Finding the Next Holden Caulfield in Literature

By: Molly Horan

Vampires, and werewolves and mermaids, oh my. YA literature seems to be awash in supernatural beats and teens balancing their Bio final and their blossoming fangs and claws. With the popularity of Twilight it could be easy for readers new to young adult literature to think it’s a genre made up of exclusively fantasy, but in the last five years authors have also been turning out books filled with contemporary realism where kids balance crushes with homework with no fur or fins in sight.

Fantasy isn’t for everyone, so if you want to check out some YA books that remind you of your high school days, check out these four new classics.

An Abundance of Katherines
By: John Green

John Green, who’s debut novel Looking for Alaska won the Printz  Award, the highest honor in YA literature, commands a sort of bookish army of Youtube followers called Nerdfighters who love to watch him for his English-poet raps and history lessons. An Abundance of Katherines tells the story of Colin, who wants to be clear- he was a child prodigy, not genius, and while he’s still spouting enough trivia to merit elaborate footnotes (yes, YA novels can include footnotes), he realizes he’s not going to grow up to be a rocket scientist. To make matters worse, he’s just been jumped by his 19th Katherine. Green makes a reference to the movie The Royal Tenebalms  in this novel and the wacky feel of the film fits the books as well. Complete with a wild boar and a dying factory town, An Abundance of Katherines is incredibly funny and will even teach you a few facts you can whip out on trivia night.

The Vast Field of Ordinary
By: Nick Burd

Nick Burd’s debut novel is a teen summer in suburbia perfectly captured. Dade just graduated high school, and though he hasn’t come out to anyone, he spent the last few years as the secret boyfriend of a closeted jock. When he refuses to take things public Dade cuts things off all together but the summer starts to look up when his neighbor’s fun, and also gay, niece comes to stay, and he starts hanging out with the incredibly cute and dangerous Alex Kincaid. This is a book about teetering on the edge of being a teen and a young adult, and of chiling in the dark cool of your air conditioned house and looking forward to whatever night-time adventure a new friend will take you on.

By: Laurie Halse Anderson

Best known for her 2001 novel Speak, Anderson has proven herself the master of getting into the heads of teenagers and doesn’t limit herself to picking the brains of one gender or one clique. Tyler has spent most of his high school career as an under the radar geek, but after a summer of manual labor pushes him into the muscled, and attractive group of seniors, girls take notice, in particular Bethany. Beautiful, popular Bethany, who, while pretty drunk throws herself at Tyler. Ever the gentleman Tyler chooses not to hook up with her while she’s wasted, but when someone else takes revealing pictures of her while she passed out, all fingers, including her, point at Tyler. Becoming more than a social outcast, but a pariah overnight, Anderson perfectly gets the anger, confusion and hurt of getting so much flak for doing the right thing onto the page.

The Hate List
By: Jennifer Brown

Many YA books since the late 90s have tried to capture the emotions of the Columbine shooting (most notably Give a Boy a Gun), but Jennifer Brown takes the pain and confusion of a school shooting to a new level with The Hate List. Valarie is a bit of an outcast but finds solace by writing about her tormentors in her notebook with her boyfriend. She thinks it’s just a way to blow off steam and a way to bond with him, but everything changes when he brings a gun to school and begins to pick off kids on the list, finally turning the gun on himself. Some people blame Valarie, others pity her, and ultimately she has to come to terms with not only her guilt over her role in the list, but the grief she feels for the boy she loved who became a murderer.  Reading this book can leave you completely exhausted, which is a sign of a truly well written book, it can’t be emotionally draining unless it brings out multiple emotions within the reader.


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Categories: Culture



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