Maybe coming-of-age stories are best enjoyed while you’re still in a hormonal fugue state, but there’s something perennially readable/watchable about well-written teenage characters trying to run the gauntlet of young adulthood. These starred YA Indie titles have it all—complicated leads; fully imagined settings; and worthy quests.
The stakes are high in Jaime Questell’s By a Charm & a Curse. Lonely Emma ventures off to the Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic, and life takes a sudden, unlucky turn. After kissing a boy on the Ferris wheel, a spell is cast that leaves her without a heartbeat (though still alive) and bound to the circus until she can lure someone else to take her place. She meets another boy similarly imprisoned. “As a metaphor for first love, the carnival serves quite brilliantly, and the scenario will resonate with YA and new-adult readers,” says our reviewer.
Michael F. Stewart builds on an original premise in Ray vs the Meaning of Life with a memorable cast and offbeat humor. Raymond Saintbury’s grandma will give him Sunny Days RV Park if he can discover the meaning of life in…a month. His mentor, a devout Sikh, boils down Ray’s mission to one all-important question: “If it doesn’t matter who you are, how rich you are, where you are, or what you’re doing, then why can’t you find your meaning of life here in this very RV park?”
Our reviewer, comparing Landen Wakil’s Some Place Better Than Here to Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, says the novel “is a testament to the power of conviction, the results of perseverance, and a case study of small-town millennials from varying economic backgrounds.” This ’90s-era, love-centric novel, set in New Jersey, makes a case for the enduring entertainment value of angst-y, self-deprecating teenagers. Karen Schechner is the vice president of Kirkus Indie.