Beyond the Buzz: Reading Recommendations from Kari Olson


Welcome to the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series, where I’m asking YA & kidlit librarians as well as book bloggers to share books they think deserve more attention. Read on to see what titles blogger Kari Olson from A Good Addiction wants to share with us today…

Guest post by Kari Olson

When I heard Nova was doing this series, I jumped on it. I love recommending books, and I oftentimes do feel like much of what I fall in love with are things not many other people are reading, much less have heard about. While there are a ton of books I’ve liked, even loved, the ones I really push on people are the ones that have changed me. The ones that have made me step back and think about things, that have challenged my way of thinking and pushed me beyond my comfort zone.

I’m a big fan of lists, and while I want everyone to read these books, I don’t want to give away the bigger elements of them, or explain how I saw the characters grow and change. I want people to go into it as innocently as I did, for the full impact. So here’s my top picks of books I think deserve more reads, with the highlights of what made me fall head over heels for them.

FreefallFreefall by Mindi Scott

Freefall was a favorite of 2010, and is still a favorite of mine. I adore Seth, and kind of claim to be his biggest fan. But what got me with this book is how almost normal it is. Yes, Seth is dealing with losing his best friend, but more than anything, he is just trying to figure life out. From his family situation, to his past with girls, to Rosetta, the girl who is really giving him reason to want to change, there is just something so endearing about him and what he goes through.

I SwearI Swear by Lane Davis

Honestly, this is one of the best bullying books I’ve read. I loved the characters, I hated them. I felt so much with this one. And couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. This isn’t a book where everyone walks away happy, nor is it one that will necessarily leave the reader completely happy, but oh, man, the journey is so worth it and this one will definitely challenge you.

LeverageLeverage by Joshua C. Cohen

This is the other book that sits in the best bullying books category. This one is so intense, and gritty, and definitely not for everyone. It’s truly gutting at times. But it is honestly one of the single most powerful and impacting books I have ever read—a book split in perspective between two boys who completely stand out as narrators.

Like MandarinLike Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard

Apart from the stunning writing, what got me with this book was how intense the relationship is between Grace and Mandarin. What also got me was how it took me about two days after I finished to realize… there’s no romance in this one. Yeah, Mandarin has guys. But there isn’t a love interest, for her or Grace. Because there doesn’t need to be one. Grace experiences so much, goes through so much, without a boy needing to drive it.

Invincible SummerInvincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

This one kind of broke me, had me sobbing, and left me thinking about it for weeks. The voice is absolutely perfect in this one, and especially the way Chase changes not only during the book, but from one summer to the next, both just growing up and because of what’s going on.

CompromisedCompromised by Heidi Ayarbe

Whenever you drive by homeless people, even teens, on the street, what is your thought? Drugs? Laziness? Neither of those is the case for Maya, or the allies she finds along the way. This book is not an easy or light read. There is nothing held back in this one, and Maya is such a great character, torn between anger and love, courage and fear. Even better, the changes Maya and the others go through isn’t just because they have to grow up fast living on the streets, but because they still have what led them there to contend with.

Take Me ThereTake Me There by Carolee Dean

This is another book that is impossible to explain why I like it without giving away spoilers. The ending is one of the single most impacting, memorable ones I’ve ever read. The story has a drive and push to it that kept me gripped, and even over two years later, I still remember a ton of scenes and specifics of this book. With a light romantic element mixed into bigger family and friend elements, this one has just enough easy moments to relieve you in all the rest of what’s going on.

Have you read and loved these books? Chime in and tell us what you think in the comments! 

Headshot with TobyKari Olson is a YA writer represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Larsen Pomada, and has been fangirling about books at A Good Addiction since 2009. She also reviews at and Brazen Reads, and formerly The {Teen} Book Scene. She’s the owner of a stubborn beagle/basset mix named Toby, and is a fan of all things boys, abs, and coffee. She lives in Texas and works in medicine.


Want more in the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series?

Here are the posts in the series so far:

  • YA/middle-school librarian Jennifer Hubert Swan recommends Better Than Running at Night and Every Time a Rainbow Dies
  • YA librarian Kelly Jensen recommends a whole host of books including Sorta Like a Rock StarFirst Day on EarthFrost, and more
  • Youth services librarian Liz Burns recommends The President’s Daughter, Flora Segunda, and All Unquiet Things
  • YA librarian Angie Manfredi recommends Rats Saw God
  • YA librarian Abby Johnson recommends the top five books she read this year: The Berlin Boxing Club; Blizzard of Glass; Dogtag Summer; Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have; and A Girl Named Faithful Plum 
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