The theme this week is "Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who _____ (are musically inclined, have lost someone, have depression, who grow up poor, etc.)" and I chose characters who don't live in the UK/US... Literally because it was the first thing I thought of, and because most YA books seem to be set in the US or the UK, so these are some of my favourites that aren't.
These aren't in order of preference, they're just in -- well, whatever order I think of them. I tried to choose a variety of genres (except fantasy, to keep them as grounded in reality as possible -- there's one exception on the list, I think).
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Lithuania) - It's not just set in Lithuania, but the characters are Lithuanian and it shows a side of the war we rarely get to see and it's beautiful and heartbreaking and it made me want to visit Lithuania (and Estonia and Latvia) even more than I already did.
2. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons (Russia) - This is set during the siege of Leningrad, something I didn't know too much about. It's a romance but it shows really well what the siege would've been like for people living there too. It's a big book but it's worth reading.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan) - I wish I knew more people that had read this. I haven't been able to find a book about Afghanistan that I love more than this. It has two awesome Muslim women as its main characters and it has love and family and friendship and it shows Afghanistan in a very real way because we're seeing it through the eyes of people that call it home. It also explains really well the impact that the Taliban had on the country and its people.
4. Stolen by Lucy Christopher (Australia) - Melina Marchetta's books and books by Cath Crowley get an honourable mention for Australian YA too. Stolen is about a girl who gets kidnapped, the book is written like a letter to her kidnapper and it's awesome. Whenever I think of the book, it always reminds me of that hot summer day feeling and you can feel the heat of the sun on your back, it's odd, I don't often associate those kinds of feelings with books (more songs or scents) but this one was different.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Germany) - This is the odd one out on the list, because it's narrated by death, but even in spite of that the story still feels more realistic than fantasy. It's one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking books I've ever read. And, I think it's the only book about world war 2 that I've read that shows the German perspective, and not soldiers, just regular people.
6. Exile by Jakob Ejersbo (Tanzania) - I've not seen many people talk about this one. It's by a Danish author who died before it was published. The main character is an expatriate girl living in Tanzania, attending an international school -- so it's like, she's an outsider but not in the same way a tourist would be because she lives there. The book was weird, I didn't like the ending but up until that point I sort of loved it, it was really gritty and raw.
Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein (Ethiopia) - This one is told from two perspectives. One of them is a white American girl, the other is her adopted brother (the son of her mothers best friend) who is half African-American and half Ethiopian. They move to Ethiopia as children and it follows their live there. I was completely ignorant about the war between Ethiopia and Italy until I read this book.
8. Hostage Three by Nick Lake (Somalia) - This one is about Somali pirates, told from the perspective of a British girl but it's the Somali part that made me love it and the way it made me understand the Somalian perspective a bit more than I did before. It doesn't paint them as the bad guys or even the good guys, it just shows them in a very real human way.
As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka (Finland) - I don't remember much about this book except that I enjoyed it and that the setting was one of the things I loved most about it. It gave it such a - foreign sort of atmosphere and I loved that.
10. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Mexico) - This is one of my favourite books, and the setting and culture is one of the things I adored about it. It's a beautiful story and...well, just read it an see.
Honourable mention: Girl at War by Sara Novic (Croatia) - It's about the Croatian side of the Yugoslav Wars and it's such an excellent book. Heartbreaking, but excellent. The only reason it wasn't included on the main list is because it's not released until May 21st (UK) and I didn't finish reading it until after I'd written this.
If you know of any others that you'd recommend, let me know?