November is Just Contemporary month, hosted by Basically Amazing Books and Chick Loves Lit. If you follow my blog, then you know my true love for YA falls with the contemps. So when I found out about this month long feature I knew I had to participate.
Each week different topics will be discussed among the blogs in regards to contemporary YA. The beauty of this genre is it reaches many different outlets. While one book might leave you breathless from laughing so hard, another may have you clutching it in tears. My reasons for reading YA contemps are based on that reaction alone.
This week's topic: Tough Stuff
Some people read to escape the hard edges of reality, so they may steer clear of the grittier and more challenging topics in books. For me though, I welcome it with open arms. I'm more apt to pick up a book that deals with the "tough stuff" than I am to read a light & fluffy book. When it comes to contemps, I think some of the most well written books in YA are the ones who dig deep and portray the not so pretty side of life. The most rewarding feeling you can get from a book is when a character has walked in your shoes, and you're able to identify with them. It's almost as though that author took bits of your story, and put them on paper.
Death is always a hard pill to swallow in any story. It's so final. I know a few readers stay away from books that involve such a heavy topic and I completely understand why. Death and dying is never an easy thing to read about. The first 22 years of my life, I was one of those people. Why would I want to read about someone else's pain? But then something happened, and my views on death drastically changed. It was no longer this part of the world that I had heard of; it was now something sitting in my home, obvious in everything I looked at, spoke about, and thought of. Due to my experience with losing my mother at a fairly young age (I was 22), I have a different approach to death in stories. When a character explains the ugly process of what one feels like after losing someone, I get it. I'm right there, in that moment with them. It's an even more beautiful thing when a character goes through the motions of grieving, breaks down a few hundred times, but eventually knows how to pick themselves back up. I get that, too.
A few YA contemps I've read dealing with death that stick out in my mind are: Moonglass by Jessi Kirby, The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle, Saving June by Hannah Harrington, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.
Each of these stories approach death from a different angle, yet I found something common with them all: the capacity to accept, deal, and move forward. Its a hard lesson to learn in life. A lesson I wish I never knew. But that's the irony of life, we never know what cards we'll be dealt. You just have to play them, good or bad. If you're on the fence about reading a YA contemp that deals with death, I encourage you to read any of these that I mentioned. Sometimes the "tough stuff" are the most rewarding stuff ;-)