Patrick Ness has coined the acronym ‘CBAIT’: crappy books about important things. On March 27, he wrote an article in the SLJ blog and defined these books as ‘books with either important subject matter or important formats that are so terrible-but-worthy they turn reading into medicine for young people’.
We read books for different reasons; to escape, to dream, to learn, to find empathy or to challenge ourselves. However, whatever our motive, we all want the book we are reading to entertain us. Entertainment is key when it comes to reading – if readers are going to choose to read, then it has to be as much fun as other pastimes. I agree with Patrick Ness – whilst YA books can play an important role in educating teenagers about important issues like bullying, racism, substance abuse, coping with loss or the history of the world we live in, these books still need to have a good story and they need to entertain.
So which YA books do not merit the CBAIT brand but qualify as Great Books About Important Things? Here are 10 of BT&Ms favourites.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (since I borrowed his acronym, I thought it only fair to mention his book first). A book about coping with loss and all the emotions that you can feel inside you when someone you love is dying. Beautifully written.
Being Billy by Phil Earle – you might avoid Billy if you met him on a dark street, but this book helps you to see the bigger picture, to understand and perhaps empathise with him as he struggles to make a life for himself.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys – a beautifully written book about the deportation of Lithuanians to Siberia. Lina’s emotional and harrowing journey had me engrossed.
Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd – a book set during the IRA hunger strikes in the 1970’s. Informative, fascinating and an excellent read.
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – a compelling dystopian series which makes you think long and hard about racism.
What’s Up With Jody Barton by Hayley Long – A great story and, half way through, you realise you shouldn’t be so quick to make presumptions (can’t say more without it being a spoiler so you’ll have to read the book to see what I mean)
Two Weeks with the Queen by Maurice Gleitzman – cancer and loss and AIDs written about in a touching and human way. The book will have you giggling and crying in equal amounts.
She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick – Laureth travels to America to find her dad and the book follows her adventures, some of which are a little whacky. However Laureth taught me a lot and made me think, because of who she was and how she behaved. You have to read the book to find out why.
Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy – JJ kills another child – should she be allowed back into society? The book really makes you think – it doesn’t necessarily give you answers but it does raise important questions.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – Eleanor’s home life is a mess and it affects everything. For those readers who come from a comfortable home background this book is an eye-opener, others may find some empathy in Eleanor’s struggles to hold everything together. And it’s a great love story too.