Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gritty Teen Reads

Without meaning to, I seem to have selected some disturbingly gritty teen fiction lately, the sort of thing that when you try to give someone a one-liner to encourage them to read the book, they screw up their face in distaste. So let’s get that bit out of the way at the beginning. Between the following five titles, there is a hearty sprinkling of death, murder, rape, bullying, suicide, eating disorders and OCD. But please DON’T let that put you off. These are all fabulously written, heart-breaking stories none of which I would describe as depressing. (Although it’s probably not a bad idea to stick to reading them on a bright sunny day, just in case.)

Heart-shaped bruise by Tanya Byrne
The story of Emily Koll opens with an intriguing prologue, ‘Last year, the psychiatric unit of Archway Young Offenders Institution was closed. A notebook was found in one of the rooms. The contents are as follows..’

There’s no secret that Emily in imprisoned, but the reason for her incarceration is agonisingly drip-fed through the course of her “journal”. Emily’s unreliability as a narrator adds to the intrigue. As the past is revealed, we discover her father is incarcerated for murder. The victim’s daughter, Juliet, stabbed Emily’s father during the murder, which causes Emily’s world to unravel. From that point on she determines to get revenge. 

What happens next by Colleen Clayton
On a school trip to the snow, Cassidy ‘Sid’ Murphy meets a gorgeous stranger who invites her to a party. Sneaking out alone has terrible consequences. She wakes alone in an unfamiliar house and struggles to piece together events of the previous night. Horrified at the possibility of what may have happened she lies to everyone including her best friends.

Her friendships crumble as her life spirals out of control. She turns to everything and anything to escape the horror of that evening. Through a growing relationship with the school ‘stoner’, Corey she eventually learns to face her demons. Sid was a great flawed character and Corey epitomises the concept that things aren’t always what they seem.

The ants in this story are highly entertaining; I’ll leave you to find out why. Lucky Lindeman is a teenage boy suffering at the hands of bullies. With his parents’ marriage stumbling along unpleasantly, he begins to dream vividly of his grandfather who went missing during the Vietnam War. When objects from the dreams begin to appear in his bedroom, Lucky starts to question his sanity.

An intriguing story, that makes me look at trails of ants just that little bit more closely.

You against me by Jenny Downham
The issue at the centre of this story is heart-breaking. A boy is accused of raping a girl, at a party. The girl’s brother, Mikey is angry and encouraged by his friends seeks revenge against the boy who hurt his sister. Sneaking into a party he meets Ellie, the sister of the accused. In true Romeo and Juliet fashion, a relationship begins amidst a background of carnage.

Family relationships and loyalty are put to the test in this raw but very readable novel.

Leverage by Joshua Cohen
This story definitely sits at the tougher end of the spectrum. I found it difficult to read at times, but thought the portrayal of a scarred teenager, both emotionally and physically was compelling. The narration flicks between Danny, a high school sophomore gymnast and a Kurt, a new football star, with a cloudy past.

The gymnastics teams face constant persecution and bullying by members of the football team. Things finally come to a head, in a series of horrifying scenes. The growing friendship and respect between Danny and Kurt ensure justice prevails.

~ Lucy B (Manukau)

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