Saturday, November 12, 2011

Just Contemporary: Tough Stuff

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 ;-)



  1. You are totally amazing! I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your mother at such a young age. It's amazing how different stories connect with you. Both Moonglass and If I Stay are such fabulous reads. I totally agree that we never know what card we're going to be dwelt. Great post!

  2. I knew from following you, that you had lost your mom. That couldn't have been easy. :( I get what your saying though, that connection you get with books that deal with it.. I don't have much experience in death, but I do have issues with my parents... abusive childhood and such. So when I pick up a book that involves that, I'm immediately drawn. It's like living through it all again... but in an odd way, therapeutic. Lately I have been reading more contemporary for that reason. I like the realness of it. :)

    I also picked up Moonglass today! So I'm glad to see it on your list. I am looking foward to reading it.  

  3. I always weep and weep and weep when I read YA books that have death in them, more specifically: If I Stay. I didn't really cry during Moonglass, but If I Stay totally turned me into a mess. But, I love what you say about how we don't know what card we will be dealt, but that you have to play, regardless. Because that's true. And I like  that one can definitely take heart and courage from reading realistic YA.

  4. Great post, Ginger. Have you read Twenty Boy Summer? If not, then you should! Sarah Ockler does an AMAZING job with that book. Her portrayal of grief is spot on.

  5. agreed that tough stuff bring the most rewarding changes and experiences. it also sounds like it's therapeutic for you to read about, which is a great thing. 

    much love.

  6. Lovely post Ginger! I agree that there is SO much these books have to offer. I haven't read Saving June yet, but I've read the other three that you mentioned and I completely agree about how amazing they are! So glad that you are participating in Just Contemporary with us! :D

  7. Very nice post. Contemps are a big tent! Room for everything.


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