5 Things We Need to See More of in Young Adult Literature

I love young adult literature.

Yes, I’m 24, and no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that! YA lit is an incredibly broad genre and there are so many different types of stories that fall underneath this category, whether you want romance, fantasy, sci-fi, or anything in between. I think there’s a certain amount of freedom that YA authors get to have when writing about and for teens that authors of more “adult” fiction just don’t get to-or won’t-take. Why that is, exactly, is a post for another day.

Despite the variety of of topics covered in Young adult literature, there is still a whole lot of room within the genre to grow. I’ve listed just a few of the places where I think there is particular room for improvement, especially within the books put out by the big publishing houses. Click below to read my list of 5 things we need to see more of in young adult literature.

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Mini-Review: Confess by Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover’s Confess is told in the alternating viewpoints of Auburn and Owen, two people who meet when Auburn enters Owen’s Dallas-based art studio in search of a job. The two find themselves immediately attracted to each other, but they soon learn that Owen is guarding secrets that could keep them apart.

I’ve read other books by Colleen Hoover before (see my review of Maybe Someday), and by now I pretty much know what to expect from her. I’ve enjoyed the previous books by her that I have read; the way she plays up emotion and pulls you into the complicated lives of her characters make for satisfying reads. With Confess, Hoover once again attempts to create a relationship that will pull you in and have you compulsively turning the pages. But, ultimately, the story falls flat.

Hoover usually has a knack for writing male leads that you fall in love with right along with their female counterparts, but Owen is simply very hard to like. I didn’t really start to feel for him until probably halfway through the book, and even then I found him annoying. Owen is a talented artist who apparently cares a lot for Auburn, but his point of view, especially in the beginning, comes off as kind of creepy. I found myself wondering why Auburn liked him so much, aside from the physical attraction. I liked Auburn as a character a lot more, and I felt more for her and her problems in the novel than I did for Owen.

Confess is a quick read. It definitely feels too rushed at times, which I think ads to that feeling of “why do these two characters like each other.” Still, the plot that Hoover sets up is interesting and kept me engaged enough to want to finish it. The book improves a lot toward the end as more layers of complexity are revealed. The ending is way too tidy in some ways, and not wrapped up enough in others, which makes me think there will be a sequel, though I haven’t been able to find anything online to confirm this. If there is, I will probably read it. Just maybe not on release day.

Overall, Confess is a book that had a lot more potential than it ultimately delivered. The interesting plot and the inclusion of real art and confessions aren’t quite enough to make up for the rushed and oftentimes weak writing. If you are already a fan of Colleen Hoover, then you will probably still enjoy it. But, if you are new to her work, Confess isn’t the best choice to start with. Try Maybe Someday or Slammed if you want to get a real taste for what she is capable of.

Top 5 Things I Wish I’d Known as a First-Generation College Student

I was a first generation college student. My mom never finished high school, and my dad got his GED. I had no older siblings, and no close relatives who had completed college, either. So when it came to picking a college, applying, getting financial aid, and generally navigating the “college experience,” I was basically flying blind. Still, I was lucky; my parents were extremely supportive, giving me the time and space and emotional support to do what I needed to do. While they couldn’t give me much advice on the technicalities of getting through college, they were always willing to help out however they could. Not everyone has as much support as I did.

But there are many, many things I wished that I had known before I started college and as I made my way through those four years. While I could probably write an entire book on the Things I Wished I Knew, I have decided to narrow some more important points down for this post.

So, whether you are a first-generation student like I was or just someone who is looking for a little bit of advice on navigating the murky college waters, I present to you my Top 5 Things I Wished I’d Known as a First Generation College Student.

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Book Review: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Summer Prince is Alaya Dawn Johnson’s first young adult novel. Set hundreds of years in the future in the imagined city of Palmares Tres in Brazil, the novel follows seventeen-year-old June Costa, a girl who calls herself “the best artist in Palmares Tres.” When June meets Enki, the newly elected Summer King and a fellow artist, they work together to create works of art the likes of which no one in their city has ever seen. Meanwhile, tension grows as more and more people push back against the government’s severe restrictions on new technology.

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Book Review: The Museum of Intangible Things

The Museum of Intangible Things is the second young adult novel by author Wendy Wunder. The novel follows best friends Hannah and Zoe, two teens living in a small New Jersey town divided neatly between the seemingly perfect haves and the desperate have nots. Both Hannah and Zoe are on the wrong end of this divide, and their desperation is palpable. Finding herself in need of an escape, Zoe convinces Hannah that they should go on a road trip together, and most of the story takes place on the road.

When first looking at this novel, it seems to promise a fun, lighthearted tale of two friends taking a road trip and finding themselves. Everything from the brightly-colored cover to the summary on the inside flap supports this idea. But the book does not deliver on this promise. It is unquestionably dark at times, and while Hannah and Zoe do take a road trip of self-discovery, it’s more erratic and dangerous than spontaneous and fun.

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Mini-Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

 

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays by Roxane Gay that covers an array of topics, including her personal thoughts on the feminist movement and why she calls herself a feminist, what it is like growing up as a woman of color, the way sexual violence is viewed in today’s society, and issues of race and politics. This book covers a lot, but Roxane Gay handles the topics with skill and intelligence.

I hadn’t read much by Roxane Gay before I picked this book up, but I had heard about her and the book sounded interesting, so after reading the free preview available on my nook, I downloaded and read the rest. I’m glad I did, because not only did Gay open my eyes to things that I hadn’t given much thought to, she articulately expressed opinions and ideas that I have had in the past, but have never been able to put into words the way she does. I especially appreciated her chapters in the beginning where she explains her idea of feminism and why she chooses to identify as a “bad feminist.” Gay writes,

I openly embrace the label of bad feminist. I do so because I am human. I am not terribly well versed in feminist history. I am not as well read in key feminist texts as I would like to be. I have certain…personality traits and opinions that may not fall in line with mainstream feminism, but I am still a feminist.”

Gay understands why some women may shy away from the term feminist, and that, like anything else, feminism has its flaws. Still, she points out that, “In truth, feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed.” She reminds us that feminism is often “[held] to an unreasonable standard,” because when it does not live up to people’s expectations, they decide that “the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.” This is something that I think we could all be reminded of. I certainly needed to be.

Gay also writes deftly on the topics of gender and sexuality, and part of me feels like every essay in her “Gender and Sexuality” section should be required reading in high schools everywhere. Her essays, “The Careless Language of Sexual Violence,” “Blurred Lines, Indeed,” and “Some Jokes Are Funnier Than Others,” stand out in my mind as particularly smart looks at the ways we treat sexual violence as a society, and the detriment this has.

Of course, like any book dealing with the topics that Bad Feminist does, not everyone is going to agree with it. Nor should they, necessarily. As Gay herself writes in the first section, “I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I’m just trying—trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world.” While Bad Feminist is by no means the final word on any other the topics it covers, it is a smart, accessible addition to the conversation. I look forward to reading more from Roxane Gay in the future.

My Twilight Phase and Book Snobbery

When I was in high school I loved Twilight. Yes, I know it’s got its problems, but 16-year-old me couldn’t have cared less. I loved Bella because she was a nobody, like me. I loved that it was set in Washington, near where I grew up. I loved the idea of a magical world existing right alongside this one. I loved the idea of an average girl being swept up in that magic.

You get the idea. I loved Twilight.

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