The Greatest Thing by Sarah Winifred Searle First Second Publication Date: February 8, 2022 ISBN-13: 9781250297235
Winifred begins a lonely tenth grade year without her two best friends, who have moved away. In photography class, she meets Oscar and April, and the three form a fast friendship over art, zines and fashion. Though she still talks to her old friends, has a strong relationship with her mom, and finds new joy with Oscar and April, Winifred struggles with depression, self-harm and disordered eating, which eventually escalate. Will Win sabotage herself and her support system, or will she find the strength to tell the truth and ask for help?
Unreliable, whiney, un-likable, liars—we’ve all read characters like this! I love to read a good book with a “bad” (and/or unreliable) narrator. This kind of flawed storyteller reaches to the reader and asks us to question, look deeper, and ponder truth and lies. It is a sign of an excellent author who can manipulate you to love the book and hate the character. Skilled writers make the reader believe the lies and then accept the truth.
Here are some favorite examples of protagonists I love to hate.
In this year’s Printz Award recipient I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson twins Noah and Jude lie to each other, lie to their parents, and lie to themselves (and by extension to us: the reader). With all the lies it’s no wonder there was so much to reveal in this tale. The sneakiness and bad treatment of each other made me distinctly dislike them. But Nelson also juxtaposed the twins’ nastiness with descriptions of how deeply they love each other.
Cadence from We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults). Here is what I consider to be a likeable character and one whom I really felt for. But what if I knew the truth of what really happened that summer at the beginning of this book? Would I still have felt so sympathetic towards Cady?
Froi and Quintana from Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles. Only Melina Marchetta (Printz Award winner) could take a predatory lowlife like Froi was when we first met him in Finnikin of the Rock (2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) and turn him around so distinctly then lead him to star in his own story. Froi is redeemed in Finnikin of the Rock; grows in Froi of the Exiles, and become a hero in Quintana of Charyn. In the second installment of the Lumatere Chronicles Marchetta also introduces Quintana: one of the grossest characters I have ever imagined in a book and quickly made me love her. Quintana is prickly, deranged, damaged, paranoid, abused, and abusive. But she becomes a hero too—fiercely protective and thoroughly decent.
October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Summer Khaleq from California.
Most of us can attest to the fact that the ever-growing Young Adult genre is one of the most boundless and honest genres in modern-day literature. In terms of innovation, YA wins the gold.
Yet despite the ever-expanding horizons of YA, diversity in general seems to be a taboo topic. There aren’t nearly as many books featuring POC, LGBTQ, and/or disabled characters as there should be, with authors taking the safe route and opting for white heterosexual leads.
I’m certainly not the first to notice this, though. Campaigns supporting and advocating for diversity have been popping up all over the internet (such as the popular #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign), and if you aren’t familiar with any then you’ve either been a) living under a rock or b) hiding under a rock while reading a book. (Really, isn’t it sad the amount of campaigning that must be done in order to implement something that should be expected in this day in age?)
For those who are new to the movement, I’ve created a nifty little flowchart, since it can be cumbersome to look for potential diverse reads (insert expression of disappointment and irritation here). Even for those who have been following the campaigns for years, there are quite a few lesser-known books here that you should definitely give a try. Continue reading Diversify Your YA Contemporary Reads: A Flowchart