The YA (Young Adult) Genre spawns some of the most popular and influential books around. YA books manage to capture the trials and tribulations of being a teenager which nearly every teen can relate to as well as provide comfort to adults who were able to bypass their teenage troubles thanks to books in that genre. Whether its been a few years or a few days since you last read a YA book, revisit your teenage angst with these ten reads!
1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
While there has been some debate as to whether Salinger’s novel is technically a YA Book or not, it certainly conveys teenage angst through the portrayal of the angsty-est teen in the literary universe, Holden Caulfield. Caulfield’s obsession with acknowledging the “phony” nature of his peers along with his rejection of conformity really captures the issues of identity and fitting in that many teenagers face.
2. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Written in an epistolary style, The Perks of Being A Wallflower captures the social isolation felt by teenagers who can’t find their footing on the high school social ladder. From the hidden traumas that hold teenagers back from progressing to the inability to be whom everyone else wants them to be (while marinating their true self-image), this book is a must-read to understand teenage angst.
3. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Hinton’s book The Outsiders has been celebrated for decades for its ability to convey the quintessential fight teenagers face. From fighting to maintain their identity in a community that prides conformity, to fighting to survive the social and economical strongholds in their culture, to fighting to protect those closest to them, to fighting against the negative voice in their heads that tries to hold them down, The Outsiders shows the external and internal struggles so many teens face.
4. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
With the success of Netflix’s adaptation of 13 Reasons Why, now is better than ever to read the book that started it all. Jay Asher’s haunting tale of depression, suicide, and the world left over is a must-read for those wishing to understand what could possibly drive someone, especially a young adult, to suicide. Moreover Asher’s ability to sensitively yet realistically portray the influential realities of high school including bullying, ostracism, peer pressure, and sexual assault makes 13 Reasons Why a must-read.
5. Looking for Alaska by John Green
John Green’s award-winning book captures the desire many teenagers have of chasing the thrills of life and to stop holding back. Of course, living to the fullest often comes with strings attatched as Green’s protagonist soon learns after encountering an alluring new girl who promises to fulfill the excitement he seeks – while also, unbeknownst to him, will be his downfall. The complexity of love, gain, and loss which teens face is perfectly depicted in Looking for Alaska.
6. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (Beatrice Sparks)
Though the authorship has seen controversy since its release, Go Ask Alice has often been cited as one of the most influential YA books in history. With it’s powerful recollection of teenage drug use coupled with an anonymous narrator, Go Ask Alice manages to depict relatable teenage issues that every reader can relate to and is so believable that readers can easily see themselves as “Alice.”
7. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Fitting in is the goal many of us have in order to achieve acceptance, friendship, and a place for ourselves. unfortunately, fitting is often a synonym for conformity. High School (or life in general, to be honest) is a place where ecocentrism and individualism is often looked down upon. In Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli captures a haunting journey of achieving what you desire while trying to reject conformity and stay true to yourself.
8. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
I read this for the first time in the eighth grade and let me tell you, it blew me away. Ellen Hopkins is the master of teenage angst, using her unique and poetic writing style to depict the complexity of teenage sexuality, peer pressure, body image, drug use, trauma, dysfunctional family relations, and more. Crank introduces readers to Kristina, a character inspired by Hopkins’ real-life daughter, whose life is turned upside down when peer pressure leads to a drug addiction. Crank‘s ability to challenge the way we think about addicts by humanizing a teenage drug user, creating a character whom readers can empathize with, makes this a must-read.
9. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros’ lyrical yet emotional vignettes provides eye-opening glimpses into self-discovery and sexual maturity. With her portrayal of a young Latina who fantasizes about escaping her poverty-stricken neighborhood and achieving freedom from the oppressive social and cultural forces that are ingrained in her, Cisneros captures the desire for freedom and escape that plaques young adults who are figuring out who they are and what they want (and deserve).
10. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie is a writer most known for his examination of race and role in one’s culture. He honors his writing style in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, in which he’s depiction of a young Native American teen who leaves his reservation for a mostly all-white school raises the question of how one can own up to who they are while rejecting the negative cultural stereotypes and expectations assigned to them. Alexie’s book is a must-read for anyone who has struggled with their identity and to those who never had to who could benefit from understanding the struggles of others.
Featured Image Via Unsplash/Aziz Acharki. All In-Text Images Via Amazon.