The Joy of Contemporary YA

and five books that you definitely need to read.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Interested in reading some contemporary YA? Here’s where you should start:

  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson — the fairy godmother of contemporary YA. This is probably one of the most banned books from high-school libraries, but I can’t think of a book that belongs there more.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — chances are, you’ve at least heard about this book, or maybe you’ve seen the movie. Either way, it’s a heartbreaking look at racial discrimination and violence here in the US. It’s technically fiction, but this story is real life for far too many people in this country.
  • Just Listen by Sarah Dessen — the reigning queen of Contemporary YA, one of the genre’s most prolific and beloved authors. Just Listen is my favorite book of hers; it’s a compelling story that beautifully takes on so many difficult topics: rape culture, beauty standards, eating disorders, recovery, the power of family, and, most importantly, the idea that music is a balm for our souls.
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven — heartbreaking, literary, gorgeous prose, and a story that will break your heart. And hopefully remind you of the importance of mental health education and attentive parenting.
  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner — A powerful, sobering look at how friendship changes us and ultimately saves us; how our families can hold us back, destroy us, or be a functional part of my lives. I connected so much with Dill in this story that it nearly destroyed me.

(He/They) Ninja Writer. Thespian. Queer. Essayist, poet, novelist. “In Search of Sunflowers” available on Kindle now.

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