Oh the Troubles I’ve Seen...
We live in a complicated world and young people are not exempt from troubling experiences and emotions. Fortunately there are both brave authors and brave publishers who are producing volumes of quality literature that explores everything from depression to religion to pregnancy to drug issues to sexual identity. The sensitivity and variety of voices to be found is unbelievable. It’s a far cry from what was available when I was a young adult! We did have a few authors to turn to like the utterly fabulous Judy Bloom (whose books were so well written that they continue to be relevant 3 decades later), but the pickings were relatively slim by comparison. Some of my favorite books from the past year are from the following five authors: from Cecilia Gallante, covering cult religion, Amy Efaw, addressing the issue of neonaticide, Julie Schumacher, depicting the face of depression, the fabulous Julie Anne Peters, author of another of my favorite books, Luna, which eloquently deals with transgender issues, who writes here about teen suicide as the result of bullying, and a debut novel from Daisy Whitney that confronts date rape.
Here I am with the lovely Cecilia Gallante at PaLA 2009
The Patron Saint of Butterflies
By Cecilia Gallante
As I read Cecilia Gallante’s book The Patron Saint of Butterflies, I found myself torn between cheering and crying. It is the story of Honey and Agnes and their families as they grapple with being raised in a cult religious compound. It is so horrifying to think of real children being raised, controlled, and harmed everyday by the abuses these girls suffer, and yet seeing them gain strength and become heroines in their own right makes this book a winner. I had the added bonus of meeting Cecilia Gallante in person and hearing her talk about her books. I expect this is just one of many, many excellent novels I’ll be collecting from this Pennsylvania author.
By Amy Efaw
Neonaticide, or the killing of infants, is not a new practice. Historically, women have always had pressure on them to deal with unplanned pregnancies and killing infants has always been one of the options. In our modern society, however, it just seems particularly horrifying. There are so many options and so many people who want to adopt babies. And yet teens in denial about being pregnant who abandon babies just after giving birth seems to be media sensation. In the Philadelphia area, we had the Grossman/Peterson case where college freshman gave birth and dumped their baby in a hotel dumpster, a NJ prom girl who gave birth in the bathroom and left the baby in the garbage to return to dance floor, a city of Philadelphia baby found in the garbage on a city street on a cold winter day… It almost seems epidemic. In After, Efaw decided to create fictional story about character who was in denial about her pregnancy and gave birth but has no memory of it. The baby is found in a nearby garbage can and survives. Efaw did extensive research on teens who have been through pregnancies and involved in neonaticide cases so that she could gain an understanding of the stresses these girls are under and what leads them to make the choices they do. After is a compelling story that gives readers an inside look at what teens caught up in modern-day unplanned pregnancies may be going through – and a very realistic depiction of the consequences of having made poor choices.
By Julie Schumacher
This is a beautifully written account of what it is like to deal with depression. Depression is a topic that is not often talked about in YA literature. The main character, Elena, is a high school freshman finds herself in the middle of a family crisis as her older sister is carted off to a mental hospital for depression. She is faced with parents who want to brush everything under the rug and hide it from the neighbors and a sister who is literally falling to pieces. At the same time Elena is trying to come to grips with her own emotions. She develops a strange relationship with one of the school “bad boys” and finds herself taking on all of the family burdens. For anyone who has ever felt depression, this is a must read.
Me with the rock star Julie Anne Peters at ALA 2010
By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead
By Julie Anne Peters
Julie Anne Peters is becoming an author I can buy a book from and know it will be amazing just because she wrote it. She has not been afraid to tackle really tough issues for teens. Ever. One of my favorite books, and one I have recommended to many people, is a book she wrote called Luna. Luna is a book about a teen coming to terms with being transgendered as told from the perspective of his sister. It is downright amazing. By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead tackles a completely different issue: attempted suicide. I love it as much as Luna. It is written like a diary and literally takes you into the head of a girl who wants to die. She has been bullied her entire life for being fat and has attempted suicide multiple times. Now she is on the road to plan the one that will truly work; she is done with attempts and has found a web site for “completers”. The diary starts with the first day of the countdown as she logs on daily to www.through-the-light.com and blogs her way to the final day of her life.
By Daisy Whitney
We so often think of rape in terms of something that is written in black and white where we imagine a stranger grabbing a girl in a dark alley or holding her at knifepoint in her bedroom. Unfortunately reality does not often match with that image. Most rape gets shoved right under carpet because it goes under that category of date rape. It is often someone you know and more often than not involves alcohol of drugs. When the details are fuzzy, the victim feels guilty and will often report nothing. Worse, it becomes “he said”, “she said” and there is no case. The Mockingbirds takes on the issue of date rape. It takes place at a boarding school and involves a creative system for dealing with the situation. I applaud this book for raising the flag on date rape and encourage more authors to write about this issue, how to avoid it, and how to encourage creative solutions for ending the problem.
“Most people don't realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn't value its librarians doesn't value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?”
― Neil Gaiman
― Neil Gaiman