Ten books to read if you love smart and thoughtful YA contemporaries . Top Ten Tuesday

Hi friends,

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Today’s theme is: if you loved this, you’ll love that.

I chose to go with recommendations of YA contemporaries that made me think. All these books opened my eyes on one issue or another and made me wiser, richer. Smart yet thoughtful. They all broached serious topics in their own way and I think they should be on every school reading list.

A List of Cages by Robin Roe is a little jewel. It also shows how often monsters don’t live outside your house but inside.

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives…

Reading Shirin’s struggle was both heartbreaking, humbling and enlightening. Tahere Mafi speaks with her heart to your soul. She makes you see from the inside what it is to be hated by people who don’t even know you.

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments – even the physical violence – she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her – they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds – and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

That book will enlighten you on the inner working of sects and how it affects families. It’s riveting and chilling!

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died in a tragic car accident, her sister Bea joined the elusive community called The Unity Project, leaving Lo to fend for herself. Desperate not to lose the only family she has left, Lo has spent the last six years trying to reconnect with Bea, only to be met with radio silence.

When Lo’s given the perfect opportunity to gain access to Bea’s reclusive life, she thinks they’re finally going to be reunited. But it’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t want to be found, and as Lo delves deeper into The Project and its charismatic leader, she begins to realize that there’s more at risk than just her relationship with Bea: her very life might be in danger.

As she uncovers more questions than answers at each turn, everything Lo thought she knew about herself, her sister, and the world is upended. One thing doesn’t change, though, and that’s what keeps her going: Bea needs her, and Lo will do anything to save her.

From Courtney Summers, the New York Times bestselling author of the 2019 Edgar Award Winner and breakout hit Sadie, comes her electrifying follow-up—a suspenseful, pulls-no-punches story about an aspiring young journalist determined to save her sister no matter the cost.

That book was simply a revelation for me. I had absolutely no idea about how trans people felt but did I SAW after having read that book! I think I had not one tissue left in the house! I want every transphobe or homophobe or…to read that book! It should be mandatory in every school.

Two kids, Morgan and Eric, are bonded for life after being born on the same day at the same time. We meet them once a year on their shared birthday as they grow and change: as Eric figures out who he is and how he fits into the world, and as Morgan makes the difficult choice to live as her true self. Over the years, they will drift apart, come together, fight, make up, and break up—and ultimately, realize how inextricably they are a part of each other.

Another one where you’ll learn many things about people whose sexuality does not conform with “the norm”. But what’s being normal? I dare you not to fall for these teenagers.

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has been a study machine with one goal. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside. Then Frances meets Aled, and for the first time she’s unafraid to be herself.

So when the fragile trust between them is broken, Frances is caught between who she was and who she longs to be. Now Frances knows that she has to confront her past. To confess why Carys disappeared…

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

Engaging with themes of identity, diversity and the freedom to choose, Radio Silence is a tour de force by the most exciting writer of her generation.

The Hate U Give is another “eye opener”! By now I think everyone has heard about that book. Again, that one helps fighting against racism and prejudice.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

I Have Lost my Way does not fit a category. It’s simply a mix of moving, smart and thoughtful.

A powerful display of empathy and friendship from the #1 New York Times Bestselling author of If I Stay.

Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from home to find the boy that he loves, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City after a family tragedy leaves him isolated on the outskirts of Washington state. After the three of them collide in Central Park, they slowly reveal the parts of their past that they haven’t been able to confront, and together, they find their way back to who they’re supposed to be.

Told over the course of a single day from three different perspectives, Gayle Forman’s newest novel about the power of friendship and being true to who you are is filled with the elegant prose that her fans have come to know and love.

Stolen is another one that has its own category. This book is more like an inner journey. The writing is sumptuous.

It happened like this. I was stolen from an airport. Taken from everything I knew, everything I was used to. Taken to sand and heat, dirt and danger. And he expected me to love him.

This is my story.

A letter from nowhere.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?

The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don’t exist—almost.

That book talks about autism. About having friends that are “different”. And about how that difference doesn’t matter in the end, because that’s what makes them special to you.

When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as conventional.

Everyone thinks Colton Neely is special.

Lilly Evans just thinks he’s fascinating.

Once friends when they were younger, their bond is cut short due to her accident prone nature and they go their separate ways. Years later, they meet again and Lilly learns that there is something special about the boy she once knew, but she has no idea what it all means. And she’s not sure if she’s ready to find out.

When he walks through the corridor of her school the first day of her senior year, she knows that it’s time to get to know the real Colton Neely. The more she learns, the deeper she falls.

Their friendship grows into love, even as Colton does not express it in words. But one decision threatens to break down the world that Lilly has tried so hard to integrate into and she must figure out if the relationship can survive if they are apart.

Firekeeper’s Daughter is an amazing story to open your eyes on the condition of native people living on reservation and all the issues and prejudices they suffer from. But it will also show you all the beauty of their heritage and traditions.

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.

Thanks for reading!

Sophie

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18 Replies to “Ten books to read if you love smart and thoughtful YA contemporaries . Top Ten Tuesday”

  1. Great choice of topic Sophie! I read and LOVED Birthday, Radio Silence and The Hate U Give and Stolen is one of those books that’s been on my TBR for ages already so I should really get to it.

  2. Awesome recommendations on here Sophie…I haven’t read any of these but a few are going on my TBR, thanks!

  3. A million times yes to Puddle Jumping. That book will forever stay with me ♥!

  4. I like the idea of suggesting these for school reading! Great list, Sophie. 😀

    1. Thank you Lashaan!

  5. This list is basically my TBR shelf. There are so many on here that I still need to read. I loved A List Of Cages, though. That’s a good book.

    1. Then I hope you’ll tackle your TBR AJ :-)))

  6. Oh yes, loving to see radio silence on there I also do need to read I’ve lost my way, eventually when I get the mood for it.

    I’d also suggest Our year of maybe, for kidney disease/transplants, and maybe My heart and other back holes too if you’re in a stronger headset, for depression.

    1. Adding them!!! Thank you Kristina.

  7. This is such a great list. I’ve read and loved six of them and the rest are on my TBR.

  8. This is such a fascinating post. I can see how this will be really helpful for those that read this genre. The smart and thoughtful books are some of the best to read.

  9. I love this list, Sophie. I’ve heard amazing things about Birthday, I need to read it:-)

    1. I hope you will Tammy!

  10. OMG! I was drawn to Puddle Jumping. I go to Amazon to view it, and I OWN IT! (since 2017) I need to move that one up the TBR. The books I am familiar with on this list are all crying books for me.

    1. Well I hope you’ll love it Sam! I just went to Goodreads to see if she had written other books recently but she seems to have disappeared.

  11. You know how I feel about A List of Cages. I loved it but it broke me. So much love for Julian!) And while Birthday was excellent, it was almost too much for me. Being in Morgan’s head and feeling that pain was overwhelming. But it’s one I’ve never forgotten.

    1. I’ve never forgotten Birthday either Tanya!

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