Category: Non-Fiction

How Much Should Teens Be Exposed to in Fiction?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is perhaps one of the most disturbing psychological thrillers ever written. It follows married couple Nick and Amy who are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary until Amy disappears. The book is written from two points of view—that of Nick and his disturbing reactions to Amy’s disappearance as well as Amy’s perfectionistic diary entries. Gone Girl is famous for a particularly unexpected twist and shocking realization that Amy and Nick aren’t who we think they are.

When I was in my late teens, I read Gone Girl for the first time, a book that obviously deals with heavy topics. It was my first time reading a truly mature, “adult” book and while I was thoroughly shocked, I wasn’t surprised. In another instance, I remember back in middle school when a fellow classmate (and very advanced reader) wanted to do a presentation on A Song of Ice and Fire for English class but was forbidden because of “inappropriate content.”

After I read Gone Girl, I was intrigued by these heavy topics and began exploring more about the book. I found a post online full of parents complaining about whether or not the book was appropriate for teens. There were numerous answers from parents responding with hard fast “NO!”s, citing the book’s foul language and intense, disturbing topics.


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image via Hollywood reporter


I became confused, as I’d had plenty of experience with these topics already outside of the book. Here’s the funny thing about the question of how much teens should be exposed to in fiction. Children and teens are exposed to plenty of vulgar language and topics in school, oftentimes even being required to debate and form an opinion on said topics. And if that isn’t enough, they’ve certainly seen graphic material on the news and are being educated on procedures in schools in the event of an active shooter. We’re even seeing the publication of entire books like This is Where it Ends dedicated to the topic of school shooters.


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The world is changing. Children and teens are being given a voice in controversial issues, yet parents still debate over whether or not children should have fictional exposure to these topics. Here’s another funny thing: parents might think that teens as old as high school age would not understand or shouldn’t be subject to the content of a book like Gone Girl. Yet in a few years, when they turn 18, teens will be expected to be well-informed about the dangers of the real world so that they stay safe in college and the workplace. Dangers like rape, kidnapping, and abuse, all of which were themes featured in Gone Girl. Gone Girl is a work of fiction, but hearing that parents shelter their teens like this is rather alarming to me. Because what about when it comes to works of nonfiction?



Yes, Gone Girl is a work of fiction but it is good exposure. I personally found this book deeply disturbing, as most do, but also fascinating. It’s a look into the minds of two very disturbed people. A young teen might read Gone Girl and take up an interest in psychology in order to work with people like Nick and Amy. Maybe a young reader will decide to study criminal justice or analyze handwriting, inspired by something they read in the book. Hiding such information seems, to me, like a wasted opportunity. Every book we read changes us in some small way, adds a new thought to our minds. Gone Girl is an incredible book with the ability to make its readers think in new ways about people and relationships, about the crime stories we hear on the news, because none of us truly know what goes on behind closed doors.


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image via Variety


Let’s not forget that a number of young children today dislike reading, which is extremely disheartening. Sometimes I wonder if the reason so many of them hate it is because parents or teachers are handing them books that don’t show the truth of the world today, that they feel aren’t relevant to their lives. Gone Girl is certainly relevant, I think, to today’s world of crime and broken relationships, even if it took some fictional liberties. So maybe it should be up to the teen or child themselves to decide the level of intensity and relevancy that they can handle from a book, not anyone else.



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Top 5 YA Novels That Deal with Mental Health

Our minds can be the scariest place, sharing our feelings can feel like a burden, and getting out of bed can be harder than hitting the snooze button for an extra five minutes. Mental health is real, and it’s something everyone is talking and writing about now. These five amazing books are some of the best books out there that tackle this topic.



5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower


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This book follows Charlie, a boy who is coping with the recent suicide of his best friend and starting high school. He is also still coping with the death of his beloved Aunt Helen, who died when he was seven. Charlie loved her so much he blocked out the abuse she inflicted upon him and focused on the guilt he feels towards her death. He suffers from PTSD, but during his first year of high school he befriends two step siblings who show him the ropes of high school, love, music, and friendship. Throughout the year Charlie does his best to repress his inner sadness, but it eventually comes to light when his friends leave for college and he is alone again. What I love most about this book is how important friendship is and how good friends can help you even in your darkest times.


4. Eliza and her Monsters


Eliza and Her Monsters by [Zappia, Francesca]

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Online Eliza is the creator of the popular web comic Monstrous Sea, but in real life she is shy and awkward. That is until she befriends the new boy at school, Wallace, who forces her to live a life outside of her online comic, and that is when Eliza realizes her depression and anxiety. Wallace points out that her web comic deals with depression and Eliza being clueless to that fact starts to take a deeper look at herself, the world she created, and Wallace, who struggles with depression as well. What is unique about this story is Eliza not being aware of her depression until it is pointed out to her, and I thought that was interesting because usually people realize if they’re struggling with being sad all the time, but Eliza was so focused on her comic she didn’t realize it until she stepped back from her online world.





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Aza, a sixteen-year-old girl and her best friend Daisy try to solve the mystery of her missing neighbor, billionaire CEO, Russell Pickett. There just so happens to be a huge reward of one hundred thousand dollars involved, and fearless Daisy is ready for the case and recruits Aza to join. Together, they befriend Davis, Russell’s son, and individually, Aza deals with her OCD and anxiety, which makes it hard for her to get out of her head most of the time, but she is trying her best to be a good daughter, friend, and maybe even detective. The main take away from this story is how Aza may have OCD and anxiety, but regardless she still struggles with the universal issue we all struggle with and that is accepting who we are.


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Alex can’t decide what is real and what isn’t real, and she struggles with this every day. After an incident at her previous school she starts fresh at a new school and she begins to make friends, go to parties and she even falls in love. However, she still can’t separate her delusions from reality, and it could cause another incident to occur and hurt the people closest to her. This is another story where the power of friendship is great, and how much Alex leans on her friends and her family for support. It is important to have those bonds and connections so people don’t have to feel alone, but even in a room full of people someone can feel alone and Alex does, because she isn’t always clear as to what is clear and what isn’t.


1. Thirteen Reasons why


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Hannah Baker is live and in stereo, she has recorded the thirteen reasons why she has committed suicide. Each reason is linked to a person and each person she holds responsible for her death and she wants them to know it. Each person has to listen to all the tapes and then pass them along to the next person on the list, and although most people don’t agree with this aspect of the book, the most important take away from this novel is how powerful people are and how people don’t realize the part they play in other people’s lives. How a small interaction can make such a difference, how one rude remark can ruin a person’s day, and just how important it is to always be a kind.



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Snowden’s Memoir Reignites Controversy Over Gov. Surveillance

Six years ago, Edward Snowden shocked the world when he revealed the U.S. government was secretly implementing a plan to collect and monitor every phone call, text message, and email. Now, he’s telling how he helped create this system of mass surveillance and why he chose to expose it in his memoir, Permanent Record. 


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The book’s release is not without its controversies, though. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit Tuesday, Sep. 18, alleging that the whistleblower’s memoir violates a non-disclosure agreement he signed while working for the CIA and NSA. Strangely, the lawsuit does not seek to prevent distribution of the Permanent Record. Rather, the DOJ asks the court to seize the financial proceeds from the book. G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement:


Intelligence information should protect our nation, not provide personal profit.



Typically, government employees with access to sensitive information have to submit any published work to their agency for review. Permanent Record contains no secrets that haven’t already been published by other news organizations. Snowden did not submit the book to the government for review prior to publication, preferring to publish his uncensored story. Ben Wizner, an attorney for Mr. Snowden who runs the American Civil Liberties Union’s speech, privacy and technology project commented on the circumstances of the lawsuit:


Had Mr. Snowden believed that the government would review his book in good faith, he would have submitted it for review. But the government continues to insist that facts that are known and discussed throughout the world are still somehow classified.



It’s understandable why the U.S. government might want to stifle Permanent Record‘s release seizing its profits. The story he leaked in 2013—of the government’s vast surveillance network capable of monitoring the activity of every person on the Internet—is still shocking today. In a section of the book describing the XKEYSCORE system which is “perhaps best understood as a search engine that lets an analyst search through the records of your life,” Snowden writes:


It was, simply put, the closest thing to science fiction I’ve ever seen in science fact.


But perhaps the lawsuit will have the opposite effect, driving more attention to it than it originally attracted. Anyway, Permanent Record is set to be one of the most important political books of the year. Still living in exile in Russia, this is Snowden’s chance to tell his story truthfully.



Featured image via Getty Images, Justin Sullivan 

Raina Telgemeier’s ‘Guts’ Empowers Young Readers to Embrace Mental Health

Guts, Telgemeier’s latest book from Scholastic Books, puts you in Telgemeier’s shoes as she works through her fears and anxieties. It tells the story of Raina and her mother getting a horrible case of food poisoning. Even though they get better, Raina starts feeling very anxious about getting food poisoning again. This fear gets worse and worse, interfering with her life at school and with friends, and ultimately Raina discovers ways to manage and work through her fears.



Given Telgemeier’s popularity among young readers, Guts has a one million copy initial print run for good reason. Each of her books has received widespread critical acclaim for how their nuanced and personal explorations of childhood fears and anxieties. Her graphic memoirs are credited as one the reasons young readers have begun reading comic books and graphic novels again. “She’s a true comics superstar who essentially created a brand new category of comics in the American market: middle-grade graphic memoir,” said Gene Luen Yang, another acclaimed graphic novelist.


A page from Raina Telgemeier’s latest memoir (Scholastic Graphix)


Telgemeier’s Smile was well-received by critics and readers alike when it first debuted in 2010. And each of her books since then have reached a wider and wider audience. Her largely autobiographical works are so accessible and emotionally resonant that there are 13.5 million copies of them in print.

While her memoirs certainly target a younger demographic, her candid look at how fear has affected her life is sure to resonate with anyone who knows the struggle of growing up and learning to navigate the weird, unpredictable world. And much like Smile, Telgemeier’s expects Guts to fly off the shelves. Ellie Berger, Executive Vice President and President, Trade Publishing at Scholastic Books said of Telgemeier’s appeal:

Raina’s readership is wide ranging in age and appeals to all genders. The books’ accessibility and relatability are at the core of what makes Raina’s stories so popular.

“It takes guts to face your fears,” Telgemeier says in the trailer for Guts.



Are you looking forward to reading Guts? Have you read any of Telgemeier’s other work? Let us know on Facebook and Instagram!




Featured images via American Libraries Magazine and Amazon

Explore the Great Outdoors With the Help of Our Nonfiction Wildlife Picks!

Each week, Bookstr gives you a look at some of the best novels in a particular genre for your continued reading list.

Today, we’ll be recommending five of the best wildlife nonfiction books to give your motivation to explore the natural world!



5. ‘The Animal Dialogues’ by Craig Childs


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The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs is a thrilling book about the author Craig Childs and his various encounters with grizzly bears, sharks, porcupines, elks, bighorn sheep, and many others. Captured with chilling, intimate descriptions and wry humor, this book is a must read for wildlife fans who want to see tons of varied encounters with dozens of different creatures.


4. ‘Field Guide to the natural world of New York City’ by Leslie Day


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Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City by Leslie Day showcases the wild world of a place you’d not normally think to look at for diverse wildlife: New York City! The book explores three islands full of different kinds of wildlife at its three rich islands: Manhattan, Long Island, and Staten Island. Written by a real life naturalist, this book sheds light on the real wild side of New York with tips of identifying different animals, plants, and more among the urban sprawl.



3. ‘Unlikely Friendships’ by Jennifer s. Holland


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Unlikely Friendships documents one heartwarming tale after another of animals who, with nothing else in common, bond in the most unexpected ways. A cat and a bird. A mare and a fawn. An elephant and a sheep. A snake and a hamster. The well-documented stories of Koko the gorilla and All Ball the kitten; and the hippo Owen and the tortoise Mzee. And almost inexplicable stories of predators befriending prey—an Indian leopard slips into a village every night to sleep with a calf. A lionness mothers a baby oryx.

Ms. Holland narrates the details and arc of each story, and also offers insights into why—how the young leopard, probably motherless, sought maternal comfort with the calf, and how a baby oryx inspired the same mothering instinct in the lionness. Or, in the story of Kizzy, a nervous retired Greyhound, and Murphy, a red tabby, how cats and dogs actually understand each other’s body language. Your heart will expand at seeing this unlikely friendships come to life.


2. ‘Wild Justice’ by Marc Bekoff


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Wild Justice by Marc Bekoff tells about the morality animals. Are animals capable of complex emotions such as a understanding of justice?

With this book, the author answers yes and showcases many examples to support their argument: a female Gorilla who mourned the death of her beloved child, a rat who refused to push a lever for food when he saw doing so electrocuted his friend, or a wild elephant who paused to care for a younger one after it was injured. This book shows us that, whether we like it or not, animals are more like us than we think.


1. ‘Winter World’ by Bernd Heinrich 


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Winter World by Bernd Heinrich is all about how animals survive the harsh winters and the process of hibernation. From flying squirrels to grizzly bears, and from torpid turtles to insects with antifreeze, the animal kingdom relies on some staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter.

Unlike their human counterparts, who must alter the environment to accommodate physical limitations, animals are adaptable to an amazing range of conditions. Examining everything from food sources in the extremely barren winter land-scape to the chemical composition that allows certain creatures to survive, Heinrich’s Winter World awakens the largely undiscovered mysteries by which nature sustains herself through winter’s harsh, cruel exigencies.




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