This week’s theme is Top Ten Books I'd Give To Readers Who Have Never Read X - where 'X' is a genre or topic. Because it's my most-read genre, I'm going to go ahead and recommend some contemporary young adult.
I'm going to split this into some categories and try to stray from the books everyone knows, because you can find those recommendations anywhere. I'm also going to narrow it down to eight (mainly because I didn't have time for ten - sorry!)
First, here are some books for readers who haven't tried young adult contemporary because they think it's all about love. These books either have no romance, or it's a small subplot.
1. The Whole Stupid Way We Are by N. Griffin
This is about a friendship, a boy-girl friendship that doesn't turn into romance. The book follows Dinah, who is sometimes childish and worries about everything - especially her best friend, Skint. For his part, Skint has several problems at home and sometimes, Dinah's good intentions don't help.
I still think about this book sometimes. It's one of those books - thought-provoking and realistic in a way that made me angry, still makes me angry, but has stuck with me since I read it seven months ago.
2. The Vow by Jessica Martinez
The books under this category are going from least to most romance - meaning this one does have a tiny bit, but it's a subplot. The main story is so much more.
Mo and Annie are just friends, and nobody believes it. When Mo's father loses his job - and work visa - it looks like Mo and his family will have to move back to Jordan, away from their life in America. Mo doesn't feel like he belongs in Jordan at all; he hasn't lived there for so long. And Annie, desperate not to lose him, comes up with a plan: They get married in order to keep Mo in America.
The problem (for Mo and Annie; not for those who dislike romance!) is that they really are just friends. Living together is difficult. They went into the situation desperate, not because they had thought through consequences or any of the downsides. It doesn't help that they each have a love interest of their own - hence the romance subplot.
This is another very realistic story. It's not as heavy as the book above, but I do recommend it to those looking for a lighter story about friendship and helping others. This book really does make you think about how far you would go for those you love, and how far you should go.
3. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Several of you will disagree with me on this one, I'm sure - but to me, this isn't a romance. It's a break-up book, the end of a relationship, and I think that's so different.
This is Min's explanation to her ex, Ed, telling him why they broke up. She sends this 'letter' with a box of items, each playing a role in their relationship. The chapters open up with an illustration before she goes on to tell the story of how things happened. It's a pretty untraditional style (I tried not to include books like that, for the sake of not throwing people into a completely different reading environment), but it's very creative and the items in the box are incorporated nicely.
This does go back in time a lot to when they were dating, but to me it wasn't too romantic. While I say this, I want to make it clear that I love romance in books, so I might not be the best judge - but this is a great book. If you don't think you'll mind the romance, if you're willing to dig through it for the character development of Min and her acceptance of the break-up, I highly recommend it. This is one I have always, always wanted to reread.
These next few are going to be for those who don't mind some romance, but want a 'serious' book at the same time. The books will be in order from 'heaviest' subject matter to 'lightest' reads.
4. Take Me There by Carolee Dean
If you read the Goodreads blurb, this book sounds like a typical 'bad boy falls for good girl' type of book. It's not. It's also not all romance. The book deals with some serious issues.
Dylan has a difficult time with reading and writing. This was a major theme, as the story showed the power of words. It dealt strongly with the things we sometimes don't consider - education, literacy, etc. - that still play a huge role in crime and in changing a person's life.
I really don't know how to summarize this book the way it deserves, but I do highly recommend it. Don't read it when you're looking for fluffy romance, or happily ever after. But read it sometime.
5. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
This book's main focus is romance - the cover doesn't lie, although it doesn't necessarily do the book justice either.
While there's romance, though, both of the characters are dealing with serious issues. Echo used to be popular at school until a night she can't remember. She is seeing a therapist due to her repressed memories and wishing someone would just tell her what happened. And the boy she likes, Noah, has secrets of his own - which doesn't make forming a relationship easy.
This is written so well, and it's much more than the love story. But it includes an amazing love story as well.
6. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
This book deals with an awful accident. The main character, Mia, has a supportive family and a great boyfriend. She has a choice to make that seems impossible - chase her dreams and her passion for music, or stay with her family, friends, and Adam at home?
Then on a normal morning, things go wrong. Suddenly her parents are dead and Mia is watching it all, as she's brought to the hospital in a coma. During this out-of-body experience, she realizes that she has an even harder decision to make than she thought. Because she's the one who chooses if she wakes up or not.
This book has always been special to me. After my middle school years of not reading, this hooked me again and made me realize what I missed. And the sequel, told in Mia's boyfriend Adam's point of view, is even better.
Finally, here are some for those who just want light, fluffy reads. These are for those who are looking for a break in between heavier books of their usual genre, or who are into contemporary for quick, fun books that they can fly through.
7. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
I'm not going into a lot of detail here, because I think most people have heard of the movies. However, I haven't heard too much about the book series. For a long time I didn't even know they existed.
This is a lot different from the movie, but it's still light and fun. It's also good for those beginning the contemporary YA genre, because there is a long series - 10 books and a few novellas - that you can move onto if you enjoy it. Mia's voice is great and funny. I also think it's a good place to start in the genre if you've read the movies, because it makes the books more fun (or for me it did) when you can compare them to the movie.
8. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
This one isn't super fluffy, but it's not real heavy either. I would definitely call it a light summer read. It's all about a girl named Emily who is finding her way after her best friend Sloane leaves.
Sloane is gone without telling Emily where she is. She doesn't leave any explanation except a list of things to do. Although Sloane has done this before, Emily never took the lists seriously until now. Believing it's the only thing that will lead her to her best friend, Emily takes the challenge.
Emily is socially awkward and always depended on Sloane, so this forces her to branch out and do some growing up. I think Emily's character is easy to relate to, because so many people have been in the place where they depend on others too much. It's difficult to get out of that habit, and refreshing to see Emily break it.