With the recent chatter about “New Adult” literature finally subsiding and the category firmly established, at least in the publishing biz, I thought it would be a good time to start exploring. As it turns out, there are a great many memoirs these days being published by authors in their 20s. Will they cross over to a teen market? Only time will tell, but here are a few titles that certainly have plenty of appeal, especially for older teens.
Relish by Lucy Knisley has been receiving tons of praise, and it is by no means unwarranted as this graphic memoir is completely and utterly charming from start to finish. As the daughter of a chef and a serious gourmet, Knisley’s very essence seems to be wrapped up in food and her memories of childhood are completely intertwined with cooking and eating. Knisley tells her story with humor and warmth, and the brightly colored panels echo the joyous tone of the book. The art is simple but effective in conveying not only Knisley’s story but also the recipes she has included. With both graphic novels and cooking very popular with teens, this one will be an easy sell, especially for readers looking for a respite from the dark and dreary dystopian trend.
Published in 2011, Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg’s To Timbuktu: Nine Countries, Two People, One True Story is the ultimate book for budding teen travelers. The couple met in Morocco and spent their next two years traveling the globe, teaching English, writing, drawing, and making friends. They also had to navigate growing up and figuring out how to be in a relationship; no small feat when you are suffering from food poisoning in a third-world country. Scieska’s narrative is funny and insightful, and Weinberg’s sketchy illustrations nicely capture the details of the countries through which they lived and traveled. Readers will be captivated by the trials of the two very likable protagonists as they deal with the daily challenges that come with living in China and Mali.
If you think you are having a bad day, be thankful you aren’t Ashok Rajamani. Bored and waiting for his brother’s wedding to start, he decided to kill some time via “self love,” only to experience a massive brain bleed upon ejaculation. The Day My Brain Exploded chronicles his recovery and the difficulties he faced while adjusting to permanent injuries like partial blindness. Rajamani doesn’t hold anything back in his memoir; his honesty is commendable as it frequently shows him in a rather unflattering light. Readers who enjoy raw and unflinching journeys of self-discovery will appreciate his “no-holds-barred” writing style, which is supplemented by crude humor and copious f-bombs.
I’ll admit that this last one is a bit of a wild card. Mumbai New York Scranton follows Tamara Shopsin, a young writer, illustrator and cook, as she and her husband travel through India before returning home to New York and Scranton, PA. What starts out as a pithy, lighthearted travelogue suddenly becomes a deadly serious memoir when doctors find a tumor in Shopsin’s brain. The narrative has the flow of a journal and is supplemented with photos and illustrations, many of which Shopsin created in collaboration with her husband. While I loved this book way more than I anticipated, I have to admit this is not for everyone. Shopsin has an unusual mind, and while her narrative is filled with keen observations about culture, life, and family, her point is not always immediately evident and the quirky style may confound readers used to a more linear narrative. Art students are going to love it.
Don’t forget, YALSA’s Alex Award committee is always looking for adult titles with special appeal for teens. If you have read a book published in 2013 for adults (“new” or otherwise!), please put it forward as a field suggestion for the committee to consider.
— Summer Hayes, currently reading Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley