In much of current YA literature readers will find the that the main character is well off, does not have to work, travels often, and has everything designer (car, clothes, electronics, etc.). This does not reflect the reality of most teenagers or new adults, today. While it can be nice to read about something that is different than one’s daily life, characters should also be relatable.
I work at a school library and I see kids every day that come in to finish their homework, sometimes forgoing their lunch, because they have to work directly after school and do not get home until 11 o’clock, or later. Then they wake up and do it all over again. They deserve a lot more credit than they appear to receive. The following list of books includes characters that work while going to school or managing another difficult aspect of life. They work to get what they want. These are often things that teens today have to do. Many come home from school, change and head to work, then finish their homework after getting home late at night. These real teens are strong, hard workers. It is important to show them that they are not the minority and that the idealized life is not necessarily one where someone has everything handed to them. Some of these situations may not be ones that your average teenager might find themselves in, but the work ethic is very relatable.
As we draw close to Thanskgiving, we often turn our thoughts and plans to family. While there are YA characters who have strong families, as Jessica’s 2012 post and Kelly’s post from last week shows, there are also lots of YA books where the protagonists have either lost family members, been separated from them, or never had a proper family to begin with. This doesn’t mean these characters have no family relationships, though. Lots of YA characters, when faced with a lack of a regular family, create their own. Here are some of my favorites:
Ellie and her friends in the Tomorrow series by John Marsden (the movie version was chosen as a Fabulous Film for Young Adults 2013). This action packed series, which starts with Tomorrow, When the War Began follows a group of Australian teenagers who go away for a camping trip and come back to find their country has been invaded. As the plot unfolds, the friends rely on each other more and more to be both fellow soldiers determined to take back their homes and a family that both provides emotional support and takes on the everyday tasks of making a place to live. I especially like that the last book in the series, The Other Side of Dawn, deals with the difficulty of reintegrating with their parents after the enforced separation and self-sufficiency, and the companion series, The Ellie Chronicles, continues to explore the toll that war takes on families, both given and self-made. Although I haven’t yet read them, I think Emmy Laybourne’s Monument 14 series (2014 Teens’ Top Ten) covers some of the same ground in terms of a family forged out of necessity. Continue reading When Friends Become Family
Last week, in honor of Halloween, we asked about your favorite ghost story in YA lit. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson came in first with 24% of the vote, with Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood not far behind with 18%. In third place, we had a tie: The Mediator series by Meg Cabot and Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol both garnered 14% of the vote. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!
Did you know November is National Adoption Month? In honor of this important topic that’s near and dear to many of our hearts, we’d like to know which fictional family from YA lit you’d want to adopt you. Vote in the poll below, and be sure to comment if we’ve missed your favorite fictional family.
Well, it’s getting to be that time again. Here in Texas, the air is getting slightly less hot, the birds have pretty much stayed where they are for the winter, and the leaves have stayed firmly on their trees. In more seasonally-inclined locales, though, you are probably enjoying crisp fall weather that’s perfect for cozying up with a good read. If the chilly air is keeping you from venturing out to the cinema this December, why not check out one of these books inspired by December’s new releases?
The Movie: If the holly-jolly feeling of November has you feeling more Scrooge-y than merry, you may be in the mood for the action-filled remake of Red Dawn that opened this week. When Korean paratroopers invade Spokane, Washington, who else to defend the town than a rag-tag gang of young folks?
Book Soulmate: If you’re looking for an action-filled book about teenagers defending their homeland from a mysterious foreign invasion, you can’t go wrong with the modern classic Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. Australian teens who decide to go camping for a week in the bush have no idea that when they return their hometown will be abandoned, and an invading country will have taken over. The first book in this critically-acclaimed series is filled with action and the tension of life-and-death decisions.
These days it seems like a major complaint about young adult fiction is usually to do with the parents. Either they are absent, making it easier for the teen main characters to go out and conquer the world or find love or even join the circus, or the parents are abusive, neglectful, or in some cases are unable to take care of themselves, let alone their children. So it is too much to ask to find examples of strong and loving parents and families in YA books today?
I decided to hunt around through the books I’d read recently for examples of strong families and was pleased to find some great reading choices! These are books where the parents care and are actively involved in their children’s lives and books with families made stronger throughout because of the obvious and open love between parents, children, and siblings.
City of Orphans by Avi (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 9781416971023) is the story of a thirteen-year-old newsboy, his family, and his new friend trying to survive in New York City in 1893. Though Maks’s family struggles to just scrape together enough money to pay their rent and eat, they do not hesitate at all to take in Willa, who has been orphaned and is living on the streets. Each family member works hard to earn money for their family. Each makes choices that benefits the entire family. This is a family that truly cares deeply for one another and will sacrifice anything to stay together.
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (Harcourt, 9780547645704) is the story of a girl named Sunday who has to be very careful about the stories she writes, for they often come true. As the youngest of seven daughters named for the days of the week, Sunday is often overlooked, and she finds solace in a new friendship with an enchanted frog. One day, their friendship blooms into love, and with the power of a true love kiss, Sunday breaks the enchantment and stirs up all kinds of trouble! Though their love seems ill-fated, and Sunday’s family is not fond of their union, when they realize that Sunday will be miserable without her love, they pull together and do everything they can to see Sunday happy. By banding together, their powers create the perfect circumstances for true love to fully blossom.
I tend to judge books by their covers. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself. If a book cover grabs me, I’m sold. When I saw the cover of Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, I thought it was just a generic cover and forgot about it. Then one night I was doing some research on YouTube and found this teen made book trailer:
This book trailer completely sold me on the book and I added it to my reading queue. I was glad I did. It’s a great story of a teenage girl who comes to terms with her old life as she travels across the country to start over.
After Alex’s dad has an affair, she moves with her mess of a mother to the town her mom grew up in. When Alex isn’t taking care of her mother, she is trying to find a place to fit in at her new school while desperately missing her best friend Evie. She has a ready-made friend in the daughter of her mom’s high school best friend, but Alex is drawn to Fred and his twin sister Adina.
Saying that Fred and Adina have a close relationship is putting it mildly. There is something slightly off about their relationship and Alex finds herself caught up in their dynamic. A saner person would have run away screaming, but Alex is drawn to the enigmatic Fred. Adina runs hot and cold to Alex. One minute she hates her and the next she is almost flirting with her. To make matters worse, Evie has fallen in love for the first time and isn’t very supportive of Alex and her weird (and getting weirder by the minute) relationship with the twins.
This book is a very quick read. I finished it in an hour and a half. There is a lot of dialogue. When I first finished it, I thought I liked it, but now…I’m not so sure. As I was reading, I was very interested in the character of Adina and wanted to know what made her act the way she does over the course of the story. It was never really explored and the book ended almost immediately after the climax of the story. I really liked the way the story was written, but I could have used another 100 pages or so to find out even more about the characters.