Feed by M.T. Anderson
First of all, I have to tell you that I listened to the audio version of this book, which I cannot recommend enough. Second of all, I listened to this while I was running, which I do not recommend at all. (There is an excellent chance I looked like a disoriented, drunken fool stumbling along my running path.) Here's why:
To begin, the story is all about a futuristic society that has some sort of device in their brains that "feeds" them information periodically. Their feeds are personalized based on what they seem to like. (Sort of how you start searching for Nissan Sentras and all of a sudden your Facebook page is full of car ads.) Clearly, the plot is eerie as Anderson has described a future that looks a lot like right now.
But here is where we get to me/you stumbling around. If you use your eyes to read the book, each chapter ends with a transcript of a feed. Fair enough. BUT, if you use your ears to read, your listening experience is interrupted by an audio feed that bounces from ear bud to ear bud as you are catapulted into the story in a dizzying and delightful way. It's more than awesome.
Anderson's book is a really fantastic satire, which we don't have enough of in current YA fiction. The language is... interesting. The characters speak as though they have had everything fed to them and haven't had to think for themselves. (Sound familiar?) You're drawn into their lives by the vernacular of the future and, of course, there is some foul language as well. Just to keep it real.
Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
Full disclosure: I cried reading this entire book. I loved it, but there were some ugly, snotty moments that my husband had to endure.
I really wasn't prepared for the emotions I would feel. I mean, part of me thought Carver was kidding with the opening line: "I may have killed my best friends." But then you're hit with it. His friends died and he had a hand in that. His voice is tender and full of pain and anger as he wrestles with his guilt and grief. And then it gets worse.
Carver spends a Goodbye Day with a family member of each dead friend. It starts with a grandmother and it's a celebration of Blake's life with some serious sadness mixed in. But then he also has to face the storm of anger from the Judge. And then the absolute destruction of normal of Eli's family. It's as if Carver sees it as his penance to take it head on, to see if he can survive. But even that isn't the worst.
The part that got me was Zentner's manipulation of time. He takes us back and forth to Carver's memories with his friends. So it's not enough that we are feeling all kinds of sadness for Carver, but then we too start to miss Eli, Mars, and Blake like they were our besties, too. I sobbed, unable to imagine a fictional world without these goofy and kind boys who were still finding themselves when they suddenly died. I lost my mind a bit, wishing that they could come back to fictional life.
All that being said, read this. Finish it at night so that you can sleep with your grief and then wake up with renewed appreciation for life.