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.

Six Picks – Realistic Fiction for Young Adults

Summer’s over, and life is back to reality!  If you like your fiction with a dose of realism, here’s a list of realistic fiction books for young adults (that adults can enjoy, too!).

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a  about Sixteen-year-old Hazel, a stage IV thyroid cancer patient. She has accepted her terminal diagnosis until a chance meeting with a boy at cancer support group forces her to reexamine her perspective on love, loss, and life. (A movie adaptation is currently in production.)

Butter by Erin Jade Lange is about an obese boy everyone calls “Butter”. He is about to make history by eating himself to death, live on the Internet, and everyone is invited to watch. When he first makes the announcement online he gets  morbid cheerleaders rallying around his plan. As their dark encouragement grows, it begins to feel a lot like popularity. What happens when Butter reaches his suicide deadline? Can he live with the fallout if he doesn’t go through with his plans?

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth takes place in the early 1990s. After Cameron Post’s parents die she moves in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She rebels against the norms and her family decides she needs to change her ways, she is sent to a gay conversion therapy center.

Skinny by Donna Cooner is about fifteen-year-old Ever Davies. She is obese and has a cruel inner voice that never lets her forget about her weight or how others see her. She undergoes gastric-bypass surgery, a and makes the decision to start participating in high school life, which includes pursuing her dream of becoming a singer.

The Complete History of Why I Hate Her by Jennifer Richard Jacobson is about sixteen year old Nola who wanting a break from being known only for her sister’s cancer. Shae leaves Boston for a waitressing job at a summer resort in Maine, but soon feels as if her new best friend is taking over her life.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this wonderful debut novel is the story of two star-crossed misfits–smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

If realistic fiction is your favorite genre, or all of these are currently checked out, take a look at just about any book from John Green, Sarah Dessen, or Lurlene McDaniel. You could also look for Wonder by R.J. Palacio,  A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie by Matt Blackstone, Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones,  or Tangled by Carolyn Mackler. This is far from a complete list, but it just might be the start you need.

Do you have a favorite realistic fiction book or author?