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Finding a Strong Family Connection in YA…Yes, It Can Be Done!

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.


Contemporary Fiction of 2010: A Reader’s List

I present to you one reader’s best contemporary YA titles for 2010. These are books teens are actually reading by the way. I see these titles check out regularly at my library. I hate to say it, but Will Grayson, Will Grayson? It has barely circulated three times. These titles are a little girl heavy but several of them will work just as well for guy readers. And if anything this list will encourage me to seek out more guy-centric contemporary YA reads.

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. This is my favorite book of 2010 hands down. It is a road trip story with a little romance, a lot of heartache and a great trip throughout the country. Teens will easily relate to Roger’s girl troubles while they will be pulled into Amy’s story of sadness over her father’s death. Postcards, receipts, and definitely the most amazing road trip play lists ever created grace the pages of this story along with the main narrative. This one is for music fans, teens who love a romance with drama, and who need a grand adventure. I guarantee this is going to be a hit.

Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian. This book actually made Kirkus’s 2010 Best Books for Teens and with great reason. This story is intelligent, sad, and above all, plays so well into the drama that encompasses high school life. Natalie has always felt a bit different from her classmates and it shows on the pages. Here is a teen dedicated to her education, to getting ahead. Most librarians know teens like this and they will immediately empathize with her. She may be book smart but has a lot to learn about human emotions. Natalie is an amazing protagonist for female teen readers. She is strong, vulnerable, smart as hell, but yet manages to be the every girl.   There is a lot to discuss and appreciate.

A Blue so Dark by Holly Schindler. Mental illness. More teens than I can name deal with this topic with their families, and even themselves, on a daily basis. Holly Schindler delicately balances the harsh realities of schizophrenia with everyday tasks. Aura must go to school. She loves art but yet fears it. She has a crush on a boy but that does not fit into a world of schizophrenia. Her isolation leaps off the pages, as does her care of her mother. Teens today are unfortunately put in that caretaker position too often and this book definitely showcases how difficult that role can be for teenagers. Heart wrenching certainly but this book will do well with teens who need to see themselves in someone else, know they aren’t alone. It is a powerful book, short enough to hold attention and pull you into Aura’s life.

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