture of her twin brother, Lugh. Blood Red Road is a relentless and gutsy journey with trippy dialect and immersive world-building. Cinematic, compelling, original.

Pairs well with a crow and leaving home.

*

It’s Complicated

Book Cover Some Other Now

Some Other Now, by Sarah Everett

Billed as This is Us for teens, Some Other Now solidifies Everett as one of the literary masters writing in the YA contemporary genre today. Told over the course of two summers, with dual timelines, the story navigates complex relationships—familial, friendly, and romantic—in all their messy glory. Stunning, soaring, brilliant.

Pairs well with flip-slops and families found and otherwise.

*

Book Cover The 11th Hour

The 11th Hour, by Kristine Scarrow

A dark and harrowing read that examines the wildly passionate, wholly tedious, naive and often terrifying consequences of teen love, told at a bristling pace with honesty and heart. Not long after they defy their parents and run off together, Annika and Dylan’s fantasy begins to blow apart as hints of Dylan’s untreated mental illness manifest. Tender, triumphant, real.

Pairs well with Sweethearts and sneaking out.

*

Hard Knocks & Knock Outs

Book Cover Fight Like a Girl

Fight Like a Girl, by Sheena Kamal

Part family drama, part mystery with a touch of the paranormal, Fight Like a Girl is an intense read that covers some difficult territory around domestic abuse while giving the reader insight into the fast and furious world of combat sports. The prose is hard-hitting and characters perfectly nuanced as Kamal reminds teen girls to step into their power both outside and inside the ring. Punchy, dark, moody.

Pairs well with hand wraps and history repeating itself.    

*

Book Cover Crown of Feathers

Crown of Feathers, by Niccki Pau Preto

An impeccably crafted, smart, page-turning fantasy with girl warriors, phoenixes and writing of near mythical brilliance. The first book in the Crown of Feathers Trilogy manages to set itself apart in a crowded genre with its originality, fresh characters, and epic reveals. Magical, dense, immersive.

Pairs well with mythical beasts and family secrets.

*

Book Cover The Dragon

The Dragon, by Dustin Archibald

Archibald’s sci-fi superhero series is centred around 14-year-old Asha, whose world is kicked upside down by the death of her mother and a subsequent move to the city where a mysterious criminal organization rules the roost. With Kung Fu inspired fight sequences that are as gritty and realistic as the girl at the centre of the action, The Dragon is a tale of loss, redemption and learning to harness the power-both supernatural and ordinary—that lies within. High-tech, high-stakes and human on the best level.

Pairs well with a good hoodie and finding yourself. 

*

Learn more about The Hill:

In the near future, a group of girls survive by their own wits and follow the laws of the Manual on the Hill, a reclaimed garbage dump they call home. The cardinal rule? Men and boys spell danger.

After a Departure Ceremony releases the eleven oldest girls back to the Mainland, Wren becomes their new leader, and she's desperate to do a good job.So when one of the girls goes missing only a few hours into her new position, Wren makes the fateful decision to leave the Hill in search of the girl—only to encounter boys for the first time in her life. Is it a coincidence, then, that the Hill is attacked while she's gone?

In order to survive and lead her community, Wren must sort fact from fiction, ally from enemy, and opportunity from threat. The Hill is a feminist dystopian novel that explores gender, power, and the search for truth in a world defined by scarcity, distrust, and gender politics. Gritty and compassionate, Bryan's unforgettable novel shines a light on the consequences of consumerism and environmental neglect while reminding us what it takes to be a girl in this world.

March 25, 2021
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