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Realistically Speaking! Some New Realistic YA Fiction for Your Fall Reading

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn AcademyWell, I never thought I’d say this (and I will only admit this to you, Hubbers), but I’m a little burned out on comics right now.  What?!  I know, right?!  Don’t get me wrong, I still love comics, but as the old saying goes too much of a good thing is too much (that is the saying, right?).  So, anyways, I have just been reading so many fiction and nonfiction comics lately that one day a few weeks ago, I put down my copy of Batman: Zero Year/Secret City (and, don’t worry, Batman, you didn’t turn me off of comics – you’re perfect just the way you are) and picked up some of the galleys I had brought home from ALA in June.  I just wanted something a little different than my usual to curl up with on these cold October nights (the best month of the year, if you ask me!).

Luckily for me, and you, dear readers, there is some unbelievably great realistic teen fiction that has been or will be released that book lovers will absolutely swoon over. From feminism to a 1990s semi-love story to a gerbil named Baconnaise and more interrobangs than you can handle (more on that in a sec!), if you like stories of teens being teens, make sure to check out all of these fun and fantastic reads for the fall. Now normally, you know we always start with Batman, but this time, let’s start with Baconnaise!

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer:  You guys.  So, for most of the time I’ve been a Teen Librarian, I’ve had one and only one favorite teen book.  Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King has always had my heart – no runners up; no top five list.  But, now, there is a serious contender for #1 teen book in my heart, and it’s this new one by first time author, Kate Hattemer.  TVPoSA (I wanted to abbreviate the title, so this is it!) tells the story of Ethan and his group of friends who attend Selwyn Academy, a performing arts school in Minnesota.  Much to the chagrin of Ethan and his friends – Luke, Jackson & Elizabeth – their school is now the filming location of the very popular reality show, For Art’s Sake, a show that has Selwyn Academy students competing against each other using their artistic craft to receive money and scholarships.  It’s sleazy and sensationalistic and Ethan’s group hates it so much that the four of them start writing long form protest poems after reading about how Ezra Pound employed the same tactic. But, the problem is– when the producers of For Art’s Sake get ahold of the Contracantos (their super cool name for their poems which they print out and distribute all around the school), they love them and promptly ask Luke to be on the show.  And, the (second) problem is that Luke does it, and he loves it.  Now Ethan is feeling betrayed and is determined to make Luke and the school sorry they ever let this sham of a show film at their school.  The threesome just know that the administration is up to something nefarious and suspicious regarding Selwyn’s involvement with For Art’s Sake, and they won’t stop until they expose everyone and all their lies, even if they discover it might just involve their very favorite teacher in the world.  Plus! There’s a gerbil named Baconnaise that definitely steals the spotlight and just might be their secret weapon in the end.  This book is hilarious and you should read it now, and it introduced me to my new favorite punctuation- move over, semi-colon, there’s a new favorite in town: the interrobang.  Seriously.  Read it now.  I’ll wait.

SwaySway by Kat Spears:  When I was first sent this book by School Library Journal to review, I took one look at the back cover where the book is described as a “Cyrano de Bergerac for the twenty-first century” and promptly set it right back down on my desk.  The weird thing is, when I was at ALA, someone or something snuck this book into my tote bag sometime during the conference.  I took that as a sign that I should probably read this book since it had managed to work its way into my life and onto my desk twice.  Guess what I discovered!  I discovered that I absolutely love this book.  Jesse Alderman, otherwise known as Sway (much to his chagrin), can get you what you want, no matter what. Drugs, popularity, money, anything– but it’ll come with a cost… maybe it’s your cash or maybe it’s your secrets.  So, when the jerkiest, most popular boy in school, Ken Foster, wants Jesse to get super nice girl, Bridget Smalley to like him, Jesse takes his cash and takes the job.  But, the problem is– (Oh, I’m sensing a pattern here) that once Jesse gets to know Bridget, he doesn’t want to let her go to Ken.  He falls for her hard despite all his best efforts not to.  Bridget just makes him a better person which he isn’t sure he is or deserves to be.  Once you get to know Jesse, you won’t want to leave him behind – and trust me, he makes it hard to root for him.  But, he’s such a well written character and the story is so great, touching on parental death and abandonment, disabilities and coming to terms with yourself, that readers will be sad when the story comes to an end.  Plus, it’s funny!

The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard:  So, maybe you want a little murder, a little mystery to liven up all these cold and dark nights.  Well, Sara Shepard, author of the Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game series, has cooked up another dark and twisted mystery.  Five high school girls in Washington who aren’t really friends discover they all have one thing in common: they all straight-up hate Nolan, a horrible, super popular jerk (way worse than Ken Foster, by the way) at their school who has the dibs on all of their secrets.  After talking in class and thinking about how funny it would be to just murder him, they come to the conclusion that a.) that idea is not plausible or moral or doable, so they decide to just humiliate him.  They give him something at a party to knock him out long enough to write all over his face exactly what they think of him. But, the problem is– (It is a pattern!) that Nolan does indeed end up dead… exactly the way they had all talked about in class, but it wasn’t them.  Now, someone knows their secret and is trying to frame them for Nolan’s murder.  They all have things to lose, so they have to act fast to figure out who killed Nolan, but, the (second) problem is: the killer seems determined to keep them quiet at all costs.  A fun and fast mystery that Sara is saying will only be a 2-book series, so perfect for readers who like murder mysteries, but don’t want to read a 14 book series about it.  Spooky and scary and perfect for dark nights.

Althea & OliverAlthea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho:  I was first attracted to this book because the protagonists aren’t that much younger than me; this book is set in the mid-90s, and will definitely appeal to lovers of 2014 Printz Honor bookEleanor & Park.  Anyways, Althea & Oliver have been neighbors and best friends practically forever.  But, the problem is– (I bet I can get this statement in every review in this post- keep reading to find out!) Althea loves Oliver – like loves him loves him, and he’s just not sure he wants to be more than friends.  The (second) problem is– Oliver has some kind of sleeping disorder that causes him to sleep for days, weeks, months at a time.  No one can figure out what’s wrong with him or how to successfully treat him so that he’s not spending half of his life in bed.  That’s when Nicky, Oliver’s mom, sees a report on the news about a doctor who’s studying Kleine-Levin Syndrome and sees similarities between how they’re describing it and what Oliver experiences.  But, then things turn sour between Oliver & Althea when she takes things too far with him one night and Oliver decides to just up and leave to go to the treatment facility where the doctor is doing a clinical study of the disease.  He doesn’t tell Althea.  She’s devastated and will stop at nothing to find him.  What she does find out leads her to New York City and it’s there that she realizes that her life might be more than just Oliver and North Carolina.  She discovers that the world is vast and her life is only just beginning.  A great book that’s melancholy, funny, and heartbreaking in all the right ways.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King:  Welp.  Every year, A.S. King writes a book, and I love it – no ifs, ands or buts about it.  Glory O’Brien is no different. It’s a book that’s still resonating with me, and it’ rivaling Vera Dietz along with TVPoSA as my #1 favorite teen book.  You should take my advice and read it, but here’s a brief synopsis in case you need convincing. So, Glory’s mom killed herself, Sylvia Plath style, when Glory was just a kid, and now Glory’s worried she’ll turn out the same way.  She has no plans for after high school, and she just generally feels lost and adrift in the sea of life. One night, just on a whim, Glory and Ellie (the closest thing Glory has to a friend) find a mummified bat.  They put it in a jar, put beer in the jar and drink the bat.  Then, Glory starts seeing visions: a person’s infinite past and future.  But, the problem is– (I did it!) as Glory starts seeing more and more of the future, she realizes that things aren’t looking so hot for women in the upcoming years. Their rights disappear, a new terrifying leader splits the country and there’s a second civil war where women are the pawns and the victims.  Glory is a Feminist with a capital F… she’s not afraid to say it or show it, and she’s going to try to figure out everything she can so she can try and stop what seems to be inevitable for the human race.  But, what about her?  She can’t see a future for herself.  So what, she thinks.  That’s not going to stop her from trying to keep a future for everyone else.  Awesome. Thought provoking.  Touching.  Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.  Just read it – you’ll be glad you did.

Well, that’s it!  I guess I should have titled my post “But, the Problem Is” since everyone seems to have at least one in all these books! You’ve got a lot to choose from here: funny to serious to demented to mystery to mummified bat, Baconnaise & interrobangs, but I seriously hope you just decide to snuggle up under your blanket with a hot apple cider or hot chocolate and read all of them in one fell swoop!  As for me, I found one more ARC from ALA that was hiding at the bottom of my bookshelf at home; hopefully, I’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed these gems!  Join me next month for more problems (hopefully not!)! Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

-Traci Glass, currently reading There Will be Lies by Nick Lake

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Traci Glass

Traci Glass is the Teen Librarian for the Eugene Public Library system in Eugene, Oregon. She loves realistic fiction, comics and horror movies. and comics. and Batman. Find her on Twitter: @grablit

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2 Comments

  1. Tara Kehoe Tara Kehoe

    Great list Traci! Thanks. I always need a good supply of realistic YA books for a book club I run with both adults and teens.

  2. Traci Glass Traci Glass

    Thanks, Tara! I’m actually using The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy as my Teen Book Group selection for November! I’m excited to see if my teens love the book as much as I did! :) And, Glory O’Brien will definitely be a selection for us in the future; every time I have them read an A.S. King book, we always have a great discussion.

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