03 May 2019

7 Contemporary Stories That Tackle Everyday Issues

I don't know about you, but my May bookshelf is overflowing with a wide range of fantastic reads. My lineup includes history and memoir, cookbooks and crafty books, literary fiction and fantasy and much more. I'm particularly impressed with some of this month's books for young adult (and older) readers, and that's what this post is all about.

Wait! Don't click away. You might be surprised by the depth of contemporary YA stories, so stick around and take a look. You'll find memoir, thrillers, stories about friendship, #ownvoices titles, and a love story or two.

all about There's Something about Sweetie by Sandhya MenonThere's Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon (Simon Pulse, May 14): I loved Menon's previous books (When Dimple Met Rishi and From Twinkle, with Love), so it's a no-brainer that I've put her newest novel on my list. Genre & themes: rom-com; first-generation American, body image. Basketball star Ashish is on the rebound after a bad breakup and so reluctantly agrees to go out on an arranged date. Sweetie is a tack champ, smart, and musically talented, but all her parents see is that she's (in their eyes, anyway) overweight. Will the two teens find anything more in common than having traditional Indian-American parents? Although Ashish is the brother of Rishi, this novel can be read as a standalone. Audiobook: Simon & Schuster Audio, 11 hr, read by Vikas Adam and Soneela Nankani.

All about The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn BarnesThe Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Freeform; May 7). Barnes has written a ton of novels, including last year's Little White Lies (a sequel to that is coming out in November). Genre & themes: mystery, thriller; wilderness survival, lost children, search & rescue dogs. When Kira was a little girl, she was found wandering alone in the woods by a search & rescue dog and was ultimately raised by that dog's owners. Now a teenager, Kira and her friends have plans to set up their own business, using trained dogs to help find other people who lose their way in wild areas. When they get a chance to find a missing girl, they decide to test their skills. Once in the national park, however, Kira's memories of her own experiences come to the surface, and with clarity comes fear. Audiobook: Blackstone, 8.5 hr, read by Emily Lawrence.

all about Bright Burning Stars by A. K. SmallBright Burning Stars by A. K. Small (Algonquin BYR, May 21). I danced when I was young and then again when I was in my thirties, so I have a soft spot for books about ballet. Small's own experiences as a young dancer in France inform her work. Genre & themes: contemporary fiction; friendship; ambition; jealousy; love. Best friends Marine and Kate have spent their young lives dancing and training at the Paris Opera Ballet, but they've now reached the age and status at which they've become rivals--both for a single position in the corps de ballet and for a handsome boy dancer. The stress of competition, the raging hormones for love and sex, and the irresistible pull for fame tests their loyalties and their commitment to dance. Audiobook: I was unable to find any information.

all about Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie BuxbaumHope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum (Delacorte, May 7). I like Buxbaum's earlier work (Tell Me Three Things), so I put this on my list. Genre & themes: contemporary fiction; PTSD, unwanted fame. On 9/11, a photographer captured toddler Abbi's image as she was being rescued from the collapsing World Trade Center towers. Now seventeen and suffering from asthma, she still has social media fame. In an attempt to escape prying eyes, Abbi takes a job as a camp counselor to little kids who aren't old enough to know about 9/11. Despite her best efforts, one of the boy counselors recognizes her, but it turns out he too is dealing with issues related to that horrible day. Can they help each other? Audiobook: Listening Library; 8.25 hr; read by Jorjeana Marie, Robbie Daymond, and Julie Buxbaum.

all about We Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel KaplanWe Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel Kaplan (Knopf BYR, May 21). I liked Kaplan's We Regret to Inform You and couldn't resist reading her reworking of Cyrano de Bergerac. Genre & themes: classic retelling; love; friendship; self-image. Aphra, the bold one, and Bethany, the beauty, together make the perfect girl and are lucky enough to have the perfect friendship. When some wires get crossed and irresistibly hot Greg asks out Bethany, Aphra plays conversation coach and takes over her BFF's texts. Only problem is, Aphra has already fallen for Greg. She wants to follow her own heart but doesn't want to mess up her friendship. Humor and teen angst infuse this modern retelling of the classic play, which has garnered several starred reviews. Audiobook: Listening Library, 11 hr, read by Holly Linneman

all about Brave Face by Shaun David HutchinsonBrave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson (Simon Pulse, May 21). I read Hutchinson's We Are the Ants and am very curious about his life. (Note: This important memoir comes with trigger warnings.) Genre & themes: memoir; LBGTQ+, depression. In this very frank and open memoir Hutchinson talks about his path to self-acceptance as he struggled to move past a teenage suicide attempt and realize that depression could be dealt with and that being gay didn't mean that happiness was out of his reach. If we can talk openly about depression and learn to accept love in all its many guises maybe the children of the next generations will not have to suffer the pain and trauma of those who came before. A message of hope that leaves off the sugar coating. Audiobook: Simon & Schuster Audio, 9 hr, read by the author.

all about The Things She's Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel KwaymullinaThe Things She's Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina (Knopf BYR, May 14). Several things drew me this debut novel, not least of which is the Australian setting. Genre & themes: thriller, family, justice, grief. Death by car accident hasn't severed Beth's connections with her police detective father. As she tries to find a way to move her spirit to another plane and ease her father's grief, she becomes embroiled in his next case, which is an arson in a remote town that took the life of another girl. The only possible witness can't seem to give a straight answer, and secrets, traditional beliefs, tragedy, and violence all play a role before the case is closed. This is an #ownvoices novel written by a sister / brother team. Audiobook: Listening Library, 4.5 hr, read by Miranda Tapsell.


Les in Oregon 5/3/19, 12:20 PM  

It's been quite a while since I've read a YA book and several of these appeal to me, particularly Hope and Other Punch Lines. Thanks for highlighting all of these!

bermudaonion 5/3/19, 12:20 PM  

I love contemporary YA books. This looks like a great list!

(Diane) bookchickdi 5/4/19, 11:01 AM  

There are so many books here that would make great gifts, thanks for the suggestions.

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