As someone who loves the teen girls' section of the store (which, by the way, is not just for girls), I was a little disappointed to hear someone mention it as if those books are somehow "less" than the other books in the store. But of course, this happens all the time. The last time I went to my favorite used bookstore the woman working there found me in the YA section and told me that I was probably a little too old for those books. And I understand that because by its very nature YA is geared towards teenagers, not those in their twenties. But I hate the dismissal of the genre just like I hate the dismissal of children's books just because they're "written for children."
So, with that in mind, here are the five recommended reading books for Contemporary YA. Note that I originally had five books chosen for this list, but I realized that one of them is actually more dystopian than contemporary.
Contemporary Young Adult 101 Reading List: Recommended Reading:
Some Girls Are, by Courtney Summers - <3 ??
When Regina gets frozen out of her popular group, the girls she used to call her best friends turn on her. They ice her out, bully her emotionally, physically, and online. They turn everyone against her and, after having done the same thing to others in the past, Regina finds that she has no friends left to lean on. This book explores bullying, the dynamics of mean girls, and toxic friendships so much better than anything else I've read. It's intense, often horrifying, but insanely impactful.
Dreamland, by Sarah Dessen - ?? <3 FAM ^_^
While most of Dessen's work has a slow, nearly plot-free feeling to it, this one is different. Though it's still very character-driven, there's a very definite storyline in the relationship between Caitlin and Rogerson - the boy who seems so perfect, until suddenly he's anything but. There's a lot of exploration of family in this book, as in all of Dessen's books, but even stronger is the story of the abusive relationship Caitlin finds herself in.
Tell It to Naomi, by Daniel Ehrenhaft - LOL <3 FAM
One of the most thoroughly and wonderfully "typical teenage" books on this list, here is a story of unrequited love, friendship, and the protagonist's well-intentioned plan to win the girl of his dreams. The plan, of course, is far from perfect and the result is both awkward and hilarious at the same time.
Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler - <3 &
An incredible and well-crafted story of friendship and grief, set during a summer beach vacation. This is another very authentic teenage book, not only in the writing but also the ways that Anna and her best friend handle their grief, which is part of what makes it such a great read and example of YA.