I believe I have expressed this before, but it bears being said again… some of the best writing out these days is aimed at the young adult audience.
Here are two books I highly recommend for those who enjoy a good story… The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Oddly, the main character in one book is August and the other Augustus, both book covers are blue and before you have finished reading either of them your heart may leak through your eyes.
Fault was a book club read suggested by a member who is also a middle school librarian. So I cam in to it feeling it was solid.
The central characters are Hazel and Augustus who are dealing with cancer as teens which bring a depth to experiencing, engaging and understanding life. I found my self completely engaged by the end of the second chapter, breaking out a pen and annotating (highlighting passages, make notes to myself in the margins and noting LOL passages). I am so glad I had a reason to read Fault. This is not a book I will be taking to half price books or lending out to people I don’t know will get it back to me in good condition.
You can read the synopsis on line, so let me give you some of quotes as teasers.
That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.
Grief doesn’t not change you. It reveals you.
…I wrapped my arms all the way around my mom’s middle and they held me for hours while the tide rolled in.
“Nostalgia is a side effect of cancer.”
“Nah, Nostalgia is the side effect of dying.”
It seemed like forever ago, like we’s had this brief but infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.
…I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.
I liked the tone of Fault right away but after the first chapter was concerned about the language and hinted sexuality a young reader may be exposed to. It was quickly shown this would not be a on going issue. It was not but in three or four scenes and while the teens were together as groups that the coarser language was used along with some innuendos, which I really respected about the writing because that is how most kids live. They do and say things while trying to impress each other in ways many don’t think, talk or act in other arenas of their lives.
All the readers in my book club loved it which says something…I find myself thinking back to it often. Impacting.
Wonder is, well, wonderful. I would recommend reading this aloud with your family or listening to it as your family takes car trip. There is so much richness to this novel. My friend Robyn suggested it to me, saying how she read it to her girls (8, 12, 14) over the summer. Some people I just know to trust their recommendations- so I ordered it off Amazon as we continued to visit. Then a friend’s well read sixth grade daughter, Megs, was so excited to know I had a copy to read that she asked me (the 50 year old) to let her know how I liked and how she has reread it several times. So the next weekend I made it my read. Oh! So glad I did!!!
One third of the way through I am texting another friend to suggest she add it to her nightly “read with her son” book list. It is written honestly. It touches on so many great things to talk about… in the moment or later. The exposure of the universal human heart along with the hope and flaws we all carry are beautifully woven in to this tale.
Summary: Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student. (copied form title page of book)
The chapters are short and broken in to parts as told by specific characters. This adds richness and depth when the story is told in first person instead of third.
I love how Wonder addresses a bully issue and what is true about the insecurity that drives such behavior. I love how it shows when we engage with our own insecurity to impress a bully/insecure person we become a person we don’t like and that is not true at all to our deepest sense of self. I love how it exposed that jealousy and lies cut us off from the people who love us most to our loss.
The best truth are the middle school lunch scenes. That is where the real power, humanity and social strata is most exposed. I have said for years that you know what is truly happening in the heart and life of a student by who they sit with at lunch. I guess that is still true as adults- who we have meals with reflects who we are, who we desire to be and what central values we hold to. But I digressed.
By the end of Wonder my heart was lifted and enlightened.
Both are well worth the read. Seize the page!