Four books (two novels and two collections of essays) for the intelligent, well-read teenager or young adult looking for a challenge:
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
A brilliant exploration of intelligence, art, identity, parenthood, and Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, DeWitt’s debut tells the story of Ludo, the young genius and Sibylla, his almost as smart mother is a carnival of styles and ideas. The perfect book everyone accused of being too smart for their own good.
How to Set a Fire & Why by Jesse Ball
Lucia is your new favorite character. Her father is dead, her mother is catatonic, her aunt is just barely scraping by, and she is far too smart for her own damn good. A sharp wit, an aversion to bullshit, and completely confident in herself, she is the person we wish we were as teenagers. Though Lucia is a teenager, she sometimes breaks through the adolescent doldrums to reach profoundly human insights and images. Perfect for the weird kids.
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
Jamison asks one question over and over in The Empathy Exams. She asks it of young doctors, ultrarunners, John Agee, Joan Didion, a man who punched her, a man in jail, a woman who believes fibers grow out of her skin. She asks them all, herself, and you: how can we be people with each other? Through her brilliant essays, equal parts head and heart, she leads us closer to answering her own impossible question.
Too Much & Not in the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose
From Durga Chew-Bose, "one of our most gifted, insightful essayists and critics" (Nylon), comes "a warmly considered meld of criticism and memoir" (New Yorker), a lyrical and piercingly insightful debut collection of essays about identity and culture.