Realistic Fiction Offers Young Adults Insight into Tough Situations

Watching the news seems to have become more depressing and disheartening than ever. Things are happening that most adults are having trouble fully understanding and coping with on a daily basis. I think our young adults are especially having trouble not only understanding the events we see on the news, but trying to reconcile their still forming personal views with the world around them and the views of those with whom they have the most contact. I think it is important for parents and teachers to stand up for and with the next generation and help them understand and cope with current events and the violence, injustice, and conflicts that seem all too common today.

Here are some novels for young adults that offer multiple points of view and insights into some of the hardest situations our young people are facing in the real world today. Some of the topics handled by these books include school shootings, suicide, drug abuse, racism, and rape. None of these are light, feel-good reads, and not all of them are tough1new. However, one or more of them might help a teen or adult have more understanding of the problems that I wish were completely unthinkable rather than news headlines or tabloid sensations.

Violent Ends: a Novel in Seventeen Points of View
In a one-of-a-kind collaboration, 17 of the most recognized YA writers come together to share the viewpoints of a group of tough2students who are affected by a school shooting.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
When sixteen-year-old Rashad is mistakenly accused of stealing, classmate Quinn witnesses his brutal beating at the hands of a police officer who happens to be the older brother of his best tough4friend. Told through Rashad and Quinn’s alternating viewpoints.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Melinda Sordino finds herself an outcast at her high school for calling the cops on an end of summer party, and, although she finds comfort in her art class, she still holds a terrible secret.

toughtLittle Peach by Peg Kern
Hospitalized in Brooklyn, New York, fourteen-year-old Michelle recalls being raised in Philadelphia by a loving grandfather and drug-addicted mother before running away and getting lured into prostitution.

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
tough3After her boyfriend goes on a shooting rampage at school, Valerie is implicated because of her involvement in writing the list of names and so now must come to terms with what has happened, her feelings for the boy she once loved, and the part she played that resulted in such tragic events.

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
Seventeen-year-old Matthew recounts his attempts, starting at a tough6young age, to free himself and his sisters from the grip of their emotionally and physically abusive mother.

tough5There are many books that do a fantastic job of taking extremely difficult subjects and making the characters dealing with them realistic tough7and relatable for readers. More realistic fiction of these tough topics that I would recommend include;  Hold Still by Nina Labour, Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian, My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Levitt, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King, We Were Here by Matt de la Peña, What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton, Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson, The Beast or Monster by Walter Dean Myers, By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Ann Peters, Tricks by Ellen Hopkins, Ana’s Story: a Journey of Hope by Jenna Bush, and Go Ask Alice by Anonymous.

Realistic Fiction for Middle Grade Readers

School assignments, curiosity, parents, friends, and more could urge children to pick up a book in a different genre than they would normally read. Sometimes this makes recommending a book difficult, because they do not know which book or books they might like and could be willing to dismiss any given title without much thought. Since realistic fiction is not my genre of choice (I prefer fantasy and other types of escapism in my reading), I scoured Goodreads lists, school library lists, and more to find the realfiregirlmost recommended books in the realistic fiction genre that are best suited for middle grade readers. Here are some of the most mentioned books on these lists.

1. Firegirl by Tony Abbott
A middle school boy’s life is changed when Jessica, a girl disfigured by burns, starts attending his Catholic school while receiving treatment at a local hospital.

2. Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgeraldrealemmajean
Her grandfather’s dying words lead 13-year-old Theodora Tenpenny to a valuable, hidden painting she fears may be stolen, but it is her search for answers in her Greenwich Village neighborhood that brings a real treasure.

3. Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
A quirky and utterly logical seventh-grade girl named Emma-Jean Lazarus discovers some interesting realseedfolksresults when she gets involved in the messy everyday problems of her peers.

4. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
One by one, a number of people of varying ages and backgrounds transform a trash-filled inner-city lot into a productive and beautiful garden, and in doing so, the gardeners are themselves transformed

5. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
Weighed down by guilt, Joel searches for the courage to tell the truth about the disappearance–and apparent drowning–of his best friend realchanceTony while the boys are playing near the treacherous, and forbidden, Vermillion River

6. Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Lucy, with her mother and her photographer father, has just moved to a small rural community in New Hampshire, and with her new friend Nate she plans to spend the summer taking photos for a contest, but pictures sometimes reveal more than people are willing to see.

7. The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
Just when 12-year-old Summer thinks nothing else can possibly go newsaturdaywrong in a year filled with bad luck, an emergency takes her parents to Japan, leaving Summer to care for her little brother while helping her grandmother cook and do laundry for the harvest workers.

8. The View from Saturday by E.L. KonigsburgFour students, with their own individual stories, develop a special bond and attract the attention of their teacher, a paraplegic, who chooses them to represent their sixth-grade class in the Academic Bowl competition.

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Here are a few more books to chose from, including some very popular books that you might have already heard great things about; Dog Lost by Ingrid Lee, Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord, Paperboy by Vince Vawter, Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan, See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street by Sharon G. Flake, Warp Speed by Lisa Yee, Frindle by Andrew Clements, Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt,Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy, Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt,  Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, or The Not-Just-Anybody Family by Betsy Byars.