Amy Giles | The Children’s Book Review | January 30, 2018
5 Young Adult Novels Rooted in Reality
Many of my favorite young adult books are the ones that tear my heart to bits, but only if the book promises to make my heart whole again by the end. Shattered hearts when mended can be stronger and made even more beautiful, like in the centuries-old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold.
I really lean into these heartbreaking / heartwarming stories, rooted in reality, but with soul-healing redemptions at the end. So if you don’t mind having your heart torn out, repeatedly, as long as it’s put back in one piece where it belongs, here are a few of my favorite reads.
Written by Robin Roe
A List of Cages was so riveting, I read it in one feverish sitting and suffered the equivalent of a book-induced brain freeze. Adam is loved because he loves; his happiness is infectious. Julian is reclusive, not letting on to anyone—not even the school counselor he keeps trying to dodge—the abuse he suffers at home. Robin Roe is a master storyteller who is able to turn a crushing story into a powerful testament to the resiliency of spirit. One of my favorite lines from Adam, “Hate ricochets, but kindness does too,” left me wishing there were more Adams in this world.
Ages 12 and up | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1484763803
Written by Ruth Lehrer
Never has a book made me laugh and cry so hard, page after page, from beginning to end. Fishkill and Duck-Duck are officially two of my favorite book people: Fishkill, who is too strong, stubborn, and resilient for her own good, and Duck-Duck, with her hilarious grasp of the legal system. Together, their flawed logic actually makes sense in a world that is completely nonsensical. A tragic portrayal of poverty, homelessness, and abuse, but above all else, friendship, this is a book that will leave you shaken, broken, and yet somehow, “re-carnated.”
Ages 14 and up | Publisher: Candlewick | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0763684426
Written by Amber Smith
I read Amber Smith’s debut The Way I Used to Be twice, back to back. So needless to say, I was champing at the bit to read her next book, and folks: it…does…not…disappoint! Families of domestic abuse have secrets, and not all members of a family share the same story. Amber does a phenomenal job exploring the different ways Brooke, her mother, and her siblings were affected by the violence they witnessed or experienced in their home. This emotionally charged story is a pitch-perfect portrait of complicated families.
Ages 14 and up | Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books | February 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1481480734
Written by Tiffany D. Jackson
Critically acclaimed for its unsettling situations, complex characters, and its dark portrait of the legal system, Tiffany Jackson’s debut Allegedly rattled me to my core and her next novel sounds just as electrically charged. Not one to shy away from hard truths, Jackson’s next novel Monday’s Not Coming is based loosely on real-life events: a teenage African-American girl who goes missing for a year before anyone notices except for her best friend. Nothing gets sugarcoated in Tiffany’s books, because we need to know the truth. Her sophomore novel comes out in June, which gives me just enough time to recover from Allegedly.
Ages 13 and up | Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books | June 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062422675
Written by Katie Henry
Because you’ll need a laugh after these heavy reads, this is one of those books I needed in my life yesterday, but I’ll have to wait until August like everyone else. Described as The Breakfast Club meets Saved!, Katie Henry’s debut is about a nonbeliever in Catholic school who turns a secret support group, Heretics Anonymous, into a rebel group intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies one stunt at a time. Years ago, Katie and I took a writing class together and I fell head-over-heels in love with her laugh-out-loud funny, smart, and heartfelt writing. She’s also an expert on badass female saints.
Ages 13 and up | Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books | August 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062698872
Written by Amy Giles
Publisher’s Synopsis: Read the book New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith calls “powerful and haunting,” and acclaimed author Peter Brown Hoffmeister calls “beautiful and sad.”
Now Is Everything is a stirring debut novel told in alternating THEN and NOW chapters, perfect for Sarah Dessen and Jennifer Niven fans, about what one girl is willing to do to protect her past, present, and future.
The McCauleys look perfect on the outside. But nothing is ever as it seems, and this family is hiding a dark secret.
Hadley McCauley will do anything to keep her sister safe from their father. But when Hadley’s forbidden relationship with Charlie Simmons deepens, the violence at home escalates, culminating in an explosive accident that will leave everyone changed.
When Hadley attempts to take her own life at the hospital post-accident, her friends, doctors, family, and the investigator on the case want to know why. Only Hadley knows what really happened that day, and she’s not talking.
Ages 14 and up | Publisher: HarperTeen | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062495730
Amy Giles is an award-winning copywriter and young adult author. She lives on an Island that is Long with her husband, two daughters, and rescue dog.