This person is a good friend of mine from high school with whom I share many of the same reading interests. Like me, she primarily reads literary fiction and YA crossovers, and we often borrow from each other’s book collections. When I asked for a few of her favorite authors or titles, she immediately said Jack Kerouac. She loves anything that deals with the 1950s time period, the Beatniks, etc. So I started with that.
Oddly enough, Jack Kerouac doesn’t show up on RA Online at all. So I turned to NoveList and searched for read-alikes for her favorite of his titles, On the Road. Interestingly, I quickly found a fiction title called The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean, by Jack Dann. I laughed out loud at this, because my friend has always been obsessed with James Dean. It’s basically a speculative story about what might have happened had James Dean survived his fatal car crash. My friend was excited with how perfect it seemed for her, and I marveled at how lucky I was to find it so quickly.
I asked if she was interested in finding another title based on some of her other interests. She said that she has noticed that lately she gravitates toward science fiction and fantasy, but that she isn’t into the hardcore stuff. She looks for books that feature complicated situations she can relate to that are made more interesting by the sci-fi/fantasy frame. It sounded to me like she prefers books in which the sci-fi/fantasy elements are not the main focus, but rather complement the main plot. She admitted to being a part of the vampire bandwagon, and named Stephenie Meyer and Laurell K. Hamilton as two of her favorites. Like me, she loves YA novels, and when I asked what about YA she personally enjoyed, she commented that so many YA books are incredibly well-written—some even better than adult books, and that she is still young enough to relate to the young characters featured in such books. She named Libba Bray as one of her favorite recent YA authors.
I started by searching for Bray in NoveList, but I wasn’t coming up with anything that appealed to my friend. Because of our tendency to enjoy the same YA books, I decided that in this case, it was appropriate to use my personal experiences to suggest some read-alikes. I asked if she had heard about Libba Bray’s new title, Going Bovine, which I myself have sought but not yet procured. She hadn’t known about the book, so I added it to her list. I had just finished reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, which blew me away; feeling that my friend would appreciate the science fiction aspects and the compelling story, I felt comfortable suggesting it to her. I also suggested Orson Scott Card and Neil Gaiman as two more excellent science fiction and fantasy authors.
She admitted to being an extremely slow reader, so I decided to stop there. I offered to look for the books in her local library, but she told me she wouldn't have time to go get them for a while anyway, so she wanted to wait on that. This was her final list:
The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean by Jack Dann
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Orson Scott Card
RA Online (attempted)
She told me she's been working and traveling a lot lately, so she hasn't gotten around to reading any of the books I suggested. She also wants to finish her Jasper Fforde book she's been reading for a month or so, and then she plans to look at the library or bookstore for the James Dean book.