This week’s topic is one I care about as a blogger who does not come from the US. YA is largely made up from US authors, so it’s hardly a surprise that a great majority of their books are set there. But for me, it can get overwhelming and maybe a bit repetitive. I really try to read a wide variety of books, though I don’t always succeed. I actually struggled with finding ten books I loved that fit. I’m so excited to find other great books!
My list is not ranked because some of these books are so different from each other that I can’t begin to compare them. I decided not to include any fantasy books, or at least ones that take place in a new world that happens to be suspiciously similar to western Europe, because those would fill up the list quite quickly. Also I tried to pick only authors that were not from the US, keyword: tried. (Harry Potter is not on this list, because lbr Harry Potter would top every top ten list I’ll ever make)
1. Momo by Michael Ende
Set in an unnamed city, presumably in Germany and by a German writer, Momo is probably one of the books that has influenced me the most. It’s children’s book full of imagination and surreal tone. It’s literally about men in grey that steal people’s time. In hindsight, this was the perfect book to read at age ten; it awakened my loved for reading. I definitely recommend it for older audiences too.
2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Set in Spain during Franco’s regime by an Spanish author, this book mixes mystery, historical elements, as well as a bit of magical realism if I remember correctly. I didn’t like it when I read it on the principle it was assigned reading (I was 13, in my defense). My appreciation for this book has only grown since. It really works thanks to the setting and doesn’t shy away from the more political elements of the period.
3. The Likeness by Tana French
This is the second book in the Dublin Murder Squad series and my favorite out of the first four. (I was going to describe this a The Secret History only with murder and then I remembered.) It definitely shares the tone and some of the themes. This richly atmospheric book would not work quite as well if it were set anywhere else. Once you get past the crazy premise, this book is deliciously clever and filled with complex characters.
4. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
The first YA of this list, a character-driven zombie book. This one is set in Canada. And it’s dark. More than zombies, what makes this book work are the character arcs, especially the protagonist’s. The setting is not as important in this one because all you care about it’s how the characters are dealing with each other and themselves.
5. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Okay my first instance of cheating by including a US author. This book tells the story of the friendship between two British girls during World War II, after one has been captured in France. It’s one of those books in that you want to read unspoiled because it’s filled with plot twists and turns. Both shocking and emotional, this is one of my favourite books of all time.
6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Another WWII book, this one follows a young German girl. Only it’s narrated by Death itself. The writing is beautiful and unique, the characters come to life on page and it made me cry for an entire hour after I was done. Another of my all-time favourites.
7. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
A fantasy book set in four parallel Londons, one of them our own (which is why I’m including it), that follows the man who can travel between them and a crossdressing pirate who has slowly become of my favourite female characters. I can’t really do it justice here. (Also this is my other US author on the list, but I couldn’t not mention a Victoria Schwab book.)
8. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Another zombie book, this one set in the UK, which is weird because I’m pretty sure these two are the only ones I’ve read. Few books are as low-key philosophical as this novel. All the characters you’ve seen before (the mad scientist, the new recruit, the caring teacher, the special child), but at the same time you’ve never seen them like this. Also this book contain very well written female characters. And that ending…wow.
9. The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan
One of my favourite YA trilogies ever. Set in a rural town in England, this trilogy has romance, gothic elements, mystery, female friendships, witty dialogue, loveable characters, and magic. It’s both fun and heartbreaking. Honestly I everyone should be talking about these books.
10. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
A graphic memoir and probably the best book I read last year. It follows Satrapi’s childhood in Iran and later her misadventures in Europe. It’s funny, dark and a narrative about the Middle East that actually come from someone from there. This book left me with such a bad craving for more books like it.