Contemporary Young Adult is a genre I’ve found myself enjoying more as a grow older – I now believe that while fantasy is great for escapism, contemporaries also have their place in helping the reader reflect. So, here are five contemporaries I think you need to read – five contemporaries which I think redefine what it means to be contemporary.
1: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green – “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
If you haven’t heard of John Green’s masterpiece, you’ve been living under a rock – it also has arguably one of the most book-loyal films I’ve ever seen. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS broke my heart and continues to do so, the first YA Contemporary I vividly remember reading. I’ve seen it change people’s lives. I mean that literally. Watching a friend grow to love reading through this book was a great moment for fifteen-year-old me. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS ultimately takes the top spot not only because of how great it was, but also the emotional attachment I have to this book: for the first time I saw characters will illnesses and disabilities presented no differently from characters in full health – not only that, but paired with laugh-out-loud humour in even the darkest of moments. It was utterly raw, and for that I will forever respect it.
2: SOLITAIRE by Alice Oseman – “As far as I’m concerned, I came out of the womb spouting cynicism and wishing for rain.”
I’m struggling to put my thoughts about SOLITAIRE into words, and for all the right reasons. I read a lot, and while most of the content I discover I like, rarely do I fall so completely and hopelessly in love. Sometimes fiction comes along at the moment you need it most, and SOLITAIRE was a great example of this.
3: TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE by Jenny Han – “You’d rather make up a fantasy version of somebody in your head than be with a real person.”
I honestly wasn’t expecting to particularly like this – again, contemporaries didn’t used to be a genre I would read very often, but I was bored and happened to borrow this from my library as an ebook – intending to read it during the journey between home and college. I soon found myself completely drawn into the idea of writing letters to those you’ve loved as a way of getting over them: setting the events of the novel into motion. TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE was another example of a book coming along at a time I needed it most.
4: RADIO SILENCE by Alice Oseman – “I wonder sometimes whether you’ve exploded already, like a star, and what I’m seeing you is three million years into the past, and you’re not here anymore. How can we be together here, now, when you are so far away. When you are so far ago? I’m shouting so loudly, but you never turn around to see me. Perhaps it is I who have already exploded. Either way, we are going to bring beautiful things into the universe.”
I’ve posted a book review about RADIO SILENCE which explains my full thoughts on this novel. It is a wonderful, complex, diverse novel which well deserves it’s place on this list – although in my opinion not quite as magnificent as SOLITAIRE, it’s still a novel I would recommend to anyone seeking a new dose of contemporary YA.
5: EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon – “Maybe growing up means disappointing the people we love.”
A review for EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING is coming soon. For an indication of how much I loved this novel, it took me around four hours to read from cover to cover – I’m a fast reader, but few novels pull me in enough to finish a book that fast, especially during exam season. Any book I love enough to neglect the things around me is a good enough book to be on this list – 5th place is only an indication of how great the books that came before were.
Honourable mentions also go to THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE, EVERY DAY, and KETCHUP CLOUDS – all of which are also contemporaries I recommend.