Young Adult Fiction Review
By Melissa Chaiken | Section Editor
There are many terrific reads available for teens right now. The Young Adult (YA) market has grown a great deal in the past several years and the quality of the material has only seemed to improve. No one is more excited about this than me!
As an avid reader and the mother of two teenagers, this development has provided me with even more books to enjoy and put on my “to read” list. Yes, that’s right, I read YA fiction. Before you jump to any conclusions about my intellect, or lack thereof, you should check out some YA fiction for yourself.
There is some excellent writing going on out there that is directed at teens. That is wonderful because good writing and interesting stories encourage teens to read. Parents will also enjoy many of these YA novels for a number of reasons: First, many are emotionally deep, thoroughly entertaining and well written. Second, it will give you and your teen something in common and possibly something to talk about. Third, many of these books are being made into movies that you and your teen could go see together – or watch at home if your teen is mortified at being seen in public with you! It could even become a family book club if you get all of your kids and spouses/significant others involved.
Here is a sampling of some of the amazing choices available in YA fiction today:
Jennifer Niven’s gripping novel All the Bright Places takes us into the dark realm of teen depression. Seventeen-year-old Theo is fascinated with death and the many ways he could end his own life. His parents’ divorce and his father’s abandonment of him and his sisters for a new family have left him floundering. His classmate Violet is desperate to graduate and leave their small Indiana town to escape the inconsolable grief caused by her sister’s recent death in a car crash for which she feels responsible. The two high school seniors meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school one afternoon, and their peers assume that it is Violet who saves Theo from jumping. After all, Violet is the pretty and popular cheerleader girlfriend of the star football player, and Theo is known as “Theodore Freak”. As the two are paired on a school project to discover the natural wonders of their state, the discoveries the duo uncover about themselves are even more wondrous. This is an unlikely love story about a pair of broken teenagers who experience passion, joy and triumph while confronting their emotional darkness. Niven’s skillful writing manages to address the issue of mental illness in a memorable and honest way, all the while with an edge of humor. All the Bright Places is ultimately about the pain of loss and learning to move forward. I challenge you to close this book with a dry eye.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is the tale of fraternal twins Jude (female) and Noah (male). The story is told from each of their perspectives. Noah’s chapters tell of the twins’ lives from a thirteen year old perspective, while Jude’s narrations occur at age sixteen. The twins are inseparable until they hit puberty and begin discovering who they are. Noah struggles with his sexual orientation, and the twins find themselves not only competing for a spot at an exclusive art school and parental affections but also for the love of the boy next door. Jude and Noah grow apart to the point of estrangement while experiencing their own personal drama as well as shared family tragedies. Jandy Nelson’s writing is captivating; the imagery she creates is beautiful and vibrant. This story will make your belly ache from laughter and your heart ache with sadness as Jude and Noah find their way back to each other.
We Were Liars written by E. Lockhart is full of suspense, dysfunctional family drama and a little romance. The four “Liars” are teenage cousins Cadence, Johnny and Mirren and their long-time friend, Gat. This crew has spent every summer together since they were eight years old on their family’s private island off the coast of Massachusetts. The Liars spend their days in idyllic bliss swimming in the ocean, having rooftop picnics and playing marathon Scrabble games while the adult sisters clamor for their elderly father’s attention and scheme to be the number one heiress.
During the Liars’ fifteenth summer Cadence suffers a severe accident, the details of which she cannot recall. For the next two years she endures debilitating migraines and spends her time trying to remember what happened on that fateful day. As the story draws to a close we learn the shocking truth about Cadence’s injury and the devastating aftermath of the choices made by the Liars. The ending is a jaw dropper.
Are you in a book club? Do you have any tips for our readers?
Share your thoughts with us by email at melissa@GoodLifeFamilyMag.com.