Friday, 10 April 2015

Summer teen reads - without the angst!

I've been reading in the Bookseller magazine about concerns that many teen novels are reflecting the enormous pressures and concerns impacting on the lives of these teen readers.  Is this really anything new I wonder?  Yes, there do seem to be more books featuring 'issues' but hasn't this always been the case I asked myself?  Haven't teens always wanted to read realistic fiction alongside fantasy and adventure and all the other genres available to them.  Is this not just a way in which they can find a way to understand the issues that may face them, that they read about in the papers and may see in those around them?  Is it not safer to allow them to read about these issues and learn about them through fictional stories than in real life?  Books and their fictional characters, no matter how set into reality they are, are an escape for readers, a way to help them understand, a story for them to enjoy, a chance for them to look at concerns and issues in a safe and structured environment and hopefully realise that almost every problem in life can be solved and is not usually as bad as it seems.

A rise in dystopian fiction is not unheard of and it is a great way for teens and adults to realise what the world could turn into if we do not look after it. transgender and other gender novels are also a wonderful way for all readers to explore their sexuality and what it all means.  Teens will always need an outlet and a means to understand the complex world that they are entering into, fiction is one of the safest ways I can think of for them to do this.  Whilst I agree that they need some uplifting reading too it is all out there for them, they are free to make their choices with us as adults as their guides, one more reason why it is so important to read this all ourselves and recommend it to them - PLUS - it is all SO GOOD!  I love my teen reading as much as my picture books and junior fiction!

So rant over what teen fiction am I going to recommend?

I will start with a book that readers can get their teeth into and which will keep them going until my additional recommendations are available!

Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy (Simon & Schuster) is almost as long as its title!  At 646 pages this is not a book for the reader who is after a small volume but having said that as this is a book of the most brilliantly conceived lists.  This is the story of Darren.  Darren has had an awful year, his parents have divorced his brother has gone to college, his best friend has moved to another state and he has no girlfriend.  This is a book of teen angst, hilarious lists.  It is the story of a journey, a journey in the physical sense, on a bus, and also metaphorical all about what can happen to you in life, how it can change you as a person and why this can be hard but good.  Many pages it may have but the list format makes it highly accessible and surprisingly thought-provoking.  A brilliant creation.

Recommendation number 2 is a book in time for summer festivals.  Remix by Non Pratt (Walker Books) is Non's second title for teens, a book of friends, music and lies.  This is the story of best friends, ex-boyfriends and some great music.  Over the course of three days two friends will go to one music festival and discover whether there is any chance of things working out either how they planned or entirely differently!  I love the way that this book is written, Non has a very strong teen voice and the characters truly come to live in the mind of the reader, their voices really can be heard, their situations imagined and you can almost feel yourself shouting at them about their wrong decisions, knowing much ore than they do is the benefit of being the reader and also a drawback as you have to wait and see what the characters will do, when they will realise and how the story will unfold whilst all you can do is sit back, watch, wait and enjoy.

Finally, as always, for now only, This is Not A Love Story by Keren David (Atom) is going to be the next perfect read for summer.  Here is a story that is complicated and it not what it seems to be on face value.  First there is Kitty, a girl who lives in a suburban London and has dreams of a beautiful life. Amsterdam holds promise, here she can escape the haunting memories of her father's death and start a new life - can't she?  What she finds in Amsterdam is two boys.  Ethan, unpredictable and Theo clever but troubled.  These boys have their own secrets as does Amsterdam.  However Amsterdam is a new city, a beautiful city and as she is far from home Kitty takes advantage of the opportunity to fall in love for the very first time.  First love is never easy, being away from home can make it harder.  Will Kitty find the love that she is looking for, hoping for?  Will any of the hearts involved in the story survive intact?  A brilliantly moving, cleverly told summer love story full of angst and issues, yes, but full of hopes and dreams too.

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