Monday, April 23, 2012

My Five Favorite YA Contemps

I read as much YA Contemporary possible.  I mean, studying the genre you write is sort of important and all, but I also love these books.  I'm a picky reader (it makes up for being an unpicky eater and devouring anything edible, except turnips of course, because turnips are downright nasty).  That special place in my heart is reserved for teen protagonists, particularly those in stories that can actually occur, among humans, here on Earth.  That's my taste.  It keeps me young and handsome.  Or at least one of the two.

Since finishing the second draft of my own (crack at a) YA Contemp, I've spent time combing my bookshelves and revisiting the characters who, once upon a time, put me in a trance.  Characters who sucked me inside their world and made me forget my own.  Voices I didn't want silenced.  Prose I couldn't put down.

Honestly, are these not the stories we search for?

Today I'm sharing my favorite YA Contemps.  Later this week, I'll share some of my favorite Middle Grade novels, since I do read them too, and then I'll share my favorites from literary fiction.  Because yes, I read those too.  I just have to look up more words.

My Five Favorite YA Contemps

*All overviews come from the Barnes and Noble website.

1.  Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

TwistedHigh school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world. In Twisted, the acclaimed Laurie Halse Anderson tackles a very controversial subject: what it means to be a man today. Fans and new readers alike will be captured by Tyler’s pitchperfect, funny voice, the surprising narrative arc, and the thoughtful moral dilemmas that are at the heart of all of the author’s award-winning, widely read work.

2.  A Scary Scene In A Scary Movie by Matt Blackstone

A Scary Scene in a Scary MovieRene, an obsessive-compulsive fourteen year old, smells his hands and wears a Batman cape when he’s nervous. If he picks up a face-down coin, moves a muscle when the time adds up to thirteen (7:42 is bad luck because 7 + 4 + 2 = 13), or washes his body parts in the wrong order, Rene or someone close to him will break a bone, contract a deadly virus, and/or die a slow and painful death like someone in a scary scene in scary movie. Rene’s new and only friend tutors him in the art of playing it cool, but that’s not as easy as Gio makes it sound.

3.  Right Behind You by Gail Giles

Right Behind You
When he was nine, Kip set another child on fire. Now, after years in a juvenile ward, he is ready for a fresh start. But the ghosts of his past soon demand justice, and he must reveal his painful secret. How can Kip tell anyone that he really is—or was—a murderer?

4.  Burn by Suzanne Phillips
Burn"Are our schools safe?" It's hard to turn on the news without hearing this question, and the answer is typically "no." This novel explores what happens when bullying escalates to violence, and it challenges our definition of victimization. With thought-provoking prose, Suzanne Phillips explores the psyche of Cameron, a bullied freshman who ultimately does the unthinkable: he kills another student. As she did with Chloe Doe, Suzanne has found a way to make this seemingly dark story ultimately redemptive. But she also dares readers to look at the behavior that provokes violence as having the potential to be as dangerous as the violence itself. It's Suzanne's hope that Burn will inspire readers to take a precautionary stance against bullying rather than waiting to react to it.

5.  Boot Camp by Todd Strasser
Boot CampIn the middle of the night, Garret is kidnapped from his home and taken to Lake Harmony, a disciplinary boot camp for troubled teens. Beaten, humiliated, and stripped of his pride, Garrett is abused almost to his breaking point. He won't be allowed to leave until he admits his "mistakes" and repents completely...whether he's guilty or not. Then Garrett hears whispers of an escape plot. It's incredibly risky—if he's caught, the consequences will be unthinkable—but it may be his only way out.

So, friends, what's your favorite YA Contemp?  I need to update my TBR list. 


  1. I'm sorry, it's not a genre I read, so I can't give you any suggestions.

  2. I don't normally gravitate towards YA contemporary, but when I read it I usually like it. I love the new John Green novel A Fault in our Stars. Can you see the hearts around it? I have a couple sitting on my shelf, but still have to read them. K.M.'s book is awesome too.
    I will have to add the ones you mentioned to my list. Thanks.

  3. Funnily enough, I've read Boot Camp. Did I get it from you at the Xmas book exchange? Maybe I did.

    I thought the ending seemed a bit forced. It made the book feel more like an extended polemic as opposed to a well-rounded work of fiction. That said, it was eye-opening, and worth the read for that aspect alone.

    And another congrats on finishing draft two, good sir. Onward! :D


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