5 YA Authors Whose Writing Inspires

As an editor, reader, and writer, I deal with a lot of words on a daily basis. To quote Friends (as we all should), sometimes my life feels like this:

Dr. Franzblau: I try not to let my work affect my personal life, but it’s hard, when you… do what I do. It’s like uh…Well, for instance, what do you do?

Rachel: I’m a waitress.

Dr. Franzblau: Ok, all right, well aren’t there times when you come home at the end of the day, and you’re just like, “if I see one more cup of coffee…”

(Bonus points to anyone who can name that episode.)

Sometimes I am just sick and tired of WORDS, especially the boring, ugly, or hateful ones that may surround us in everyday life. And yet, my livelihood and my favorite pastime both depend on letters on a page. So when I’m feeling uninspired as an editor, reader, writer, or even as a human being, I turn to some of my favorite authors, authors who I know will bring back the wonder of the English language to my word-weary mind. Below are five of the authors who inspire me to keep doing what I do, even when it means upping my eyeglass prescription to stare at yet more words.

Jesse Andrews (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Haters): I don’t think I’ve ever laughed out loud as much in a book as I did in The Haters. (Jeff Strand’s I Have a Bad Feeling about This was a close second though.) Jesse Andrews manages to make the mundane hilarious, to make you cringe in embarrassment for a character while thinking, “oh yes, I’ve done/felt that before,” and to find humor—dark or otherwise—in every aspect of life. No bad mood can stand in the face of Jesse Andrews. (Just keep in mind that you have to be okay with manically laughing in public if you’re going to read one of his books outside the house.)

“It’s like when a kitten tries to bite something to death. The kitten clearly has the cold-blooded murderous instinct of a predator, but at the same time, it’s this cute little kitten, and all you want to do is stuff it in a shoebox and shoot a video of it for grandmas to watch on YouTube.” — Jesse Andrews (Me & Earl & the Dying Girl)

Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass series, A Court of Thorns and Roses series): We all need a kick-butt heroine in our lives, and whenever I need to be reminded that I have the ability to rule the world, I turn to Sarah J. Maas. She writes incredibly strong, imperfect, and vibrant characters who, despite their extraordinary circumstances, demonstrate the champions that live inside of all of us. Her characters demand attention and wield incredible power in their complexity and believability. I can’t even count the times I’ve held up Celaena Sardothien as the gold standard for a leading lady, and I’m sure I will continue to do so. She is fierce, but she is also flawed. Just like the rest of us.

“You could rattle the stars,” she whispered. “You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.” Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1))

J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series, obviously): No list would be complete without the queen of children’s literature. I was lucky enough to grow up in the Harry Potter generation, and the series was an integral part of my childhood and my love of books. Today they hold a great deal of nostalgia for me, reminding me of the literal and transformative magic of words. But it’s not just nostalgia—each time I go back and read these books, I find something new to love. The last time I read the series, I marveled at the fantastic playfulness of her language, as though channeling the whimsy Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss. And all the while she created a world so real, so layered, that even grown-ups like me still wait for their Hogwarts letters.

“Don’t let the muggles get you down.” — J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3))

Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy, Salt to the Sea): I am a relatively new Ruta Sepetys fan, but after my first reading she utterly broke my heart. With incredible attention to detail and pitch-perfect depth of emotion, Salt to the Sea was like watching Titanic and reading If I Stay at the same time, in the best possible way. Ruta Sepetys so perfectly captures the human desire to live—to survive, but to do so with hope and beauty even in the face of suffering. Her writing is hauntingly powerful, so much so that I couldn’t get the book out of my head for weeks (and okay, I still can’t). After reading Salt to the Sea, I did three things in quick succession. 1. Cried in front of a room full of people. 2. Decided that humans are terrible and we must give the planet over to the cats. 3. Bought the rest of her books.

“‘Per aspera ad astra, Papa,’ I whispered. Through hardship to the stars.” — Ruta Sepetys (Salt to the Sea)

Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Strange the Dreamer): Hands down, the most gorgeous writing in the universe. Yes, I said it. Laini Taylor’s writing is, in a word, spellbinding. Her stories are so lush, so striking, that I set aside whole days to simply read her books so nothing will tear me away. Nowhere else have I found language that finds the balance of inventive, beautiful, and unique, while still feeling so natural and readable. Her metaphors and similes are never cliche, and she brings words together to create entirely new meanings. I can’t imagine the process of finding the perfect word for every situation, and yet she does it. I bet the only person who could describe her own writing properly would be Laini Taylor herself. Suffice to say: I’m a fangirl.

“I am one of billions. I am stardust gathered fleetingly into form. I will be ungathered. The stardust will go on to be other things someday and I will be free.” — Laini Taylor (Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #2))

These are just a handful of the authors who inspire me, and don’t even scratch the surface of the many incredibly talented writers out there. But I recommend reading them all, if you haven’t already, the next time you need a bit of magic in your words.

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