Yesterday was Top 5 Wednesday, one of my favorite bookish memes. My schedule was jam packed though, and I unfortunately couldn’t get it posted on time, but I loved the topic so much I hated to see it go to waste. That being books with “hard” topic such as mental illness, abuse, etc. I’ve read so many great contemporary’s in my day that would fit the bill, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to shine light on those that I don’t mention as much on here. There’s some really amazing, under hyped (in my opinion) story’s on here that are definitely worthy of a place in your Amazon cart!
1.Tease by Amanda Maciel
Tease by Amanda Maciel is one of those books I would recommend to everyone, yet I frequently forget to mention it here. But when I saw this Top 5 Wednesday theme, I knew I’d be hard pressed to find a more fitting book. Tease is in no way an easy story to read, but as our society is increasingly in tune to the grey area of bullying, I feel that it’s a must for all contemporary lovers to pick up. What makes Maciel stand apart so much as an emerging talent is her ability to disconnect from the issue she’s discussing in intimate detail. She never allows her own feelings to creep into their narrative, instead presenting only a platform for discussion to jump off from. Maciel’s first novel is an exemplary instance of this, as she allows the reader to form their own opinions on the issue by giving a very real look into both the mindset of both the perpetrator and victim. Amazing and heartfelt, definitely one of the most under appreciated gems I’ve read.
2.The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Despite being a huge fan of realistic fiction, I would not cite Laurie Halse Anderson as one of my favorite authors. In the case of The Impossible Knife of Memory though, I feel she really hit it out of the park in presenting a raw look at those affected by PTSD. I instantly felt for teenage protagonist Hayley as she’s forced to grow up far too early and care for her father Andy, an Iraqi veteran trapped in the war. Their plight is one felt by many, and I was shocked after reading by the lack of stories out there that cover a similar issue. It’s certainly not without flaws, but it was obvious whilst reading that Anderson sensed the longevity this book had and took special pains to give the most accurate portrayal of the disorder as possible. It certainly opened my eyes to the realness felt by people across generations. Though this one never reached the height of Speak, Anderson applies similar magic to affect both teenager and adults in a thoughtful, mature manner.
3.Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
I only recently read Challenger Deep, and in my wrap-up I mentioned that I believe Neal Shusterman really missed some opportunities to take this novel to the next level. Nevertheless it still stands out as an extremely realistic, gritty look at the horrors of schizophrenia and one that comes highly suggested by me. Caden Bosch is a fictionalization of Shusterman’s own son, and to me that knowledge only made it all the more difficult to push through his increasingly disorientated narrative. And I don’t think I’m alone in that regard as it holds a 4.12 rating on Goodreads, with stellar reviews across the board. I believe that success is largely due to Shusterman’s no bars approach to portraying mental illness, and how he strayed from most authors shortcoming of romantic glamorization. Even if you’ve tried Shusterman’s science fiction before to lackluster opinions, his first foray into contemporary is for a whole new reader
4.Crank by Ellen Hopkins
As much as I go on and on and on about the greatness of Ellen Hopkins prose, the real reason Crank holds an enduring place in my heart is the reality behind her (let’s admit it) beautiful verse. Way back in 2005, when her debut was first published, I don’t believe any authors had really talked about drug and substance abuse in such an open, candid manner. But as the accolades came rolling in she set forth a whole new ballgame that truly would change the shape of young adult fiction. Getting back on topic though, I have enormous respect for Hopkins unexploited take on narrator Kristina’s descent into the rabbit hole of crack. There’s obviously many parts that are jarring, and would send near anyone on edge, but nothing is ever included for shock and awe purposes alone. Similar to Shusterman, Hopkins wrote Crank to start a discussion on the tragedy her family experienced because of drugs, and that voice has endured to last ten years later.
5.Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
The only middle grade book to appear on this list, Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt discusses a gamut of issues in a way that is accessible and thought provoking to it’s demographic of 4th-7th grade readers. Being only 200 pages it may give the impression that Schmidt brings up important topics in his narrative, only to later gloss over them, but he truly does lend his talents unequivocally to making each story line fleshed out and full of insightful. Not an easy task by any regards, especially when your platter includes such heavy hitters as child abuse and teen pregnancy. Schmidt blends it together seamlessly though, and I never felt that my emotions were being played for shock value. Even more importantly I think Schmidt really hits the nail on the head in crafting true to form, middle school aged protagonists that will resonate. Jack and Joseph are not pretentious, nor overly naive, but a delightful blend of the two that only further serves to send home the stories message of hope and friendship.
So what are your favorite “issue” books? Have you checked out any of the one’s I mentioned above? Let me know in the comments.
–Keep Calm and Read On