Normally I don't read issues books. I like happy books that make me smile and have things like bright pink covers and lots of sparkles. So issues books? Not really my thing.
But! Here are six issues books that even *I* think are well worth reading. So if you're like me and hearing "issues" is an automatic DO NOT WANT, then you might just want to check these titles out.
Release Date: October 18, 2010
I had a few problems with this book, particularly with the development (or, rather, lack of development) with the fantasy aspects, but the realistic parts are top notch.
Jackie Morse Kessler's portrayal of the internal torment of anorexia was phenomenally real. If you ever want to know what it feels like to be anorexic on a mental and emotional level, then I highly recommend this book. I have never seen a more accurate and astonishing portrayal. Other sources may show the physical horrors, but no one (in my experience) has so thoroughly and accurately captured the psychological aspects of the disorder like Jackie Morse Kessler.
Release Date: March 17, 2009
Publisher: MTV Books
Usually when I talk about this book my recommendation is accompanied by fangirly squees and lots of hand-flapping and OMG JOHN AFTER!!!1.11! But there's more to this book than the white-hot sexiness that is Officer John After (though, really, isn't that enough to get you to pick up this book?)
Underneath all the sexual tension is an equally hard-hitting look at grief and fear. John experienced a loss prior to the events of the book, and he still has not properly dealt with that grief. Instead, he's squashed his dreams and thrown himself into work. And Meg? Well, I can't say much, but Meg's tough-girl attitude is a cover for a secret that, once revealed, made me sit back in shock as I reevaluated all of Meg's actions and thought about how I would react if I were in her shoes. Jennifer Echols' sensitive approach to grief and trauma make Going Too Far a book with surprising depth that has lingered with me long after I read it.
Release Date: 1959
Journeying with Charlie--the test subject of a new drug designed to enhance IQ--as he goes from a man with a retardation level IQ to a super genius is a touching, fascinating, and heartbreaking experience. It is what occurs after this transformation, however, that really makes me sob. While focusing on intelligence, the concept of loss, explored here in many forms, is what sticks with me the most.
Flowers for Algernon is an intriguing look at intelligence and the way an individual's IQ affects both the way the individual relates to the world and the way the world relates to the individual. Narrated through Charlie's journal entries chronicling the experiment, I became hopelessly attached to Charlie and felt every bit of pain and joy he experienced.
Release Date: October 18, 2007
Thirteen Reasons Why follows Hannah Baker as she explains the reasons why she decided to commit suicide (and keep in mind, she's kind of an unreliable narrator). Jay Asher walks a tightrope as he explores the ripple effects an individual's actions have on others and how, while these actions may affect us, our decisions are ultimately our own.
Compulsively readable, this book should come with a warning not to read it in public. I was choking back the tears while reading it in a crowded waiting room. I haven't read a more touching book that explored suicide from the perspective of the person who committed it and the people in that person's life.
Release Date: April 21, 2005
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
This is an extremely short book, but don't let the length fool you; Where I Want to Be is a complex, multifaceted emotional powerhouse. The perspective shifts from Jane, who struggles with mental illness, and her sister Lily who is not mentally ill.
Both sisters wormed their way into my heart with their profoundly real emotions. Jane's child-like approach to the world and her realization that she does not and cannot fit in broke my heart. Lily's guilt and frustration surrounding her sister was palatable and raw. On top of all of that, this is also a story about grief and how each of the characters approach the losses they have suffered.
Release Date: October 1, 1981
Publisher: Laurel Leaf Books
Honestly, I think this book is kind of awful. It's written in a style that's so dry and hokey. It screams "I'M A SCHOOL ASSIGNMENT" and reads like an eye-roll-inducing after-school special.
But if you can slog though the writing (luckily the book is extremely short), then I promise you'll be rewarded with a story that is a truly terrifying look at the way people can easily embrace fascist-like principles. What makes it even more poignant is that The Wave is a novelization of events that actually happened (the experiment was called The Third Wave).
You can find Small on her Young Adult and Middle Grade book blog Small Review. She holds a BA in psychology with concentrations in psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and clinical psychology. She has worked with young adults in various in-patient and out-patient settings. She is still trying to find a behaviorism schedule that will encourage her to exercise daily (using chocolate as a reward apparently undermines the process).
Thanks for stopping by and sharing this eclectic list of recommendations, Small!
Readers — have you read any of the books Small's suggested? What did you think?