I love realistic fiction!
It’s true, my taste in reading YA literature seems to bounce around a lot from fantasy to horror to science fiction, but somehow I always end up back with realistic fiction. I think that realistic fiction is a very important genre for teens to have access to. Many of the topics that are covered in these books are serious and affect teens their daily lives. I have worked with teens in a community where poverty is high and the stress is even higher and have seen how reading realistic fiction can make a difference in their lives.
I also think it’s important to be able to recommend realistic fiction books to teens so they can experience real life situations that are fictional as sort of an experimental look-see so to speak. I know for me, when I read realistic fiction it makes me feel like I am going through the experiences with the characters. When teens read realistic fiction they might go through the highs and lows, the good and the bad, while sampling small glimpses of the deeper and darker experiences that tend to stay with us throughout most of our lives. This is a safer way of experiencing without really having to bear the drama or angst themselves. It’s like trying something on, but then putting it back on the shelf when you are done. Likewise, teens who have had troubling experience can see that they are not alone, and teens who haven’t dealt with these issues can develop empathy for those who have.
Many topics come to my mind regarding realistic fiction, so each month I will recommend a list of books that explore the common themes that reflect life changing events for teens. Realistic fiction can also melt over into mysteries, thrillers, adventures, yet they always stay rooted in reality.
In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness (DVAM), this month’s focus will be on various ranges of violent behavior that can occur between teens and their family members or partners. Abusive behavior can happen in all types of families and is present in all cultures and economic classes.
Paint Me A Monster by Janie Baskin – Rinnie Gardner’s life looks like a perfect painting from the outside, but when the paint is stripped away the perfect picture dissolves away. In the wake of her parents divorce, her father ignores her and her mother is an angry force to be reckoned with slashing Rinnie with hurtful words and even pain is inflicted on her body. As Rinnie’s world falls apart, she tries to find the courage to carry on. She must go to the darkest depths to regain the light she once had.
Still Waters by Ash Parsons – Jason lives with his abusive father, a drunk who enjoys teaching him a lesson by physically tormenting him. Enduring this kind of abuse has taught Jason that he must fight back at school and show everyone that he can stand up for himself.s All Jason can think about is turning 18 and taking his younger sister and moving far away from his father. He ends up getting into a very dangerous money-making game with a popular student in his class. Jason doesn’t realize that he is being manipulated and the stakes of his well-being and safety are reaching the limit. Unraveling at the seams, Jason must break his tough exterior and find a way to escape the abuse that surrounds him.
A Work of Art by Melody Maysonet – Tera is a very talented artist who has been under the tutelage of her father her entire life. Tera could be about to embark on an amazing artistic journey, but her father is arrested and Tera decides to give everything up to help him. Upon remembering the truth of her childhood, she is able to work through the pain as she paints her repressed emotions and all of her long lost memories emerge on the canvas. This is such a brutal discovery for Tera that she must try to find a way to move forward with her life. This book is a gripping story of truth, loyalty, and the difficulties of breaking ties with abusive parents.
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (YALSA Best Books for Young Adults 2001, YALSA Popular Paperback for Young Adults 2003) – Caitlin O’Koren is trying to find herself after her sister has left town and she feels very alone. To cover up her loneliness Caitlin starts dating Rogerson a very popular and good looking guy at school. Rogerson is like no one she has ever met before and she starts trying new things and hanging out with new people. Caitlin finds out that there is a dark side to Rogerson that no one else sees and suddenly she finds herself in a bad situation and a horrible cycle of abuse. Caitlin’s challenges is an important and powerful in this story because it is about an even more important topic of when violence happens in relationships and how young people feel they can’t talk to anyone about their troubles. “I was worn out, broken: He had taken almost everything. But he’d been all I’d had, all this time.”
Anyone experiencing domestic violence seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship can reach out to the National Domestic Violence hotline (www.thehotline.org). They have trained advocates that are available to talk 24/7 confidentially at 1-800-799-SAFE. DVAM is an opportunity for everyone including organizations and coalitions, survivors, friends, and family members – to come together, amplify our stories and help the world #SeeDV. I hope you’ll share #SeeDV with your friends, family and community this October.
— Kimberli Buckley, currently reading The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige