This post is inspired by BookTrust’s article Best diary books for how it feels to be a teenager which listed some of my favourite YA books. I love the directness of diary books – the way the narrator talks to the reader so that you feel privy to their innermost thoughts and secrets. Here are 10 – very different – YA books written in a diary format:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
Charlie has started high school and it is a lonely place. He is shy, socially awkward and very bright. Whilst he is not actually unpopular, he is different, an outsider and friendless. He decides that he needs to start participating in school life and joins in with a group of older students who introduce him to dates, alcohol, drugs and friendship. It’s not an easy road for Charlie but it opens up a new world for him.
A coming of age book; poignant and full of hope. The book is written as a series of letters by Charlie to an unknown person. In the letters, Charlie talks about his life, his family, his friends, his experiences and his feelings. Charlie is an engaging and honest character, and readers will find themselves rooting for him, wanting him to find happiness and to feel that he belongs.
Spud by John Van de Ruit
Set in South Africa at the time Nelson Mandela is released from prison and apartheid is being dismantled. Spud in a 13 year old boy starting at a new boarding school. He is clever and thoughtful and a diary writer – this book is his diary of his first year at the school – the sport, the teachers, the books, his successes, his failures, the friendships, the bullying, the girls and his whacky family. Along the way, he comments on the changing political situation in South Africa.
The tone of this book pulls you in – friendly, funny, thoughtful and, at times, sad. Spud’s life is populated with whacky characters – perhaps more than most – but his descriptions of these people and their behaviour mean that they do not become caricatures but are believable and real. The backdrop of the changing political situation in South Africa, and the reaction of different people to it, provides an interesting, thoughtful and informative edge to what it a hugely enjoyable, at times laugh out loud and at times quite emotional story.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Cassandra is growing up in an eccentric, bohemian and impoverished family. When the young American owners of the castle they rent turn up, romance is in the air and all their lives change…
Beautiful language and a fairy tale story. Romantic and fun but not sugary sweet.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Junior lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He has a loving family, a handicap, and a dead end future. But Junior has courage and dreams and determination, and he chooses to attend a local white high school. Settling in isn’t easy, but the hardest thing is, that in settling into his new school, he leaves his old life behind…
Junior tells his story in a funny, yet heartbreaking tone. He provides us with a fascinating insight into life on a reservation and also into the struggles he faces to achieve his dreams. Brilliantly written with amusing cartoons. At times you find yourself laughing even though what you are reading is achingly sad.
The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby by Natasha Farrant
I love these books – a full review can be found here.
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen by Susin Nielsen
Henry’s life has been destroyed by something his brother did. He has had to move schools and towns and he now lives with his dad in a small and unattractive flat. He is trying to settle into his new school, make friends and cope without his mother, but it’s hard. He also has to visit a counsellor to help him cope with his new life. The counsellor suggests that Henry keep a journal. Henry is reluctant to do this…
The journal that Henry reluctantly writes is the book that we read. He writes as if he is talking to you and his tone is honest and amusing. Henry will only tell us things about his life when he is ready and so the tragedy of what happened unfolds slowly; the story is heartbreaking and the book does not try to hide the long term damage that bullying and its side effects can cause. Ultimately, though, Henry’s approach to life and the tone he uses to communicate make this an uplifting book.
Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Margaret and her parents have moved out of New York to New Jersey. Life is different and she has to adapt to a new school and friends. Her confident classmate, Nancy, takes her under her wing and Margaret is soon settled in her group of friends. However, when you are eleven, things are not always so easy. There are boys to think about, and bras, and friends and getting your period. Margaret is also worried about religion. Everyone seems to have one, but her parents have decided to let her decide her own religion when she grows up. When she is on her own, Margaret talks to God about her worries and about wanting to grow up.
A gentle, straightforward read which paints a very real picture of all the worries that fill your mind when you are on the cusp of becoming a teenager; how important it is to appear grown up, to belong, to be normal! Although the book is a little dated, it is still very relevant to life today. As well as identifying with Margaret’s worries, readers can learn from her as she realises that perhaps you shouldn’t believe everything some people tell you. An enjoyable book – funny and thought provoking.
Georgia Nicolson C0nfessions series by Louise Rennison
Mad and funny with some great truths about the agonies of teenage boyfriends. Or lack of teenage boyfriends. The books are pure fun and escapism. They may not win any literary gongs but who cares – I loved them and so will many teen girl readers.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Anne Frank, her family and some friends hide in a secret annexe to escape the concentration camps of WW2. This is her diary of that period – full of the hopes, the dreams and also the daily irritations in the life of young teenage girl.
An excellent example of diary writing. Not an action story so some can find it boring but stick with it and gain a unique insight into the suffering of people in WW2.
The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
Linus finds himself trapped in a bunker. There are no windows, no doors, no exit. He doesn’t know where he is and he doesn’t know why he’s there. Slowly more people arrive until there are six of them trapped in the bunker, reliant on some unseen person for everything they need to survive. Can they escape? Can they survive?
Linus tells this story in a diary format, interweaving the everyday events in the bunker with memories of his past and his attempts to understand what the purpose of the bunker is. Fascinating and heartbreaking: this is a dark and disturbing book. The reader longs for a happy ending whilst dreading what might happen.
There are more than 10 YA books/series written in diary format. What have I missed out?