Thursday, November 25, 2010

Contemporary YA Lit 101 (The Recommended List)

Last week I introduced my posts on Contemporary YA Lit 101, sharing the fifteen contemporary YA books I consider to be "required reading" for the genre. I really love this idea of bringing together all the best of the genre (or of any genre that you're passionate about). A few days ago I saw a girl in my Lit class reading The Hunger Games and when I asked her about it she said she really liked the book but had hesitated buying it (even though her friend recommended it) because it was in the "teen girls' section" of the bookstore.

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.


  1. I loved CUTB, and can't wait to read SGA.
    I ony read one Dessen book, which I didn't particularly like, but I know I have to read a few more of her books, before I say her work is not for me.
    I'd never heard of TITN :)
    And I won TBS in a giveaway last year, but I never got the book :( I hear it's good, though.

    And you know what I say when people look at me funny because I'm reading teen books (although, I am a teen, being 18; people think that come that age you have to start reading more "mature books")?
    I tell them what I'm reading. Explain to them the plot and the story beneath he book. Its moral. I read Beautiful earlier this year, and my mum saw me reading it, and said, "Why don't you do something other than reading? You read ALL the time! It's all Twilight with you!" -She thinks Twilight is the only book I've ever read and will ever read, just because she doesn't remember the titles of all the other books I've read-. So I sat down and talked to her about it. She couldn't believe I was reading a book like it, and didn't say anything more.

    Whenever I talk to people abou the true message of books, not if it's about some kids waving wands and saving the world, but about what it really talks about, like love and friendship and courage, they just don't have anything to say. They can't find the words. And that's how I know that I've changed a little the way they see "teen books".

  2. It really bothers me that a worker in a book store told you you were too old for the YA section. That's not in her job description, and I feel like she was kind of shaming you. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

    I'm 25, and I read a lot of YA. I never leave my apartment without a book, and very often, the book is a YA title. I read at the gym, in restaurants, and at the movie theater (during those stupid ads but before the trailers). Sometimes I feel a little embarrassed because the cover is bright and clearly a YA novel, but I always try to quell that feeling and enjoy the book. I'm glad that there are other people like me who love YA so fiercely.

    Rant over.

    Twenty Boy Summer is the best book I've read all year. I loved it so hard and it affected me so profoundly. I seriously can't say enough good things about it.

  3. Ella Press I try to do that a lot, too, but it doesn't always work. Sometimes people are still like "yeah... but there are adult books that are just as good and aren't written for kids." Luckily my parents don't have that attitude... or if they do I just ignore them about it. haha. I give my dad a lot of YA/MG books to read but I don't tell him that they're not "grown up" books. heehee. And if you can find any of these books in your country, I really recommend reading them. SO GOOD!!!

    Clementine Bojangles Well, it's a used "friends of the library" bookstore so the people who work there are volunteers. I think she was just trying to be helpful, but it was still kind of annoying like OH I SHOULD MOVE OUT OF THIS SECTION even though that was where I wanted to be. & TBS is AMAZING. I loved your review of it.