In the first half of my teenagerhood, I read a bazillion package-y teen romance novels. I didn't exactly like them, but I was trying to figure out a lot of confusing stuff and they were one of the tools I had at my disposal. There were some people writing better teen romance novels (ME Kerr, Paul Zindel, Paula Danzinger, Ursula Le Guin - really! - , and even Gordon Korman) and I was SO INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL for those stories, even when they were less than perfect, because the teenagers in them had complex feelings and were interested in things other than their love interest. My fifteen-year-old self would have been SO INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL for this book, too. At thirty-four, I found it overearnest, and a touch didactic ... but I still had a good time. Predictable, and satisfying.
Level Up, by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Thien Pham
Charming, straightforward story about embracing and transcending your dreams. American Born Chinese was so marvelously complicated - I was hoping for more of the same here, and so I don't think I could judge the book fairly on its own merits once I realized I wasn't getting something so multi-layered. Sweet with just a hint of something more.
Mercy Thompson: Homecoming, by Patricia Briggs et al
Origins! Whee. Well drawn, though one of the artists was a bit much on the stylization - too superhero for this story.
The Rise of Renegade X, by Chelsea Campbell
I've been meaning to read this book forever, and I finally did; I was spurred into picking it up when I found out the author is in my library school cohort, of all things! She is wicked funny and thoughtful in person, so I rightly guessed that her novel would be funny and thoughtful too. I was trying to explain its niftiness to a friend, and I ended up saying that more often than not, YA books feel as though they've been written for grown-ups (and teens that already think like grown-ups) or kids (and teens that still think like kids). This book is one of a rare few that feel truly aimed at a teen audience. I dug it a lot, even though I am a grown-up (who probably does not still think like a teenager all THAT often). As satisfyingly flawed, yet likable, a first-person narrator as this connoisseur of first-person narrators has seen in a while.
A Breath of Snow and Ashes, by Diana Gabaldon
The first-person narrator of this series occasionally drifts a bit too close to Mary Sue (subspecies: gorgeous when angry), and there were some other grating absurdities. But I always enjoy Gabaldon's books, and, especially at the end of a long, hot summer, I do appreciate a good time-travelling historical romance potboiler with a snowflake on the cover.
Ultimate X-Men, vol. 1: The Tomorrow People, by Mark Millar et al
Mark Millar is no Brian Michael Bendis. But I looked at subsequent volumes, and it seems as though if I stick with this title, Brian Michael Bendis will eventually show up. Also, the plots/characters are fun - it's just that most of Millar's dialogue bounces against my ears like a pair of pot lids wielded by a toddler.