The Magicians by Lev Grossman
is a really unique story. It's sort of a cross between Harry Potter and Narnia, but for adults. (This is not a YA book, but an actual adult novel, FYI.) The main character, Quentin, is bored and hates his life, but is obsessed with a fiction series of books about a magical world called Fillory. (Think Narnia -- no, seriously. Rumor says that it originally WAS Narnia, but Grossman had to change it for copyright reasons.)
Anyway, at the end of his high school career, Quentin discovers that magic is real when he's drafted to go to a magical college. But, it isn't quite what he expects and he continues to be depressed and angry. (This definitely is no Hogwarts, the kids all sleep around, they're drunk all the time, one guy takes speed in order to stay on top of his homework, etc.) Quentin and his buddies graduate but remain unhappy.
THEN. They discover that Fillory? Is real. They discover how to visit the land and expect THAT to be the answer to all their problems. It really, really isn't. More stuff happens that I don't want to spoil for you. I was disappointed with the ultimate ending of the book, but it's a really unique story overall, the characters are complex, and it has stuck with me for a very long time.
The 2010 Newbery Award winner is When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
. It’s a super short book, just 200 pages. SO GOOD. I don’t even want to tell you about it because everything is a spoiler. It’s just a really unique story about a girl who starts receiving notes from someone in the future.
This is an amazing story because EVERY DETAIL is important. Things you think just are being mentioned in passing turn out to be wholly relevant. The way the author ties everything together is incredible. Also, the way the climactic scene is structured (differently from the rest of the book), builds such incredible tension. It was like I actually could SEE the story coming together line by line. Hard to explain, but you will know exactly what I’m talking about when you get to that part.
I admit I had the tiniest bit of trouble getting into the book at first. But stick with it because once I was sucked in, the story is AMAZING. I can’t quit thinking about it!
As a side note, the novel A Wrinkle in Time (also a Newbery winner!) plays a large part in the story. I was doing a little research on it and read an interview with Madeleine L'Engle, who mentioned that A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times before someone finally agreed to publish it. Amazing, huh?
I have more to rec, but am out of time. Go read these two, I’ll be back. :)