Tuesday, July 26, 2011

top ten tuesday: Books Tackling "Tough" Issues

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

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.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • 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!


  1. this is a little bit depressing )=
    some people are actually going through this. )'=

  2. I love the books on this list, most I Have read but a few Ive actually got on my TBR Pile :)
    Old Follower

  3. My review of A Monster Calls just posted today on my blog. I LOVED that book! Everyone should read it! I bawled like a baby as well!

    Split is another great one! I haven't seen it make any of these lists yet, but it does a great way of tackling domestic abuse, just like you said!

    Great list of books!

  4. Yay! I'm so glad you did it!

    Great choices. I'd never heard of A Monster Calls before and most of them I haven't read so off to the "to-read" list they went.

    I picked Wintergirls too, it seems everyone is. Laurie Halse Anderson certainly knows how to pick the tough issues and always does it with such awesome flare and prose.

  5. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. OH MY GOGGLES. *dies* Seriously, the most epic classic ever.

  6. Thirteen reasons why would have been a great addition :) ADORE ballads!!

  7. Bitter End is such an amazing book! Definitely should be in this list, it's a hard read.

  8. The only problem I had with Wintergirls is that it copied the voice from Speak.

    But this is a great list, filled with books I need to make must reads. You've certainly succeeded in making me realize I seem to avoid issue books. Now I'm wondering why. What's my issue. LOL

  9. I have enjoyed the list, I consider them sad emotional reads.

    My Top Ten


  10. I'll add Thirteen Reasons Why. That book made me wish I was back in high school and apply the message of the book there. But I think it applies to all ages anyways. I'm really interested in Beauty Queens now. Hmm. Oh, and somehow I was following you from an old account, even though I have your blog bookmarked, but following you now.

  11. We have Speak and Wintergirls in common. I really need to get Beauty Queens; it has been on my TBR list for awhile.

    Reading Lark's Top 10

  12. Brilliant list! We concur on a lot of them, Audrey :)

  13. I am ashamed to say that I have only read one of these books. They are all on my wishlist though especially Ballards of Suburbia. I want want want that book!

  14. same as nic~ i need to read ballads.

    love your choices here. SPLIT <3

  15. I'm always curious as to why so many YA books are so bleak....Doesn't anyone want to read some silly YA?

    Here's my Top Ten Books Tackling Tough Issues. And don't forget to enter my July giveaway!

  16. I love the diversity in this list. :) I've already read a few on this list, but the others that I haven't read I really, reallyyy want to read.

  17. This is a fantastic list! I really enjoyed the ones you included that I've read, and am happy you brought the others to my attention.

    I think the trickiest part for me, if I were to compile a list like this, would be determining what a book must be to be an "issue book". It seems to me that a majority of books tackle serious issues - particularly contemporary, because that's how they get all the conflict without bombs and gunfire. You could call SAVING FRANCESCA an issue book because it deals with depression. Or REVOLUTION, because it deals with guilt. Or THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. See? It would be so tough for me to narrow it down! :)

  18. Oooh! GREAT list! I LOVE SO many of the books you've picked here!! And the ones I haven't read, just got pushed up my list! :) I still have no idea why I didn't do this TTT... It's SO right up my alley...


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