It takes guts for an adult writer to convey real emotions and issues from a kid's perspective. The dark side of bullying, love, betrayal, and fitting in isn't always what people want to hear. Every Day, Wonder, and The Reluctant Diary of Henry K. Larsen are three gutsy, powerful books that will resonate with young adults. These books speak the "truth" (in a fictional sense) about tween and teenage life. Rather than sugar-coat difficult issues, these writers use insight and dark humour to spark interest. There's just no point in condescending to today's well-informed kids.
As an adult, I don't always expect to connect with YA books. Much to my surprise, I could not put these titles down. I even cried. After my daughter read one of the books, we had a great discussion. It reminded me that the most difficult topics can make great conversation, especially when they lie safely between the covers of a book.
Winner of the Governor General's Literary Awards, 2012. After IT happened, 13-year-old Henry's life would never be the same. "When people find out you're related to a guy who committed murder/suicide, they can never treat you the same way ever again. They can't help thinking that, at any moment, you could go postal, too." Henry's struggle to recover a sense of normalcy after his brother's crime and death was deeply moving, but not sappy. Author Susan Nielsen uses humour and believable teen scenarios to break up a dark theme. Nielsen's exploration into the dynamic of bullies and victims was heart-wrenching. (Ages: 11 and up.)
Every day 16-year-old "A" wakes up in a different person's body for one full day. He half-expected to wake up as a pot-head, or even as a Spanish maid. But he never expected to fall in love. "If I woke up in a different body every day-if you never knew what I was going to look like tomorrow-would you still love me?" More than a captivating story, this novel challenges our assumptions about family, education, social class, identity, and love. (Ages: 11 and up.)
"If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all." August's facial deformities have kept him from going to school, but that's about to change. How much courage will it take to be different among ordinary kids? Maybe August isn't so different after all, but it won't be easy convincing others not to judge a boy by his face. An uplifting story about courage, friendship, and the power to overcome adversity. "Be extraordinary in an ordinary world." (Ages: 9 and up.)
These are books I know my daughter and I will carry with us a long time. They are thought-provoking reads that will last long after the batteries have worn out on the latest gadgets. And don't forget, they definitely make great holiday gifts for the tweens on your list.
One YMC member will win a "Great Reads for Middle-Schoolers" prize pack featuring these three books, courtesy of Random House of Canada.