Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

High school freshman Maggie rules as the only girl in a house full of dudes. Her father is the local police chief and he has his hands full with Maggie and her three raucous siblings—eldest brother theater geek Daniel and squabbling twins Zander and Lloyd. Up until this year, Maggie had been home-schooled by her mom. But her mom has recently abandoned the family, and along with being super sad about THAT, Maggie also has to deal with attending public school for the first time. School would be scary enough on it’s own, but Maggie has one more horror to manage—a ghost. Yep, Maggie’s been followed around by a silent, see-thru woman since she was a tot, and the aggravating thing is, she has no idea why. The ghost either can’t or won’t say what her problem is, so all Maggie can do is hope and pray no one else can see her. Just when she thinks she’ll never fit in, Maggie meets Lucy and Alistair, a sister and brother duo who don’t seem to care what anyone thinks of them. Bolstered by their combined confidence, Maggie finally starts to relax in the hallowed halls of grade nine. But Alistair is not who he seems, and soon Maggie is caught up in the high school politics of hard choices, painful secrets and elusive popularity. And surprisingly, her ghost just might have something to say about that…this insightful, smart GN by the illustrator of Brain Camp does a great job of not only telling the real deal about high school but also sensitively exploring the interesting dynamics of  sibling relationships and how brothers and sisters can be your best friends—if you let them. FWB started out as a web comic, so click here to check out Faith Erin Hicks quirky cool art and get a little taste, but I highly recommend nabbing on the paper version and reading the whole thing in one go!

Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson

Laurel used to have it all—a top spot on the cheerleading team, a loving father and brother who doted on her and T-Boom, the cute co-captain of the basketball team as her Friday night date. But now Laurel doesn’t care about pom poms, basketball or even her family. Because T-Boom introduced her to a new friend—powdery, chalky meth, which Laurel calls moon. And there’s no room for anything else in Laurel’s life now that she has moon. Even T-Boom has become little more than her dealer. Laurel loves how the moon makes her forget how much she misses her mom and grandmother, who died in a hurricane when she was eleven. Alone and living in the back room of an abandoned hardware store, Laurel gets high and writes poems on  paper bags, just marking time until she can get more moon. Then she meets Moses, a gay street artist who specializes in memorial paintings of kids who died young. Moses tries to help Laurel, but the moon’s pull is strong. Will Laurel end up being his next subject? This beautifully rendered tome is vintage Woodson, full of bittersweet images of first love, heartache and what it is like to want a drug more than anything else: “Moon smoke so thick around me, like a blanket, like an arm…and me there on the ground in the bright morning, staring out through it—not knowing anything else anymore but this new thing, this wanting nothing, needing nothing, feeling nothing…but moon.”

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

“Boys do not have a monopoly on the Staring Business, after all. So I looked him over…and soon it was a staring contest. After a while the boy smiled, and then finally his blue eyes glanced away. When he looked back at me, I flicked my eyebrows up to say, I win.” So begins the tragic comedy of Hazel and Augustus’s love affair. He is seventeen and in remission from osteosarcoma and has a prosthetic to show for it. She is sixteen and terminal, diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer “…three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.” They meet sort of cute in a support group, after being introduced by a mutual friend whose cancer will soon render him blind. Though between them they are missing a leg and a great deal of lung capacity, their humor is still intact. Hazel: “I looked down my blouse at my chest. ‘Keep your shit together,’ I whispered to my lungs.” Augustus: “I didn’t cut this fella off for the sheer unadulterated pleasure of it, although it is an excellent weight loss strategy. Legs are heavy!” Though they are very different, they bond over their shared love of cancer perks,(“little things cancer kids get that regular kids don’t: basketballs signed by sports heroes, free passes on late homework, unearned driver’s licenses, etc.”) impromptu picnics and an abruptly ending novel by a crazy private author who lives in Amsterdam. Hazel doesn’t want to be the “grenade” that destroys Augustus’s life when she goes. But his gallows humor, big blue eyes and lanky, one leg frame are impossible to resist. And when Augustus plans a wild trip that will fulfill one of Hazel’s life long dreams, she finally gives in to her feelings. Hazel know that her future is short, and she thinks she’s prepared for what comes next. But it turns out that loving Augustus is more painful than any life-sucking tumor. Friends, I was undone by this novel. I had the pleasure of being on the Printz Committee that chose Looking for Alaska as the best YA title of 2005, and I have a been a raving fan of John Green’s work ever since. He understands how smart teens are, and never condescends to you in his fiction. (I mean, the man actually mentions Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in this book, a concept I wasn’t familiar with until my college freshman Intro. to Psychology class.) But I was not ready for the sweet, simple power of this story that is more about life, love and the pursuit of awesomeness than it is about cancer. I was not ready for the zen, steady eddie-ness that is Hazel or the articulate, video-game obsessed whirlwind that is Augustus. And once having met them, traveled with them and cried with them, I certainly wasn’t ready to let them go. My one regret about this book is that I read it too fast. I can read it again, but it won’t be like the first time. Hazel, despite her acceptance of her fate, “liked being a person. I wanted to keep at it.” Thankfully, she always will within the pages of this exquisitely painful and painfully funny novel. Read it soon–just not too fast.

What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman

Serious Lita and easy going Adam have been BFFs forever. But that doesn’t mean that they agree about stuff, especially when it comes to girl/boy stuff. They each have very different opinions about the best way to go about currying the favor of the opposite sex. So when Adam decides he’s going to write a self-help book for girls that gives them the secret scoop on what boys are really thinking, Lita is more than a little annoyed because a) Adam has NO idea what he’s talking about and b) Lita DOES know what she’s talking about because she advises clueless teens though her anonymous blog, “Ask Miz Fitz.” But she can’t tell Adam that because, well…it’s an anonymous blog. So she continues to fume while Adam continues to write and have no idea why Lita is so angry with him. Meanwhile, Adam develops a crush on a “skank”, while Lita starts dreaming about a “grease monkey” mechanic, but neither one of them is about to ask the other for dating advice. Finally, when Lita discovers that Adam’s research for his book has been collected in questionable ways and that his skank knows her grease monkey, the self-help really hits the fan. This rollicking read by one of my favorite authors reads like the teen version of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Pete Hautman writes some of the sharpest, funniest teen dialogue around, and this title is no exception. Think you know what boys really want? Think you have any idea what goes on in girls’ heads? Think again!