#10 “The Tough Stuff”

Let me start off this blog by saying, I had a wonderful 21st birthday this weekend.

Anyway, now I’d like to cover a couple of books dealing with what most mentoring adults we know would call “the tough stuff,” when recommending them to teens. I like to call it, “life’s bullshit,” but that’s simply a personal preference.

Back in the day, I’d say around the 80s and 90s, the only teen literature around that was popularly read was Chicken Soup for the Soul.  I think the problem back then was definitely censorship, and fear of that censorship festering inside the thousands of people who wanted to write literature for young people that dealt with actual real-life issues. Sure, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were nice and fun to read, but what about for a kid living in an abusive household, or struggling with drugs, or even a young person of color dealing with anything, really. There wasn’t much out there for a troubled bookworm tween.

But nowadays, there are vast amounts of choices in the young adult genre for teens struggling with one thing or another.

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins is one of my favorite YA books dealing with a heavy subject. That subject being suicide. The book follows a couple of teens, all sent to a mental health facility after attempting to end their lives. Hopkins’ style of writing is poetry, which makes this story even more beautiful in the end. I know the book is very beloved among young and old readers alike, as are Hopkins’ other books, Crank, Glass, and Identical. This author isn’t afraid to write about a real problem bluntly and artfully. Any lover of textual art and poetry would find this book a great read.

One of the things I dealt with frequently in middle school and high school was bullying. Because of my weight, kids would tease and taunt and throw things at me, simply to see if I would do anything in return. A couple of wonderful books for those interested in or dealing with the subject of bullying are novels,  Alt Ed by Catherine Atkins and Huge by Sasha Paley. They are both very short, very simple and to the point reads about young women learning how to view themselves and the people around them who choose to waste their time judging others. Their dust jackets are both bright, neon pink, so I doubt you’d miss them if you spent even a moment in the young adult section at Barnes & Noble.

Thought it may seem that people out of this age range wouldn’t enjoy novels written about issues that are most often associated with teens, I think that it would actually be beneficial for more of the older crowd to study these stories more closely. Isn’t it better, after all, to see things from the point of view of others, or to step into the shoes of someone you’d like to help? I believe that these books can aid teachers and parents and any adults seeking to help the next generation. Of course, one could always just try and remember what it was like for them to be a kid. But maybe things have changed, and in that case, my recommendation is to read away. There’s no damage in learning something new.

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