The Best 'New Kids' in YA
Some of the best young adult books focus on transplanted teens starting the school year in new, intimidating academic and social environments. Whether it's due to their skin color, body type or dreams that don't focus on lunchroom popularity or getting asked to the big dance, these kids are branded as outcasts. However, they're also some of the most dynamic, compelling narrators because of how they tap into readers' own teenage awkwardness and dreams. Here are five must-read novels featuring our favorite characters coping with being the new kid on the scene.
Throughout his dull and mostly friendless existence, Miles Halter has always longed to find a life of excitement and purpose--"The Great Perhaps," he calls it, after the famous last words of poet Francois Rabelais. When he turns 16, Miles enters the elite Culver Creek Boarding School--and it is there he finds his "Great Perhaps," in the form of the electric Alaska Young. Her rebellious spirit and fiery, often self-destructive attitude rock his sheltered existence. Miles eventually finds meaning, though it comes at great cost, making for a riveting read.
With her bushy red hair and loud fashion sense, Eleanor stands out as the new girl in town at her suburban Nebraskan high school. Despite her outcast status, Park, a Korean boy on her bus route, is struck by her strident individuality. United by their love of comic books and new wave music, this unlikely pair navigates a turbulent junior year filled with locker room bullies and an abusive stepfather.
With the help and encouragement of his teachers and family, Arnold Spirit, Jr. makes the unprecedented decision to leave his Native American Indian reservation to attend the all-white high school in the surrounding suburbs of Reardan, Washington. Upon his arrival, Junior encounters major culture shock, as the only other Native American on campus is the school mascot. Despite this setback, he endures tragedies and triumphs throughout his tumultuous freshman year with plucky attitude and determination.
Deeply involved with her school and church, Lacey Anne Byer is a squeaky-clean, prototypical good girl. Then, a mysterious boy named Ty Davis moves to her small Texas town and changes everything. From his alluring good looks to his brooding skepticism, everything about Ty contrasts with Lacey’s evangelical lifestyle and serves to challenge her beliefs and behaviors--all leading up to her church's Halloween hell house production.
As the daughter of a renowned professor, Beatrice Szabo has moved around the United States many times due to her dad's career. Because she's constantly changing schools, she's cultivated a cold, distant persona--kids call her "Robot Girl"--to keep from forming attachments to peers that she'll likely just leave behind. However, when she arrives in Baltimore for her senior year of high school, she becomes taken with sullen outcast Jonas Tate, whose obsession with his mentally ill dead brother has earned him the nickname "Ghost Boy." This "robot" and "ghost" form an unlikely bond and embark on one of the most complex friendships in YA literature.