The Realistic Teenage Character, Starring Regina Brooks’s Writing Great Books for Young Adults

I skimmed the book and could hardly recall what it was about before I picked it up again to write this article, so I don’t remember whether I noticed this particular section the first time, but the book’s introduction talks a lot about making your books contain realistic teenagers.

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The Most Influential YA Books Of All Time

YA literature has become one of the most popular book genres for many years, and it’s no secret why. YA literature often deals with topics such as sexuality, coming of age, friendship, race and LGBTQ+; many of these topics were taboo to discuss openly a few decades ago. So not only is the targeted demographic utilizing these novels to gain insight on the most confusing years of their life, but adults are also enjoying the extremely relatable content. There is no shame in being an adult and loving YA novels; there are some amazing books out there! So on World Book Day let’s shine a light on some of the best to come out of this genre.

Here are some YA novels that every teenager and adult should read. Happy World Book Day and happy reading!

1. Twilight

image via Amazon

Can you feel the nostalgia in the air? Honestly, it wouldn’t be right to start off a YA novel list without the novel that captured the 2000’s by storm. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight was nothing short of a phenomenon; becoming a New York Times Bestseller and ushering in a wave of vampire obsession for younger generations. For those who live under a rock/just forget, Twilight is about a seventeen year old named Bella Swan who moves to live with her Dad in Forks, Washington. It’s there she’s drawn to a handsome student named Edward Cullen…who happens to be a 104 year old vampire. Filled with danger and romance, the first novel lays the foundation for their love story. Getting its debut movie in 2008, Twilight was definitely a moment in book culture and pop culture. Whether you were a fan of the movies or were team books only (I adored both); it’s safe to admit 2008 were simpler times. So, Team Edward or Team Jacob?


2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower book cover
Image via Amazon

So, admission time: I didn’t read The Perks of Being a Wallflower until my senior year in college! However, it’s never too late for adults to get into Young Adult literature. The topics discussed in Stephen Chbosky’s novel, will have you, at times, forgetting you’re reading a book technically meant for younger audiences. The maturity and lessons on those pages make college (your living room will do too!) the perfect environment to break down Chbosky’s words. It’s a coming-of-age story about a teen named Charlie as he struggles to make friends and to be ‘normal’ as he begins high school. As Charlie and his friends continue on the path of young adulthood, they’re forced to acknowledge the trauma within their past. With themes like LGBTQ+ identity, drugs, mental health and sexual assault, this 1999 novel has never been so timely. The 2012 film adaptation The Perks of Being a Wallflower is now on Netflix, perfect quarantine material.

3. The Hate U Give

Image via Amazon

What’s that saying when a bride is about to get married? Something old and something new? You can have a list of famous titles we’ve loved since our childhood (shoutout to my fellow 90’s kids!), but you also have to add some new classics. Besides, a new face or two isn’t going to hurt anyone! Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give may have come out in 2017, but this new kid on the block is definitely making a lot of noise (and rightfully so!). Thomas’ novel is revolutionary for the mere fact that instead of creating vast universes, to help people escape from the issues plaguing society; she’s turning a magnifying glass towards it. In The Hate U Give, Starr witness her friend Khalil wrongfully shot and killed by the police. Starr is an African-American girl who’s trying to balance her life at her private school that’s mainly white and her at home life where she can be herself; she must choose her path as she fights for justice for Khalil. Blend in or Stand up? Catching the tone of racial injustices bubbling under this country’s service and movements such as Black Lives Matter; Starr’s story is unfortunately not unique, but quite common.


4. The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars book cover
Image via Amazon

Let’s gather our tissues and dive into John Green’s masterpiece, The Fault in Our Stars. Not only is it one of the best YA novels from the 2010s, but it’s one of the best YA novels ever. It’s so good it got a film adaptation in 2014. I saw the movie with my high school classmates and we wept together (definitely bonded for life after that). After being blown away by the movie, I bought the book and fell even more in love. In The Fault in Our Stars a girl named Hazel, who is combating thyroid cancer, is trying her best to have a ‘normal’ life; as a result she attends a cancer support group to meet others that understand her point of view. It’s there she meets a boy named Augustus, who has his own health battles. There hasn’t been a love story like Augustus and Hazel in Hollywood, and Green’s novel is nothing short of a classic.


5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

image via amazon

Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is not only an amazing YA novel, but it’s an amazing novel period. Sherman Alexie deserves to be a household name just like Stephenie Meyer or J. K. Rowling. Utilizing illustrations and humor to address not only the protagonist’s woes, but issues plaguing society as well, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a descendant of amazing titles such as Maus by Art Spiegelman and Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Even though the protagonist’s name is Junior, a lot of Junior’s struggles come from real life experiences experienced by Sherman. The story is about a boy who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He is an aspiring cartoonist, but has a wide array of medical problems. Junior is severely bullied, but he’s determined to get a good education so he goes to an all-white school in a neighboring town. He is faced with the dilemma of being considered a traitor by his people and facing many obstacles. This book deserves all the accolades.


Honorable Mention:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter
Image via eBay

Now you muggles and wizards, didn’t think I’d write a list on YA literature without saluting the wizard that left his mark on this genre, did you? I can’t even imagine what the YA genre would look like without the boy who lived. Although when J. K. Rowling debuted Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1997, it was technically classified as a book for children; as the series progressed, and as Harry grew up, more mature themes were introduced. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were no longer wide-eyed children running from trolls; now they’re teenagers trying to find their voices as well as agency. I believe the fifth book not only captures Harry and the gang’s new phase perfectly, but it marks the turn from children’s fiction to YA literature for the series. On that note I say 10 points for Gryffindor! 

It’s no secret how impactful YA literature has been on pop culture. Hollywood just can’t enough of adapting the hottest novels to blockbuster movies and addicting shows on Netflix. On World Book Day, let us remember our favorite YA classics, or even add some more to our collection. These stories are timeless, and whether you’re young or young at heart, there’s something for everyone in this genre. Happy reading!

feature image via scholastic

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Lack Of Guidelines To Intimacy: ‘Boys and Sex’

The dreaded ten to twelve-year-old gap where every child becomes curious about their bodies. Feelings begin to arise that weren’t there before, and it seemed as though there was no one to talk to about it. Why is that? Parents have become very distraught with the thought of having a conversation about sex. So much so, that they would rather poke themselves in the eye with a fork. So, then who do we turn to when all else fails? The media of course.


Image Via OverDrive


Peggy Orenstein’s Boys and Sex, a spin-off from her 2016 Girls and Sex, discusses the in-depth interview that she had with more than 100 college and college-bound boys, and young men on what it takes to be a man. Orenstein discovers that most parents with teenage boys between the ages of seventeen to twenty-two haven’t had the talk about intimacy with their sons. Leaving boys and young men to revert to media for their source of reference, porn. With these distorted ideas of intimacy, these young men find it hard stay away from, as Orenstein puts it, “channeling 1955…still all about stoicism, sexual conquest, dominance, aggression.”


Image Via Pacific Standard


It’s sad to say but society has made it so that boys aren’t allowed to speak about their emotions and become vulnerable, leaving them fearful of being judged. They have been forced to train themselves to suppress their feelings, except for happiness and anger. This, ultimately, has led many young men to coin the phrase #nohomo for basic human emotions in order to express themselves without being accused of being gay.



However, it doesn’t stop there. There is also a thin line between being respectful towards a woman and being apart of the “Bro Culture”.

Much like the guidelines for intimacy, young men have not been allotted the opportunity to know what that means. It has come to a point where being respectful to a woman is more of a statement than a guideline. Within the “Bro Culture”, there is little room for any man to stand up or speak up for a girl or young woman without being judged for doing so. Good Morning America praised Orenstein’s book for how it navigates sexuality and masculinity in today’s world, stating that, “Many boys end up going along with things even when they feel like their male peers are being inappropriate.


Image Via Teens LoveToKnow


The term hookup has been distorted as well. If you don’t know what a hookup is, neither does the rest of the world. Unlike other terms in the young adult language, hookups have more than one meaning. It can mean anything from kissing, oral sex, intercourse, and more. Many of these ‘hookups’ in college can mean any one of those three categories. Due to the broadness of the meaning, there can be expectations for more than what a situation calls for, causing more pressure to go a step further than wanted.


Image Via thetrentonline.com


Through her conversation with these young men, Orenstein found it surprising to know that gay boys and young men are more open to having conversations about sex with their partners. What makes it so surprising is not because they necessarily have to, but because these group of men are in tune with gaining the consent of their partner. Having this conversation with your partner about what they are into “will be a more mutually gratifying experience for everyone involved.”


Orenstein, throughout Boys and Sex, dives deeper into the minds of young men on their definitions of what it takes to be a man. She makes sure to do the same in her previous book Girls and Sex, creating a balancing dynamic of what it is like to be either sex.


Featured Image Via Parent.com


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Book covers for Two Can Keep a Secret, Shout and Lets Go Swimming on Doomsday

This Week’s Top Genre Must-Reads: Young Adult

Each week, Bookstr will be offering a look at some of the best novels in a particular genre for your continued reading list. Today, we’ll be recommending five recent young adult books for your reading pleasure. Young adult novels are generally written with an 12-18 age bracket in mind but over half of the audience for YA novels is adults (as our audience can attest!) Young adult novels are often just as sophisticated as their adult contemporaries, with a lot of themes about growing up into adulthood and dealing with the perils of being a teenager mixed in. Below, are some of our favorite recently published YA must-reads!


5. Let’s Go swimming on Doomsday by Natalie C. Anderson


A young African boy stands amidst a raging sea, backlit by a city

Image Via Goodreads

Let’s Go Swimming On Doomsday is a harrowing novel that is nevertheless a great (if stressful) read. Written by Natalie C. Anderson, the story tells of a Somali refugee called Abdi whose family is kidnapped by a ruthless jihadi terrorist group. In order to save his family, he’s forced to become a spy for the American CIA and infiltrate the organization, witnessing horrific acts while trying not to blow his cover. He eventually escapes but is caught for petty theft and forced to reckon with his past. Horrifying and deeply touching in equal measure, the novel touches on themes of redemption and family, making it a must read. Just bring a box of Kleenex.


4. Two Can Keep a secret by Karen M. McManus 


Two photographs of two young women are stitched together via tape

Image Via Amazon

A gripping YA thriller, Two Can Keep A Secret is about an isolated town called Echo Ridge, where Ellery’s her aunt went missing many years ago, and just five years before Ellery moves there, a homecoming queen also vanished. Ellery has just moved in with her grandmother who she barely knows when another girl goes missing. Now Ellery has to solve the mystery of Echo Ridge, suspecting her grandmother and mother may be keeping dark secrets from her. Captivating and exciting, this new thriller from the author of bestseller One of Us Is Lying is one you’ll want to pick this one up and watch out for the plot twists!


3. Four Dead Queens By Astrid Scholte 


Four golden crowns lie on the ground amidst a black. void

Image Via Goodreads

Four Dead Queens takes place in the fictional world of Quadara, focusing on master thief Keralie Corrington and upstanding citizen Varin. When their paths cross, Varin accidentally foils Keralie’s latest theft and the bungled thievery attempt leaves them caught in a conspiracy game that leaves four queens of Quadara dead. With no other choice, the two join forces to find who killed the queens and form an uneasy alliance in their quest. Fast paced and with a building mystery, this is a great novel to get sucked into.


2. Field Notes on Love by Jennifer Smith


A young couple standing front of a train, with a heart between them

Image Via Amazon

Field Notes On Love by Jennifer Smith tells the story of two young teenagers, Mae and Hugo, who decide to ride cross-country via train. Hugo’s girlfriend dumps him, while Mae has been rejected from USC’s film school. The two happen to find each other on the train and grow close inside of the train. But can they stay together as the real world infringes on their idyllic train adventure? This is a fun, romantic, and sweet coming-of-age story of two strangers finding love.


1. Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson


The cover to Shout featuring a tree growing in a black void

Image Via Goodreads

SHOUT  by Laurie Halse Anderson is a young adult novel for our time. Anderson, author of the groundbreaking Speak, recounts her own upbringing via verse, creating angry, yet hopeful portraits of her life. It is a call to action for survivors of sexual abuse and advocating for them.  It is a novel that will tear you down yet make you feel energized to make real change in what the author calls a failure of society to help survivors of sexual assault. It is a great read and one that everyone should pick up.



Featured Image Via Goodreads