According to the calendar, it is now spring. According to my yard full of snow, my calendar is a liar. So, while my neighbors have been taking forsythia cuttings to FORCE spring to happen (albeit only indoors), and my library patrons have been checking out lots of books about gardening, I’ve been thinking about YA books about gardens and gardeners.

Nothing But Ghosts, by Beth Kephart

While Beth Kephart’s YA books have been consistently well-reviewed, and while she has certainly gained a devoted following, she’s not likely to ever cross over into blockbuster territory. And that’s okay! Because one of the special things about her is that—beyond lovely prose and sharp-eyed detail—you never quite know what you’re going to get when you pick up one of her books*. Will it be a love story set in the shadow of the Berlin Wall? Or about a girl hiding in Spain for the duration of her unplanned pregnancy? A hopeful boy in a hopeless world? A girl dealing with an impending death by playing records and taking dance lessons? Or, in the case of the book I’m actually highlighting here, a grieving girl working on a landscaping crew for a summer? Katie’s job is hot and sweaty work, but the pacing of the story—which includes a mysterious recluse, an awesome librarian and art restoration—feels comfortably sedate and cool.

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The Splendor Falls, by Rosemary Clement-Moore

A troubled ex-ballerina is sent to live on a family estate in Alabama, and romantic, paranormal, and mysterious shenanigans ensue. The Splendor Falls is on the list due to all of its nature-based magic, but I’ll use any excuse to recommend Rosemary Clement-Moore because she’s the Barbara Michaels of YA.

The Canning Season, by Polly Horvath

This book is a wonderfully bananas—and hilariously macabre, which occasionally gets it challenged—collection of tall tales disSquashedguised as a novel about two abandoned children and the old women who take them in…AND it features a huge garden. Although I mainly focus on the YA world and Polly Horvath’s books are generally marketed to the middle grade audience, I always, ALWAYS make time for them. 

Squashed, by Joan Bauer

I haven’t been all that enamored with Joan Bauer’s most recent books, but I love her earlier ones. They’re all comfortably, warm-fuzzy-inducingly similar, in that each one is about a girl who has a really, really focused interest/talent: a budding historian, a waitress, a shoe salesgirl, and, in her very first book, Squashed, a girl who is determined to take home the blue ribbon at the Rock River Pumpkin Weigh-In and Harvest Fair for most ginormous pumpkin.

Did I miss your favorite? Let me know in the comments!


*Which is a quality that blockbuster authors rarely have. Although, now that I’m thinking about her books as an oeuvre, rather than separately, it occurs to me that most of them deal with grieving in some way. But Nicholas Sparks she is not.

If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.