Adolescent fiction is all the rage now. Between the movie versions of the novels, the bloggers, Facebookers and other semi-obsessed fans, the genre is a money-making machine.
Many adults, though, believe there is no substance in adolescent novels. These stories were made for teenagers, so they must focus on teen problems and high school love, right?
Not every book is like Twilight, full of sulking and love triangles. Some adolescent novels focus on concerns that trouble humanity in general. With that in mind, the following list includes four contemporary adolescent fiction novels that adults should consider reading.
UNWIND (UNWIND TRILOGY)
By Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster, $9.99 softcover;
Connor Lassiter is living life as a normal defiant teenager in Akron, Ohio. Only in this future, the United States has undergone the Second Civil War, a war fought over reproductive rights.
Strangely enough, abortion becomes illegal, but parents are able to “unwind” their children between the ages of 13 and 18.
Unwinding consists of taking the child apart piece by piece and using each part of the body as a replacement for someone in need.
In other words, medical technology in this future allows for the transplanting of every body part — for a price.
If parents feel their child is overly disobedient or will not live a productive life, they can sign his life away to the government.
Unfortunately for Connor, that is exactly what his parents choose to do.
Connor is appalled by his parents’ decision and runs away. On his journey, he kidnaps Levi, who has been groomed to be unwound his entire life. Levi is a tithe, which means when he was born, his parents decided they would donate him to be unwound when he came of age.
Unwind explores a future in which a shocking idea is accepted by society as a whole because it is convenient.
The abortion issue is a hot topic at every political election, and in Shusterman’s future it is the only issue, used as a sort of a scapegoat so that other political concerns and corruptions can fall under the radar.
The characters are very real and very flawed. The society is outrageous and unthinkable, but a hundred years ago, people would probably feel the same way about how we live now.
That makes the book almost scary.
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games trilogy)
By Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press, $10.99 softcover;
Katniss Everdeen lives with her family in District 12, the farthest district from the Capitol and thus the poorest. The occupants of each district are responsible for supplying the rich and powerful people of the Capitol with a specific good. Those in District 12 are responsible for mining. The people of District 12 are hungry, forcing Katniss and her best friend Gale to venture illegally out of the gates of the district to hunt for food almost every day.
This all changes when Katniss’ sister, Prim, is chosen for the Hunger Games.
Each year, the children of each district must enter their names into a lottery to select who will compete as tributes in the Hunger Games, which entail one boy and one girl from each district fighting to the death. The games are televised throughout all of the 12 districts.
When Prim is chosen, Katniss volunteers to take her place and travels to the Capitol with Peeta, the male tribute.
Though the book is one of the popular dystopian novels that have invaded U.S. culture over the last 10 years, it is actually a good one. The novel focuses on Katniss, who becomes a hero without meaning to be one. It gives a very in-depth look at what one young girl will do to keep her family safe. Though she never tries to openly defy the Capitol, she refuses to bow to their every whim and thus becomes the poster child for every poor, unfortunate person living in squalor.
Though the story is uplifting overall, it is dark and gritty at the same time. Katniss does not ride into the sunset with the man of her dreams and live happily ever after. She is a much more realistic character who stands up for her morals no matter who the enemy is.
Thirteen Reasons Why
By Jay Asher
Razorbill, $10.99 softcover
Thirteen Reasons Why explores the ins and outs of a teen girl’s suicide note. With the recent sweep of anti-bullying campaigns at schools across the nation, this book is particularly relevant as Hannah makes audio tape recordings explaining the 13 reasons why she took her life. She sends the tapes in a shoe box to the first person on a list with directions to listen and send the recordings on to the next person. If someone on the list tries to break the link, Hannah has given a second set of tapes to a person not on the list with instructions to release them to the public.
The story begins when Clay Jensen gets the tapes because he is one of the reasons Hannah took her life. As Clay delves into Hannah’s tapes, he becomes increasingly distraught.
The book is moving because it covers many teen issues that seem very trivial to most adults. The point of the novel is that Hannah’s depression deepens over time because of many seemingly meaningless occurrences. She cries out for help in many ways, but no one seems to notice or care.
This is a must-read for adults because it captures the reality of teens who appear well-adjusted, but are sinking into a deep depression.
By Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books, $9.99 softcover
Divergent is a dystopian novel based in a futuristic Chicago where the population is split into five factions. Members of each faction live by certain codes of conduct that focus on a central characteristic: Dauntless values courage, Erudite values knowledge, Amity values peace, Candor values honesty, and Abnegation values selflessness.
Beatrice Prior has grown up in Abnegation, where she has never felt like she belonged. She never feels like she truly embodies the selflessness that is expected in her faction. At 15, she is forced to make decisions that will determine the path she will follow for the rest of her life— decisions that are permanent, no matter the cost or outcome.
This book is truly riveting and heart-wrenching. Beatrice’s decisions force her to mold herself into a personality that may be more of an act than a reflection of who she is. Even though Divergent is written for a teen audience, the struggles and choices that Beatrice faces throughout the story can be appreciated by readers of all ages.