When Laura gave me an idea to do this TTT, I wasn’t sure if I could pick just ten. I love contemporary fiction that tackles tough issues, so naturally I had a whole list in my head, I only had trouble choosing ten. The thing about this topic is that the point isn’t just to choose the most gruesome ten books that deal with cultural and social issues, or else the whole list will just be different variations of Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. I think it’s important for this list to contain books that do have an angle for YA and for teens that offers something as opposed to just a cringing, gut-punching reading experience.
In no particular order:
Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert
- The hard-hitting issues of drug abuse and self-injury aren’t glossed over in this book, everything is thundering in your head as you read. It’s about the broken homes and the bad mistakes and memories you can’t to forget. It’s about friends and first love and family, and it really is an amazing book.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
- Conor has to watch his mother suffering from cancer and has to deal with what that means and how it will affect him. It’s a story of the dread surrounding death and the grief and pain and a million other universal feelings that I can’t even try to imagine. And I bawled like a baby.
Bitter End by Jennifer Brown (and Dreamland by Sarah Dessen)
- In my review of Bitter End, I’ll compare it to Dreamland because I think the two are quite similar. Both deal with abusive relationships in an up-front gut-wrenching kind of way and it’s when I read books like this that I feel “if more people read this, perhaps it would occur less”. I’m not sure if it helps that I wanted to buy a shotgun and shoot her jerkwad (which isn’t even a bad enough insult) boyfriend. Jennifer Brown really explores this issue and the emotional side of it really well.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch. A must read.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
- In a slightly depressing list, I thought this book fit perfectly. It’s loud and hilarious, but more importantly, Libba Bray tackles societal expectations and modern culture and puts it into a book, satirizes it, and the end result is just brilliant. It doesn't just target pop culture, but it also deals with the things like appearance and beauty in society. Totally recommend this book.
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
- This isn’t really an issue-issue book since our protagonist is the bully-turned-victim-ish type character who is the furthest from stereotypical that I could ever imagine. This book deals with high school culture and Summers isn’t scared of packing punches, physically and metaphorically. Bullying escalates as ex-best friends seek revenge all amidst some crazy secrets.
- There really isn’t a hidden message or a magic ending to this in-your-face book about eating disorders. It’s written with the type of prose that convinces me that I can’t stand a chance, the emotions and the evocative style of the book makes it memorable and brings a serious matter onto the discussion table.
Willow by Julia Hoban
- I think this was one of the more graphic but still emotionally draining reads about self-injury. I read this a few years ago but every time I see it, I still remember how the writing sucked me into a dark world. I didn’t think this was the perfect book, but there’s aspects of it that still stick out to me and it immediately came to mind when I was considering titles.
Split by Swati Avasthi
- I have mentioned this book countless times this past month, but trust me, it’s so good! Jace and Christians are spectators, and then the sufferer of domestic abuse, and I thought the author handled it really well. There are scenes in this book are so heartbreaking, but through this, the brothers are able to work past it and carry on with their lives.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
- One of the books I’d consider a YA must-read and remains a favourite of mine, it deals with the aftermath of rape and it’s done really well. Melinda has retreated into her own world and through her cynical and sarcastic remarks on high school and her life, and eventually the confrontations with Andy-beast. The writing and characterization needed to pull this off was just amazing.
So.. tough to choose just 10. Which books do you think I missed? There's so many worthy ones out there (honourable mention: Crank by Ellen Hopkins), I'd love to hear what you think belongs on this list!