Back to (Realistic, but Fictional) School

School Room by Rob Shenk
School Room by Rob Shenk

It’s getting to be that time of year; the temperatures are falling, the edges of the leaves are crisping, football is revving up, baseball is winding down, and many of us are getting used to new teachers and new classes.

To help take the sting out of the end of summer (goodbye till next year, reading on the beach with an iced tea…), I like to throw myself into celebrating the beginning of fall (hello again, curling up in an armchair with a hot chocolate while the rain falls outside!). For me, this means: new notebooks, adding apples to pretty much every meal, and diving into books that highlight all the little rituals of the school year. The following are some of my favorite titles with strong school settings, to help us all get excited for the new semester (even if we can’t actually enroll at Hogwarts, which would, let’s be honest, be the ultimate in back-to-school excitement).

Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie is really smart (and unaccustomed to hiding her smarts in front of guys, even though sometimes they seem more comfortable if she does), dislikes accepting the status quo, is impatient with her dad’s secretive pride about his own halcyon days at her boarding school, and is (maybe) on the path to becoming a criminal mastermind- an idea she finds morally…ambiguous. A 2009 Printz Honor Book, Teens Top Ten pick, and National Book Award finalist, plus a 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults title, this is one of those books I’m always bothering everyone I know to read.

Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Speculative fiction disguised as a coming-of-age story, Never Let Me Go was an Alex Award winner in 2006, and has quickly become a modern classic. Following a trio of students through their years at a seemingly traditional boarding school, Never Let Me Go is about the complex hierarchies and subtle competitions between friends, but it’s also about how to get the truth from adults, and how to live with truths that are shockingly, fundamentally painful to process. Continue reading Back to (Realistic, but Fictional) School

Aftermath: How YA Novels Deal With Shootings

photo by flickr user Andrew_Writer
photo by flickr user Andrew_Writer

I began preparing this post last spring in observance of the Columbine High School tragedy, which occurred on April 20, 1999. Then the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, so I held off on posting because I felt that there were too many fresh wounds for people to read such a post. And I had my own issues, because I lived in Boston. But now I think it’s important to write this post, because sadly, these events occur far too regularly for me to find the perfect time to post, where it’s not too recent but not too far from everyone’s minds. And it has already been 15 years since Columbine, and yet there is no shortage of similar events to fill that space.

When it comes to Columbine, today’s teens mostly have no memory of this event, which may even have occurred before they were born. And unlike tragedies of the past few years, where we have had texting, tweeting, and news streaming online to keep us abreast of events as they unfold, many of us only knew about Columbine after it happened. This brings up a lot of thoughts about safety, over-exposure, and security – if we all have Internet access in most places, is it our duty to notify others about emergencies as they take place? Does that impede the measures of emergency personnel trying to get the situation under control, or does it help more people get to safety? Is checking Twitter for news all the time healthy, does it desensitize us, or does it depress us? I recall my experience of living in Boston on the day of the manhunt; after a good four hours of watching the same five news reports over and over again, I had to turn it off, watch some fun TV, and make snacks with a friend, because it was simply too exhausting. Then again, having so much access to news forces us to engage with current events and consider how they affect our lives.

So here is a simple list of YA novels that have attempted to unravel and understand how teens deal with violent occurrences – leading up to them, during them, and after them. No commentary, just publisher copy and a Goodreads link. I hope these can be helpful, meaningful, or healing for you. Continue reading Aftermath: How YA Novels Deal With Shootings