Readers rejoice! Young adult (and all books for that matter) are representing an increasingly diverse array of characters from different races, viewpoints, sexualities, and walks of life previously unheard of. Personally I could hardly be more thrilled. Not only do all people now have a voice in the world of books to represent them, but there’s education on subject manners that would traditionally get swept under the rug. In the latest installment of Top 5 Wednesday I decided to list the characters I feel were ahead of their time in breaking ground for the host of unique souls now in literature.
Crank by Ellen Hopkins was only the debut of an author who continues to give fresh and personal perspectives to some of the most high profile problems in our news today. While the dangers and havoc that drugs wreak on a person are well known, the viewpoint of an abuser is a side of the story often never touched on. Hopkins took stories from her own daughters history as a drug user, and from their crafted the story of Kristina; a high achieving good girl held under the strict thumb of her mother until one summer visit to her father leaves her life spiraling out of control. It deeply unnerved me to read a story of a young woman with a similar cushy, happy upbringing such as my own, experience a total catalyst throughout the books content. It definitely affected me on a highly personal level and introduced me to the horrors of drugs in a first hand way. Forget health class videos, this book will keep kids clean for life.
2. Paige Rawl- Positive: A Memoir
Paige Rawl is such an inspiring young woman who has overcome so much adversity, and positively impacted many people, throughout the course of her twenty years. She was born with HIV, something she kept hidden for thirteen years, until at a school lock in she revealed to her closest friend her “secret”. From there rumors spread like wildfire and Paige faced harassment and bullying through junior high from both peers and adults alike. In 2015 though Paige has risen even stronger that thought possible, both an advocate of anti-bullying and HIV/AIDS awareness. Over the course of her superbly written book (which I highly recommend all 6th-12th graders read, by the way) she shares stories from her life and the lessons she’s taken away from them, as well as breaking common misconceptions of HIV and the people who live with it. A motivational speaker in the making, I eagerly anticipate hearing about Ms. Rawl in the future.
3. Reuben & Danny- The Chosen
The Chosen is one of my favorite “classic” reads, a story whose message remains timeless even seventy odd years later. Set right after the armistice of World War II the book takes place in Williamsburg Brooklyn, a hub for both the Hasidic and Secular Jewish communities. While The Chosen has many fascinating themes and hidden subtexts, I devoted many an hour on Sparknotes trying to analyze them all, the reason why I feel it really fits into the category of diverse characters is the perspective it offers on religion and Jewish society at the time. While I knew there are two different branches of Judaism I never understood how they differed in their stances, as well as the history behind the controversy happening in Israel at the time. With Potok himself being a Jewish scholar both are tackled in great detail in a very interesting way for a history buff. Spanning over nearly a decade of unrest I came out of this book much more informed and thoroughly intrigued by both Reuben and Danny’s perspective.
4. Amal- Does My Head Look Big In This?
Amal is an everyday Australian high school girl; obsessed with boys, annoyed by her parents, and 100% backed up by her best friends. That is until after watching an episode of Friends she decides to embrace her faith wholeheartedly by wearing a traditional Muslim hijab full time. Suddenly what seemed like a minor decision made only to connect her to religion is one full of prejudices and unforeseen reactions that shake her to the core. While this book is a breeze to read with little actual depth, Amal is a great narrator every reader will take something away from. She’s a fierce and loyal friend, a young woman who knows what she believes and is not afraid to stand by her decisions, and an unflinchingly honest spitfire all in one. I very much respect how despite the way certain situations became dangerously intense and left her doubting the reasons for her apparently radical choice, she still recognized how important this choice was to her connecting with her faith and stood by it until the end. A fun book with some surprisingly deep context throughout.
5. Matt- Purple Heart
I read this short little story when I was in between books, looking for nothing more than an entertaining book. Appearances can be deceiving though as Purple Heart packs a deeply emotional punch throughout that left me thinking about it for weeks after. It’s told from the eyes of Matt Duffy, a young soldier stationed in Iraq who has just received the Purple Heart for his honor in battle. Only problem is he doesn’t feel like a hero, in fact he knows there’s a part of the story his comrades are omitting and he fears it means the death of an Iraqi child at his involvement. A story of the gray area that falls between black and white, where someone can be both a white stallion and black knight, Matt is a refreshing addition for younger readers of young adult. This is a story that’s more accessible to junior high readers than adult war movies such as American Sniper would be, while still offering just as moving and applicable of an addition to literature. For past readers of Patricia McCormick come prepared for all the same feels.
I loved writing this Top 5 Wednesday and hope to discover many new one of a kind books by checking out the other blogger and booktubers posts. If you have any questions on the gist of Top 5 Wednesday check out this link:Top 5 Wednesday Info!