Last weeks Memory Monday post was a list of Contemporary books that I feel are a great introduction to the genre for younger readers. Today's post is a list of books for older readers that I think can make Contemporary lovers out of anyone. It's not really a memory, I suppose, but I have very fond memories/experiences with all of these, so I'm counting it. :)
Not all of these books will be for every reader. But I'm pretty confident that there is at least something among this rather large list for everyone. And I have read all of these and will personally vouch for their insane levels of awesome. Also, this is in no way a complete list. It was impossibly hard narrowing down the books I included, so if you want or need more recommendations, seriously ask away. I am more than happy to share the books that (unfortunately) didn't make this list.
Melina Marchetta. I know I'm already cheating, that Melina Marchetta is a person, not a book, but she is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her book Jellicoe Road not only won a Printz award, but it's also an absolutely stunning and amazingly brilliant book. But, I do recognize that it's not for everyone and sometimes it works for people new to Contemporary and sometimes it doesn't. But I do absolutely and always recommend Saving Francesca and The Piper's Son. They are a bit more accessible to some people but they are no less amazing. Anything by Marchetta will introduce you to people you can't help but love. And the reading experience is never easy, but it is so completely worth it.
The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder is a book that I recommend to everyone. It is, in my opinion, a perfect starter book. It's written in verse (which I adore and push/promote every chance I get) and the story that Lisa tells is so stunning, so amazing and just so beautifully brilliant that I don't know how you could not fall in love. And it's a book I've already recommended to several non verse and non Contemporary readers, and I have not talked to any of them who haven't loved it yet.
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly isn't straight Contemporary and I think it will appeal to fans of both Contemporary and Historical Fiction. While the book is set during the now, the main character, Andi, finds an old diary and becomes completely invested in the life of a young woman who lived during the French Revolution. And Andi is one of the most painful characters I've ever read. I physically hurt while reading this book because Andi's pain is so intensely real and it's one of the best books I read last year.
Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick is one that I read just recently but can't seem to stop thinking about or talking about. This book is a lot of things, all of which are amazing, but more than anything else, watching the absolute love between these two brothers broke my heart and put it back together again bigger and richer than it was before. I understand that not everyone can read this book. My older sister has children around the same age as the main character and literally cannot read books that deal with children with diseases or death. But it is such a phenomenal and powerful book that I would recommend it strongly to anyone who can. An absolutely beautiful book.
Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert is a hard book to read. It's a very hard story about a girl who finds herself slipping so far into a world of drugs and alcohol and cutting that she very nearly loses herself completely. It's painfully realistic in its portrayal of the life Kara finds herself living but it is also so powerfully written that you can't deny its impact or its message. And there are stories within the story. Many of the secondary characters who are especially important to the narrator have a chance to share their own stories, in a series of personal ballads and while the whole book is brilliant, those pieces especially made this book so perfect. This was a game changing book for me. It taught me a lot about myself and about life and it's one that I think people need to be more aware of.
No list introducing readers to Contemporary YA would be complete without Sarah Dessen. She's got quite a few books under her belt and so many people absolutely love her. I put of reading anything by her for a long time because I assumed it was too romance-y for my taste (and I was sniffabove books like that) but I started reading them last year and now I own them all. She really is an amazing author. I haven't read all of her books yet, I'm only about halfway through, but my two favorites are The Truth About Forever and Just Listen. Dessen has this way of writing a story that straddles the border between light-hearted fun and serious topics. She's pretty much brilliant and a must read within the genre.
The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks by E. Lockhart is one of the wittiest, smartest books I've ever read. Frankie is one of the best main characters I have ever read. And it has the word disreputable in the title. Seriously.
Laurie Halse Anderson is another author that I think needs to be read. Her books deal with heavy subject matter but are important and powerful. Speak, Twisted and Wintergirls have all found a place on my favorites shelf.
I don't think there are enough genuinely funny books out there, so if you are looking for more light-hearted, fun, laugh your face off in public books, you should definitely try Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway about a girl whose life becomes a media circus after her ex-boyfriend writes a breakup song about her that goes viral & rockets to the top of all the charts (yay for music in books!). Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman is also absolutely hysterical. It has a similar plot to the movie She's the Man with Amanda Bynes except instead of soccer it's "investigative journalism" but it's seriously laugh-out-loud funny and there was more than one time that I had to stop reading because I was getting funny looks from the people sitting around me. Man its hard to breathe when you are laughing that hard! Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout have also written some really cute and fun books together. I've only read Girl v. Boy and Love, Inc. but both were super fun and entertaining. Definitely a fun way to spend a few hours. :)
And, of course, I can't not mention the phenomenon that is Stephanie Perkins. I can't tell you how many reviews I've seen that talk about- not being a Contemporary reader, but then I read this and !!!!. Seriously you guys. Anna and the French Kiss is a book that has a little something in it for everyone. It's super cute, but the characters are also real people who do have issues beyond what they are going to wear that day, or whether or not super cute guy likes them. This is a book about real life without being heavy or emotionally draining. Something about Stephanie's writing makes the story reality to everyone reading. Definitely one you should check out. I can't think of anyone off hand that I would not recommend this one too. It's companion novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door is also completely full of win.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is another book that I think many people, Contemporary readers or not, can get caught up in reading, but more than that, I also think it is a book that more people should be reading. It's a story that makes us accountable, even if only to ourselves, about what type of person we are and makes us recognize on a deeper level that what we do really does affect other people, that our choices impact others and we have no way of knowing what they are going through right now. Teenagers especially need to read this, need to recognize and understand that life isn't only about them and that other people matter too.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many wonderfully amazing books that I had to leave off this list. Books like Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King or Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler, Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson and on and on. The Contemporary Genre has so much to offer readers. So very, very much. And I hope that you give it a chance, give it the opportunity to show you what it's made of, to show you what it really can do.