Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the wonderful ladies The Broke and The Bookish. This week we’re talking about our top books that deal with tough issues. As you may know, I’m more of a fan of the happy, kissy stuff. I want everyone to share a meaningful glance across the hall, go to prom and kiss the hottest/nerdiest/swooniest best friend/dork/mysterious loner dude ever. And I want everyone to smile. But sadly, this is not always real life (it should be!). The past year or two, I feel I’ve read some fantastic books that deal with heavier subjects with humor and grace, and good, solid writing. Here are a few:
1. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler– Grief is the main issue here, after the brother (and secret love) of Anna’s best friend dies suddenly, the girls feel his lack of presence everywhere they go. This book is beautifully written, with flashbacks of the brother, Matt, and insight into the struggling friendship of Anna and Frankie as they try to stay afloat during an attempt to have one perfect summer.
2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green– A love story about two people who meet in a support group for teens who have cancer. It’s seriously beautiful and heartbreaking, but there are so many funny parts and there are so many gorgeous scenes. Don’t skip it because you’re afraid to read a sad story.
3. Saving June by Hannah Harrington– This book also deal with grief, but Harper is instead dealing with a death that could have been prevented, that of her perfect, has it all together older sister, June. Harper and her best friend, and a mysterious guy who claims to have known June, embark on a roadtrip with June’s ashes, intent on helping her sister fulfill her dream of getting to California. This is a sad one, but there is romance, there’s great music references and interesting characters. It’s a good read.
4. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr– This is not the heaviest of her books (in fact, it one of her happier ones), but it’s excellent. Here Zarr tackles grief (the loss of a parent) and teen pregnancy when Jill’s mom, in her heartbreak over losing her husband, decides to adopt a baby. In doing so, she takes in a pregnant teen to help her through the pregnancy and to hammer out the adoption details, something Jill is completely opposed to. You guys, this book is wonderful and does such a fantastic job at exploring what a family truly is. It totally made me cry happy tears.
5. Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr– All of Zarr’s books deal with “issues”, but this is another favorite because it covers something I don’t often read about in YA: faith. Sam is a pastor’s kid whose mom is in alcohol rehab, her father doesn’t have a ton of time for her because of his job obligations, and Sam is in a place where she’s wondering if her belief in God is intrinsically related to her parents’ faith, or if it’s something she truly clings to of her own accord. There are such good questions (and answers) in this story.
6. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta– This book has it all: wonderful characters, gorgeous writing (well, it is Melina Marchetta) and humor. There are lots of things happening in the life of the main character, Francesca, but none more painful than watching her vivacious, bright mother slowly deteriorate and her family bend under the weight of her mom’s crippling depression. The story is told so well, with empathy and realism and the end made me cry and clap and cry again.
7. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen– This isn’t your typical Dessen, in my opinion. It’s a bit heavier. Ruby comes from a home full of abuse and drug addiction. Her older sister escapes it and builds a good, healthy life with a great husband and when Ruby’s mom disappears, her sister is finally able to take her in and give her the life she’s always wanted to. Ruby, of course, isn’t very receptive. There are some flashbacks here that made me cry, even though they weren’t terribly detailed and there is a side story that deals with physical violence that may be tough for some to swallow, but Dessen handles everything with grace and without gratuitous detail.
8. The List by Siobhan Vivian– This book deals with the general pressure young people (I sound very old when I say that. Young people), face to be popular, to be thinner, to be accepted. I did not love the way every storyline turned out, but I felt this was such a realistic look at what kids are facing with social media and bullying and life in general. I mean, let’s face it, kid’s can be mean.
9. Speechless by Hannah Harrinton– This is a far lighter book than her first novel, Saving June, but I thought Harrington did a fabulous job exploring bullying and one girl’s response both to being the cause of bullying and becoming the victim.
10. If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch– I really loved this book, but it is tough to swallow the things these girls go through, particularly the oldest daughter, as they deal with a drug-addicted mom who will do anything–or will make her daughter do anything with anyone–to get her next fix. There is drug abuse, sexual abuse, physical violence, and terrible neglect here but it is so worth it to read this and see how far these girls come.
11. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay– I’m ending this list on a great note. What a fabulous book. This story is about how one girl transformed herself to deal with a vicious, violent attack she encountered two years earlier–one that nearly killed her– and the road back to finding herself again. Such a fantastic read.