Staff Picks May 2018: How to Survive Being a Teenager

| May 10, 2018

20180504_201713The teenage years are idolized on film, TV, and in many books. To adults with full time jobs and responsibilities, the carefree years of being a kid may seem like paradise. But not only are you supposed to grow up emotionally and physically while you go to school and deal with grades, bullies, and unrequited love, you still live in the real world and have real world problems. Maybe you’re discovering your own sexuality or someone close to you dies. Five years ago you were playing with Barbie dolls and now you have to suddenly deal with adult problems.

If you’re reading this, you probably survived being a teenager. Congratulations! When I started college, I never wanted to think about high school again. Indeed, I had not read children’s books for many years until one summer I took a Children’s Literature class at Simmons College. I suddenly rediscovered the wit of Frog and Toad Are Friends and read Anne of Green Gables for the first time. I also started reading YA, or Young Adult, books.

The popularity of books like Harry Potter and Twilight has helped rejuvenate interest in young adult and middle grade books. But as much as I love fantasy and sci fi, there are also many important books written for young adult and middle grade audiences that deal with contemporary issues like mental illness, police brutality, sexuality, and death. Real things teens have to deal with.

thehateugiveThis collection was partly inspired by The Hate U Give. Published last year, it has a very of-the-moment feel, dealing with police brutality and the death of an unarmed black man. It generated a lot of buzz and deservedly so because it deals with a ripped from the headlines topic. YA books are about growing up and finding a voice and The Hate U Give is a great example of the genre.

One of my favorite YA authors, Neal Shusterman usually writes dark, dystopian YA (like the Unwind and Scythe series). In Challenger deep we get dual narratives of a teenager as his schizophrenia develops, while he lives in different realities. It’s still dark like his other work, yet hopeful as the adults in his life try to help him.

These are all great books that can provoke discussion, whether you are teaching a class or having a book club with adults. Here is a full list of the books exhibited:

American born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe by Benjamin Alire

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Burn Baby Burn  by Meg Medina

challengerdeppChallenger deep by Neal Shusterman

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Golden boy : a novel by Abigail Tarttelin

I am J by Cris Beam

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Marcelo in the real world by Francisco X. Stork

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Sold by Patricia McCormick

The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wonder by R.J. Palacio