Today, as part of Just Contemporary, it is my pleasure to welcome Adam from Roof Beam Reader as my guest on I Write, I Read, I Review. This week's topic is Top Ten Lists and Adam and I decided to break it down into five books we've read and loved, and five that we're totally dying to read.
I think that we made for quite an interesting pairing. Our lists were extremely different and I found that really exciting. He was also a good sport when I totally spazzed and forgot to send the links to my reviews. (How did I manage to mess that up? Just been that kind of week, I guess.) Anyway, he picked some really interesting books. Please read on. I bet you'll find something new and interesting to add to your wishlist. I know I did. :)
It is “Just Contemporary” month, hosted by Basically Amazing Books and Chicks Love Lit. This month, book bloggers are swapping posts to talk about their favorite Contemporary YA books or favorite aspects about the Contemporary YA. Genre. My partner for this week’s topic (A “Top Ten” list) is Kathy from your very own, I Write, I Read, I Review; following her lead, I have decided to pick my 5 recent favorite Contemporary YA books, as well as 5 I really want to read in the near future.
Five Contemporary YA Favorites:
by David Levithan
David Levithan is a fantastic writer. I have loved everything of his so far, and for good reason. Why? Because he writes the real. This is what Contemporary YA is all about – talking about real life things, whether they be scary, funny, painful, or exciting. This book is all about the harder part of growing up – when things don’t always go right and we’re confronted with tough choices that have no clear right or wrong answer. What do you do when a best friend’s one wish is just to die? If you love them, do you let them go? If you love them, do you force them to get help? Is it worth losing the friendship, having them hate you forever, if you save their lives? Fan-freaking-tastic.
My Review Can Be Found Here.
by Stephen Chbosky
It is difficult for me to start talking about this book without completely losing my mind and gushing all over the place. Although I am a reader of primarily literary fiction and the Classics, this book is my favorite of all-time. I read it for the first time when I was in college, and it struck a chord that resonated with me then, and ever since. I’ve since re-read the book a few times and still haven’t reviewed it, because I just can’t think of the right things to say. It’s about a teenage boy, an outsider, who has suffered two traumatic experiences and is just trying to learn how to live. It is about friendship, family, secrets, and recovery. It is unbelievably good.
by Nick Burd
This book is just sweet. It is a book quite simply about life and all its twists and turns. The story tackles family dynamics, infidelity, divorce – friendship (strains and strengths), coming-out and coming-of-age, first loves, sex, drugs, exploration, and substance abuse. The most important overarching theme, though, is finding one’s way, as a youth, through the mess and into one’s own. There’s hardly a better example of pure Contemporary YA than this one.
My Review Can Be Found Here.
by Sherman Alexie
The greatest thing about the book is not its interesting and funny characters; it’s not the simple but effective prose, nor the clever inclusion of cartoons to help tell the story. It’s not even the story itself, so honest and sad, but hopeful. The best thing about this book is that it tackles real life issues and situations from a believable perspective. Junior has to deal with so much, in such a short time. He lives with an alcoholic father, an eccentric mother, and an absent sister. He faces bullies at his old school, bullies on his reservation, and being ignored and undervalued at his new school. He watches people close to him die and struggles to learn how to grieve, when his best friend has abandoned him. Despite all this, though, he also learns to value himself. Not just a Contemporary YA book, but an important one.
My Review Can Be Found Here.
by Andrew Smith
Probably the best YA novel I’ve read in 2011. Andrew Smith’s Stick is a powerful story about love and brotherhood. Not since Brothers by Ted van Lieshout has there been such a touching, personal, and believable story about the bond between teenage brothers. Stark (Stick) and his elder brother Bosten both have their individual burdens to bear, but they also must both fight the same battle against an abusive father and an unkind, dispassionate mother. The larger themes of family, independence, fear, self-empowerment, and growth are all well-executed and come about in realistic fashion.
My Review Can Be Found Here.
*Note – I could have easily included The Giver, Where the Red Fern Grows, and many other books on this list – but I had to be selective, so to make it easier on myself I just chose my most recent favorites.
Five Contemporary YA Noves I Want to Read:
by Adam Rapp
I have read other books by Rapp, and I’m never disappointed. The synopsis for this one:
“Steve Nugent is in a facility called Burnstone Grove. It's a place for kids who are addicts, like Shannon Lynch, who can stick $1.87 in change up his nose, or for kids who have tried to commit suicide, like Silent Starla, whom Steve is getting a crush on. But Steve doesn't really fit in either group. He used to go to a gifted school. So why is he being held at Burnstone Grove? Keeping a journal, in which he recalls his confused and violent past, Steve is left to figure out who he is by examining who he was.”
by Andrew Smith
I want to read everything by this man! Stick was brilliant, and I’ve heard great things about The Marbury Lens (which is a dystopian-sci-fi type, so I did not include it here), which I own – and I also own his other work, Ghost Medicine. This one, though, I do not own yet – but the synopsis sounds fascinating and I hope to get my hands on a copy soon! Synopsis:
“Jonah and his younger brother, Simon, are on their own. They set out to find what’s left of their family, carrying between them ten dollars, a backpack full of dirty clothes, a notebook, and a stack of letters from their brother, who is serving a tour in Vietnam.
And soon into their journey, they have a ride. With a man and a beautiful girl who may be in love with Jonah. Or Simon. Or both of them.
The man is crazy. The girl is desperate. This violent ride is only just beginning. And it will leave the brothers taking cover from hard truths about loyalty, love, and survival that crash into their lives.”
by Gene Luen Yang
This one caught my eye a while back and has been on my wish list ever since. The idea of it just seems interesting. Synopsis:
“Jin Wang starts at a new school where he’s the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn’t want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he’s in love with an all-American girl.
Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee’s annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny’s reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again.
The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He’s ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there’s no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They’re going to have to find a way—if they want fix the disasters their lives have become.”
by Will Davies
This is another one that has been on my wish list for a long time. The story seems real but interesting and, most importantly, relevant - which is what Contemporary YA is all about. Synopsis:
“Jarold, aka, Jazz, is a typical sixteen year old boy. He lives at home with his two remarkably un-divorced parents, his holier-than-thou sister, and his overbearing grandmother. It's a life straight out of a TV show.
Or so it seems… The truth is that Jazz's life is anything but picture perfect. He's seeing a shrink because his mom and dad found out he's gay; his schoolmates torment him every day; and he keeps bumping into his high school teacher at a local gay bar. To make matters worse, his best friend, Al, keeps pulling him into trouble.
Jazz knows he has to keep everything together, at least through finals, so he can get away from this life once and for all. But, in his haste to leave everything behind, he comes to find out that the only thing he can't escape is himself. Witty, sardonic, and incredibly funny, My Side of the Story is the perfectly rendered portrait of a precocious, troubled teenager faced with the awkward process of growing up and coming out.”
by Jim Shepard
In the wilderness of junior high, Edwin Hanratty is at the bottom of the food chain. His teachers find him a nuisance. His fellow students consider him prey. And although his parents are not oblivious to his troubles, they can't quite bring themselves to fathom the ruthless forces that demoralize him daily.
Sharing in these schoolyard indignities is his only friend, Flake. Branded together as misfits, their fury simmers quietly in the hallways, classrooms, and at home, until an unthinkable idea offers them a spectacular and terrifying release.
From Jim Shepard, one of the most enduring and influential novelists writing today, comes an unflinching look into the heart and soul of adolescence. Tender and horrifying, prescient and moving, Project X will not easily be forgotten.
So, that’s it! My Top 5 Favorites and another 5 I want to read. What do you think of my lists? What would you include in yours – and what do you think of Contemporary YA as a genre?
Thanks, Kathy, for having me as a guest on your blog – and Happy Holidays, to all!
I think my TBR pile is in shock from a rapid influx of books. There are a lot of titles here that I've never heard of and am now totally dying to read. I also think that it is really fascinating how different our lists were. It really shows the wide array of titles available under the heading of contemporary YA and that there are books for everybody here. Which is something about this genre that is totally awesome.
I'd like to thank Adam for being a guest on my blog today. This top ten was very interesting and, for me, definitely a real eye opener. Now I'm off to update my wishlist. It's definitely missing a few titles.