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Let’s Get Serious: Some Absolutely Moving Reads

September 22, 2010

Plain and simple, I love to read.  And, if you’re anything like me, you read according to your mood (this could be why so many of us bibliophiles have multiple books going at the same time!).  When I read for sheer entertainment, it is much like my movie-viewing – it’s the difference between watching a National Lampoon flick or an Ingmar Bergman film (one jokes about the human condition, the other delves deep into the psyche of it).  Sometimes, I just need to lose myself for a few hours with mindless chick lit, but more often than not, I want to be moved or pushed into thinking as a result of (and during) the experience. 

When I think of the term literary or dramatic fiction, I think of titles that, while fiction, are so incredibly real that you relate to the situation; they suck you into their imaginary world and cause you to empathize with the characters as if they are real people.  I love reading books that make me stop and think about myself as an adolescent, how I could have completely related to a character or a situation – from the painfully awkward moments, to the awareness one gains through age and experience.

So, I want to highlight some WONDERFUL books that open your mind, touch your heart, speak of the human condition, and allow kids to discover who they are as well as relate to the world around them. 

**Warning: this post does not contain fiction with vampires, werewolves or fairies**

For Young Adults

Markus Zusak is a master at writing about the human condition.  We are all familiar with The Book Thief, but how many of you have read I Am the Messenger?  All I can say is WOW!  The main character, Ed Kennedy, is stuck in a rut and lacks the motivation to pursue his dreams.  One day a playing card arrives in his mailbox with instructions.  Through a series of playing card messages, Ed is sent on missions to help change other people’s lives and, as a result, positively changes that his own.

Set in the 1980s during the IRA conflict in Ireland, Siobhan Dowd’s Bog Child is a remarkable story about love, sacrifice, and, most importantly, the lengths to which people will go to save those they care about.  A great crossover title, eighteen year old Fergus is caught between believing in the cause and not understanding his jailed brother’s hunger strike.  Interwoven is a story within this story, shedding light on the strength and versatility of the human spirit.

Abuse, acknowledgement, family, and recovery.  Swati Avasthi’s Split covers all of these topics and more.  Escaping his abusive father’s household, Jace Witherspoon turns to his estranged brother, who had left and changed his name years earlier.  During this time, Jace works to forge a relationship with his brother, recover from his own wounds, and save his mother from his abusive father (who happens to be a high ranking judge = untouchable).  Throughout this beautiful and gripping novel (about a taboo topic), readers wonder if Jace will be able to save his mom, and more importantly, if he will be able to save himself.

For Middle Graders

Susin Nielsen’s Word Nerd is not just another coming-of-age story.  Twelve-year-old Ambrose is a quirky, nerdy character with an uber-overprotective mother (helicopter parent to the nth degree).  Nielsen creates characters so real and endearing, you’ll be torn between laughter (Ambrose lacks social graces and is quite…awkward) and the brink of tears as Ambrose learns about himself, how to stand up to his mother, and how to bond with others…with help from the game of Scrabble.

Twelve-year-olds Ivy June and Catherine come from two very different worlds — Ivy June from rural Kentucky, Catherine from metropolitan Lexington.  Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Faith, Hope and Ivy June portrays an unlikely friendship, forged through a school exchange program.  While their lives are extremely different (Catherine must learn to live without indoor plumbing), tragedy brings the two together, and Ivy June and Catherine realize that they are not so different after all. 

When ten-year-old Jake’s mom falls and is hospitalized, the only option is for his estranged grandfather to take care of him.  Set days before Christmas, Audrey Couloumbis’ heartwarming story about Jake takes twists and turns as the title character learns the true meaning of family.  This story is sure to warm your heart!

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 22, 2010 8:47 am

    Thank you for this list! I listened to IVY JUNE during my errands and carpool runs last year. It reminded me of being an exchange student as a teen and the beautiful relationships I formed (and still treasure).

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