The Essentials: Contemporary YA
By Jessica on August 30th, 2011
There are books; and then there are the Essentials. Those are the books that typify their genre. Librarians, and book lovers alike, all have their opinions. Invariably someone will ask: “If I was going to read one [insert a genre of book here] book, which should it be?” Here at OOM, we decided to attempt to answer that question.
Young Adult (YA) fiction seems to be teeming with fantasy. Werewolves, vampires, fairies, alternate universes and those with superpowers seem to reign. But what about high school? Contemporary YA fiction deals with issues that everyone faces (or faced) as they are (or were) growing up. Yes, everyone’s experiences are individual but some are universal; asking a person (or wanting to get asked) out on a date, passing classes, getting into college, trying to be cool, dealing with “unreasonable” parents. We’ve all been there. So have the people in these books.
So today, we attempt to answer the question: If I was going to read one Contemporary YA book, which should it be?”
Morgan: I worry that contemporary YA gets a bad rap — it doesn’t have any crazy creatures or fantastic time periods of otherwordly occurrences. But that’s exactly why I love reading it — because it’s real. My essential for contemporary YA is Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers. It takes place in a modern-day high school and features characters I knew (or was!) back then…and it’s utterly captivating to the point that my stomach was in knots at certain parts, and there were scenes I would immediately re-read because they were so, so good. All of Courtney’s books are enthralling and exciting — but most of all, real
Dante: I don’t read YA, really. But I did seek out the book Chuck Dugan is AWOL: A Novel with Maps when it came out. I was interested in it because it was written and illustrated by Eric Chase Anderson, brother of filmmaker Wes. It’s a really fun book. It can get a little to whimsical, but I’ll take too much whimsy over an overload of boredom in a book any day!
Kristen: Searching for David’s Heart by Cherie Bennett was the first book I read that dealt with big emotional issues (a young death, complicated romance, etc.) in such a real way. Between an awesome and complicated female protagonist and a plotline that tugs at the heart, I think it’s the perfect YA book!
Michael: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. This book has the ups and downs of high school dating in a small town with a few unique twists. However different this high school is from the reader’s reality, they’ll still identify with the search for that special someone and the amazing support of friends along the way.
Jessica: Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto by Eric Luper. I love YA with boys as the protagonists. This is a story of fathers and sons, love, loss, podcasts, friends, golf, finding out who you are, and the inability to cook. It was a little Hughes-esque and I loved that about the book.
Among those individual books, let us please not forget those suggestions that start with “Anything by…” For contemporary YA, please don’t forget anything written by the incomparable Judy Blume. She is, as Morgan rightly pointed out, the mother of contemporary YA fiction. The other author I would be remiss for not mentioning is Sarah Dessen. Her books too are quintessential contemporary YA and should not be missed.
So those are our suggestions for Contemporary YA. Now I know…we missed some. This is where you come in. Leave us a comment and tell us which is your essential contemporary YA read!