I love this idea. As a fan of the genre and a future realistic YA author (CONFIDENCE. IS. KEY.), I love the idea of spreading the love of the books I wish had gotten more attention. Usually when I mention a book, I link it on Goodreads. But this time (because I'm admittedly hoping you'll think about buying these books), I'll link to Book Depository.
The first few books here are ones I absolutely love that I haven't seen many other reviews for or mentions of, and most of them are books I could find in my local Barnes & Noble. Just by happenstance they're all debuts. The books at the end are more great realistic YA literature that are hopefully known a little more.
Rival, by Sara Bennett Wealer is an incredibly smart, sweet, and a little bit heartbreaking story of two girls -- both incredible singers going into the same competition -- who used to be best friends. It's a story told from dual POVs in both the past and present, with brilliant writing and clear, distinct voices for both Brooke and Kathryn. The characters, plot, and writing are all amazing.
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else, by Erin McCahan is a love story of the highest quality. The story features Bronwen Oliver, a high school student with a rocky-at-best relationship with her mother, a nonexistant relationship with a brother, and a stepfather who's disappointed her. When she meets the gentlemanly, charming Jared Sondervan, she falls in love with him and everything he can offer her -- not the money, but the stable, wonderful family and a solid, loving relationship. Bronwen is a smart and strong character, one who knows who she is and who she wants to be, who isn't afraid to stand by what is important to her. This is such a beautiful and well-written book with realistic characters and relationships.
serafina67, by Susie Day is a beyond-hilarious import from the UK. Sarah (username: serafina67) gives herself a 100-Day Happiness Deadline which she chronicles on her blog for friends and strangers. In 100 days she resolves to be not only happy, but also thinner, boyfriended, and at peace with her dad and his new wife. What really sets this story apart is the absolutely terrific writing -- funny, internet-y, and an absolute honest portrayal of teen life. I'm not kidding you when I say I can't praise this book enough -- IT. IS. BLOODY BRILLIANT. Just... read it. Read it read it read it. Because this book has the feel-good feeling of sitting in the warm sun, eating chocolate-covered strawberries. Honestly; it's that good.
The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading, by Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance mixes high school geek culture and cheerleading perfectly. After geek girl Bethany becomes a varsity cheerleader, she finds herself juggling both old and new friendships, as well as realizing that maybe cheerleading isn't quite as stupid (or easy!) as she thought it was. This book features whip-smart writing, witty and geeky characters, as well as one of my favorite fictional guys of all time. Go! Read!
This is What I Want to Tell You, by Heather Duffy-Stone is a beautiful story with beautifully broken characters -- most notably Noelle, who finds herself drifting apart after her rich best friend leaves for the summer. Told from the perspective of Noelle and her twin brother Nadio, this book explores family, friendship, and the struggle of self. It's lyrical and wonderful and I can't believe more people haven't read it.
OTHER GREAT OVERLOOKED REALISTIC YA STORIES
I'll Be There, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
The Kid Table, by Andrea Seigel
Exclusively Chloe, by J.A. Yang
Breathing, by Cheryl Renee Herbsman
Sea, by Heidi R. Kling
The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June, by Robin Benway