Patrick Ness was tweeting today about YA books and serious issues. This tweet of his inspired me to write this blog:
“Books about serious issues for teens can be AMAZING. *AMAAAAAZING*. They can also be painfully terrible. Make yours amazing. With five As.”
I’ve blogged on this subject before when I was inspired by another Patrick Ness tweet with the acronym CBAIT (Crappy Books About Important Things). However, just recently I’ve read some lovely YA books about serious issues and I wanted to share them with you. It is really important that these books have an excellent storyline and engaging characters – no one wants to be lectured at and no one wants to struggle to turn the pages of a book, however fascinating the serious subject issue is. It’s like the Aesop’s Fable ‘The North Wind and the Sun’: I want the books I read to be like the sun, warming me up gently and pulling me in, rather than bashing me over the head like the north wind.
So here are ten of my favourite YA books with great story lines, lovely writing, interesting characters and serious issues all woven together:
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – the main serious issue is coming out as gay when you are a teenager in school. This is a brilliant and fun story with a set of engaging and believable characters.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – there are two serious issues in this book – mental health and suicide. It should be a very sad book – and it is. I found tears all on my cheeks without realising I was crying – but it is also a lovely book that made me think and feel. Also look out for Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella which is coming out in June this year.
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson – the serious issue tackled is about being transgender and being accepted. I avoided reading this book for a while thinking it would be too serious but I was wrong. The issue is serious but the story is interesting, the characters are fun and the writing is lovely.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – this is one of my favourite books about coping with death. I loved its honesty, its acknowledgement that when someone you love is dying you don’t just feel sad, you feel angry too: not just with the world but with them.
Close Your Pretty Eyes by Sally Nicholls – the serious issue is about the effects of growing up in abusive and dysfunctional families and being in care. This book made me see things and learn things and I loved that the ending left things open and unclear. Like life often is.
Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy and its sequel Finding Jennifer Jones – the serious issue is children who commit murders. This book really made me think about how children who are killers are treated by society and how they are portrayed in the media. Should they be given a chance to start a new life when their victims have no life? The author’s ability to make you empathise with both the killer and the victim’s family is what makes this book so successful.
Lottie Biggs is (not) Mad by Hayley Long – the serious issue is mental health. Lottie is a fun and wacky character but, as the book progresses, the reader starts to realise that some of the wackiness is perhaps a sign of something more. Funny and hilarious in parts, the book is also achingly sad because coping with mental health issues is not a laugh.
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – the serious issue is racial prejudice. I wish every teen would read this book.They will love the action and the adventure of the story and they will learn so much too.
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill – the serious issue is an obsession with body image. An exciting dystopian story which makes you think about the way women, especially teen girls, can obsess about body image. Using a future and unreal world enables the author to highlight this issue in a fascinating way – much better than had it been set in today’s world.
Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace – the serious issue is about the long-term effects of destructive civil wars. This book is about Zimbabwe and therefore there are also racial issues covered in the book. The story is fascinating and compelling and it makes the reader think about right and wrong, and how sometimes the line between them is not so clear.
This list of book is only the tip of the iceberg – there are many more books about serious issues for teens that are amazing. You can find more here.