Contemporary books are usually labelled ‘issues’ books, which can be limiting and judgmental. Young people have an opportunity to view these concerns through the lens of fiction, and figure out their own responses. It also allows kids to see themselves in books, and hopefully work out they’re not alone. On the other hand, even if these problems are not theirs, the fact they’re reading about them will allow them to develop compassionate and empathy for others who might be experiencing such difficulties. Trust me, these types of books are win|win. This is the broadest of my contemporary categories, and many books can be slotted here. Two others I read that I want to also mention are Michael Ruben’s The Bad Decisions Playlist (August 2016) and Tara Eglington’s My best friend is a goddess (October 2016). Both offer fresh and clever perspectives on coming-of-age themes, and personal growth.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (April 2016)
Narrated by four young people, set in Alaska in 1970, this book is both quirky and serious. They have all suffered various forms and degrees of parental abuse, and while that is shocking and traumatic, the four step up to rescue their siblings, their friends, and their situations, through the course of the story and ultimately rescue themselves. It’s a redemptive novel, full of resilience and hope and compassion.
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis (September 2016)
This is an angry book, shouting its head off about rape culture specifically, and the treatment of women in general. Alex is a character born of rage and despair. Her older sister, murdered, is the catalyst for Alex’s wild and extreme behaviour. But when the deeds of young men are explained the way they are here, it’s not hard to want to cheer Alex on, and secretly wish for her revenge. Oh it’s a dangerous book, full of dangerous ideas. And so much anger!!
Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (October 2o16)
After All the bright things, there’s been a lot of expectation placed on this author. It lived up to all of that, mostly because while dealing with very serious issues (face blindness, and being extremely over weight), it also celebrates these teenagers for trying to live their best lives. Libby and Jack are flawed characters, but they are also a product of external forces–the death of Libby’s mum, and Jack’s inability to recognise faces. It’s a brave novel, fun of realistic circumstances, resilient people, and a inspiring resolution.
My almost last post of the year fittingly will cover those series which concluded. I have six favourite ones!