1. Scribbler of Dreams
Mary E. Pearson
This was the first (and best!) Pearson book I read. A Romeo & Juliet retelling, featuring Kaitlin Malone and Bram Crutchfield -- sworn enemies who just can't help but fall in love. Classic retellings, even books based loosely on classics, are a hard sell with me but I absolutely adore this one - maybe because I've never read or seen Romeo & Juliet? In any case, I loved the characters and their starcrossed love story.
2. Feeling Sorry for Celia
I hope this one isn't as obscure as I think it is, because it's an absolutely brilliant book. The first of Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield books, it involves a girl who has run away to the circus and her confused best friend, forced to write to a Complete and Utter Stranger. This book is right up there with the second in the series (The Year of Secret Assignments) as far as greatness goes, but unlike that book this focuses in much more narrowly on one set of pen pals.
3. I Can't Tell You
After concluding that talking just leads to trouble, Jake's conversations with others, including his best friend, include entirely of doodles and scribbled notes. I'm such a sucker for books told in this sort of format and this one felt true-to-life with a story I loved.
4. How to Build A House
To escape the fallout of her dad and stepmother's divorce, Harper joins a volunteer home-building project in a region wrecked by a tornado. This book is so sweet with a story I definitely wasn't expecting and characters whose problems felt entirely real and difficult.
5. Cheating at Solitaire
This is the only non-YA book on the list and OH MY GOODNESS IT IS JUST SO GOOD DESPITE THAT EMBARRASSING COVER. Ally Carter's (yes, that Ally Carter) debut novel is a romance novel about a self-help guru-celebrity whose claim to fame is her books touting the positives of choosing to live the single lifestyle. And then she falls in love. And it is all kinds of cute and heartwarming and Julia James is such a great character and sadly this book is out of print but if you happen to find it somewhere, anywhere, do yourself a favor and read it. You're welcome.
6. Peaches (series)
Jodi Lynn Anderson
Published in the midst of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, this three-book series of friends who come together during the summers on a peach orchard is - dare I say it? - quite possibly even better than its more-successful counterpart. The southern girls of this series - Birdie, Leeda, and Murphy - were overshadowed when the books came out, I fear, but their story of friendship sharp, compelling, and even a little bitter-sad at times. I love it. Love love love.
7. The Kid Table
The story of six cousins, narrated by one the family fears might be a psychopath, is my kind of story. Full of family get-togethers, the push-and-pull of family relationships, and way-beyond-quirky characters.
8. The Naughty List
A cheer squad that doubles as a crew of spies. NEED I SAY MORE?
9. The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading
Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance
The tale of a geek girl who makes the Varsity cheer squad and catches the attention of her basketball-star crush. OMG, so much love. Cheerleaders and geeks galore and a know-it-all boy, plus the best opening line in the history of YA.
10. After the Kiss
Terra Elan McVoy
When Camille kisses Becca's boyfriend, the two girls who've never met become connected in a way they aren't even aware of. As Becca deals with the painful breakup that comes, Camille's dealing with her always-on-the-move family and unable to set down roots and trust her new friends. THIS BOOK. OMG. It combines some of my favorite elements (including unorthodox narration styles) and tells the slow, quiet, emotional story of these girls SO INCREDIBLY WELL. I love these characters and this story this book. Love.
If you haven't read any of these books, you really should get on that.