Last weekend while home sick with stomach nastiness I read three YA novels I've been wanting to read for ages. Here are my brief thoughts about them:
Quite controversial and banned in many schools across the country, this novel IS very racy and deals with lots of issues parents might not feel comfortable having their young teens read about: sex, drugs, drinking, masturbation, abortion, mental illness and sexual abuse. Written by fifteen-year-old Charlie in the form of letters to an unknown recipient, it chronicles his life during his freshman year of high school. He has a very unique voice and his mistakes and successes are equally fascinating. This is a good novel that has a strong narrative and the challenges Charlie faces are believable. It should not be suggested to a teen if you're not sure of their background or family persuasion.
Define "Normal" by Julie Anne Peters
This novel is a perfect middle school read that centers on two girls, middle schoolers themselves, who are paired together for peer counseling. Jazz is a "punk" who dresses in black and changes her hair colors frequently. She hates her mother and is struggling to break out of her parents stranglehold. Antonia is a "priss". She gets good grades, follows the rules and has a horrible home life. Her mother is mentally ill and stays in bed all day while Antonia is expected to care for her two younger brothers, run the household and do her homework. This book says a lot about stereotypes, judging others by their appearance and letting others help when you are ashamed to ask them for it. A very sweet story with a happy ending.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
While dealing with many of the same issues as Wallflower, along with racism, alcoholism and poverty, this novel adds humor and pictures to give extra spice and vigor to the issue novel. Junior is a Native American who lives on a reservation and decides he wants to attend the "white" school in town instead of his reservation high school. This choice brings him more heartache and joy than he could have anticipated. His misadventures are grin-inducing, but I found this book lacking for some reason. It didn't feel cohesive or as seamlessly written as Wallflower and I thought Junior was a punk most of the time. Maybe I just don't enjoy teen male humor?