5 Favourite Contemporary YA Reads

Hullo, world!

It’s Wednesday again. (For some strange reason, I kept thinking it was still Tuesday.) Sadly, we’ve lost all the sunshine and it’s back to being Rain-couver. Very sad. 

Today, I will share with you my 5 Favourite Contemporary YA Reads (+1!) I actually don’t really read contemporary books so much, so I had to think a little about it. But once I did compile some book list, I realised I had 5+1. I think I like adding one more to lists like these, because it’s sort of like a bonus!

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the lineup…

1: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Audience: R(18+)

Content: Swearing, Sexual Content, Dying, Chronic Illness, Some Illegal Activity

My Rating: 4 Stars

This is the funniest book you’ll ever read about death.

It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl.

        This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg’s mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg’s entire life.

        Fiercely funny, honest, heart-breaking—this is an unforgettable novel from a bright talent, now also a film that critics are calling “a touchstone for its generation” and “an instant classic.”

I’ve avoided reading this book for as long as possible. For some strange reason, this book and The Perks of Being a Wallflower since I encountered them in the library. Now that I’ve read ME+DG, I think I will give Perks a try, too. One thing I really liked about this book was how the first part is painful-gut laugh-worthy, and then the humor starts being flat and bleak as the story progresses. It’s sort of like a “sick-girl story” parody, and I would recommend it to anyone who might find this interesting. 

2: What I Like About You 

Audience: PG15+

Content: Some Swearing (I think), Romance, Dealing with Death, Online activity

My Rating: 5 stars

Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can… but in the real world, it’s more complicated. In this debut novel Marisa Kanter explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.

There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.

Okay, can we just stop and comment about how much I loved this book? I mean, I almost never write reviews on Goodreads. After finishing WILAY, I went straight to Goodreads to rant about this book. And that’s really all you should know about it, other than the fact you should be reading this book now. 

3: Fangirl 

Audience: R18+

Content: Swearing, Romance, Partying, Online Activity, Psychological Problems, LGBTQ2+

My Rating: 4 stars

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan..

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

This was a bittersweet story (and surprisingly serious look) about life in college. It was really fascinating how the story unfolds where it’s not just about Cath’s love of her life, Simon Snow and the fanfic, but also very much about her pain and hurt when her mother left. It’s a really thoughtful book; it does contain LGBTQ2+ elements that is important in the story, so it’s not for everyone. 

4: The Alex Crow 

Audience: R18+

Content: Swearing (I think), Sexual assault/content, refugee camp, violence 

My Rating: 5 stars

Once again blending multiple story strands that transcend time and place, Grasshopper Jungle author Andrew Smith tells the story of 15-year-old Ariel, a refugee from the Middle East who is the sole survivor of an attack on his small village. Now living with an adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia, Ariel’s story of his summer at a boys’ camp for tech detox is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber and the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century. Oh, and there’s also a depressed bionic reincarnated crow. 

I actually wasn’t sure if I could place this book as a “contemporary YA”, but I do think it does. It’s a delightful mixture of something like urban legend, the road to becoming a refugee, and a sciency-adventure filled to the brim with boys. Yes, boys. There’s hardly any girls in this story (which is refreshing) and you’d have to endure the silliness of boys as well as all their weirdness (totally not looking at my brother) and quirks. It’s also very emotional and thought-provoking. This is one of the books I’m glad to have met and would re-read. 

5: 100 Days of Sunlight 

Audience: PG13

Content: Accident induced illness, online activity, romance

My Rating: 5 stars

When 16-year-old poetry blogger Tessa Dickinson is involved in a car accident and loses her eyesight for 100 days, she feels like her whole world has been turned upside-down.

Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.

Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again.

Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.

100 Days of Sunlight is a poignant and heartfelt novel by author Abbie Emmons. If you like sweet contemporary romance and strong family themes then you’ll love this touching story of hope, healing, and getting back up when life knocks you down.

*takes deep breath* CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT HOW CUTE THIS BOOK IS!!! (I totally didn’t use all caps.) 

100 Days of Sunlight is probably the cutest (and not annoying) book I’ve met in my entire life. It chronicles Tessa’s journey of suddenly losing eyesight, being plunged into the darkness, to finding life even more vibrant and dazzling and…alive. It’s so alive. The prose can be somewhat simple, but it makes it up by adding other forms of writing like poetry. It’s one book I will continue to fangirl and squeal about for my entire life. 

+1: Grendel’s Guide to Love & War

Audience: PG15+

Content: Romance, Partying, Illegal Activity, Some Swearing (I think)

My Rating: 4 stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Revenge of the Nerds in this tale of a teen misfit who seeks to take down the bro next door, but ends up falling for his enemy’s sister and uncovering difficult truths about his family in the process.

Tom Grendel lives a quiet life—writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the “manic-pixie-dream” label. But when Willow’s brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens’ community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed—his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD—so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it’s not that simple.

One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart, even as the parties continue unabated. Add to that an angsty existential crisis born of selectively reading his sister’s Philosophy 101 coursework, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother’s death…and the question isn’t so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he’ll survive intact.

This is one of the most weird and amazing contemporary books I’ve ever read. It’s actually a modern retelling of Beowulf, which I read (in both the unreadable language and the translation) but retain no memory of. So I can’t really talk to you about the authenticity of it. If you think it’s loosely inspired, that might help. I also really liked the main character, Tom Grendel, and I want to give him rosemary bagels and earl grey hot chocolate. 

So that’s it  for now. And remember, my blogiversary is coming up soon, so if you have any questions about me, just leave it in the comments or in the contact page!

What do you think? Do you recognise any of the books? Are you interested in reading some of the books from this list? Do you like contemporary YA? Let me know in the comments  below; I’d love to chat with you!

4 thoughts on “5 Favourite Contemporary YA Reads

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