After taking an almost-one-year-long break from reading young adult books and contemporaries, I finally had my come-back this summer. I just could not read them, for whatever reason. They felt too bright, unrealistic, and I was deep in the phrase of reading brutally honest, life-lesson-teaching tomes (a.k.a. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which actually is kind of like a bible to me). Any young adult felt like a particular joke to me at that time, which is utterly stupid, because young adults can often be just as serious and life-lesson-teaching. The five books I am meaning to introduce definitely belong among those. But they share another strikingly beautiful character – they spread hope. And hope is something we strive for many times in life. These five books are for the seekers of the light in moments of darkness. May I now introduce you to Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven, Wonder by R. J. Palacio, The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella and Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone.
Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven- Jack Masselin has been play-pretending half of his life. Play-pretending to be someone he is not. Careless and confident, and anything that goes along with the two. Play-pretending to hide what must stay hidden at all costs, even if that means he can’t ever let anyone get close to him, to the real Jack. But if people claim to know Jack, they would say they know Libby even better. Libby Strout, the girl who got so heavy a crane had to cut her free from her house. But instead of Jack, Libby is done with hiding, and getting out into the world unexpectedly changes both of their lives forevermore.
“Dear friend, You are not a freak. You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only you there is. Don’t be afraid to leave the castle. It’s a great big world out there. Love, a fellow reader”
Only a few pages in I knew I was barely going to be able to put it down, because I was downright afraid of how it would end. I won’t speak no more of this now, to prevent myself from spoilering anything. But the message of this book got right through to my heart. I wish body shaming or bullying due to any, no matter which kind of, differences in general would occur on a rarer basis, but the point is that they don’t. The way Libby stands up to anyone that gets in her way makes me feel a spark of hope. I hope her (or Jennifer Niven’s) message gets carried out into the world. I, at least, will do my very best to make that happen.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio- August Pullman is actually just a normal ten-year-old. He does stuff most ten-year-olds do, yet he isn’t exactly normal. In his ten years of life August has already had twenty-seven surgeries and still most people won’t touch or at least look him in the eye. It has never been any different and after ten years everyone around August, himself among them, has done a decent job at getting used to the stares, the whispering and everything beyond that. But the time has come that August has to face his yet greatest fear – starting middle school. And by getting out into the world he changes the lives of the people around him once again, without even knowing.
“[…] he continued, “is the sure knowledge that, in the future you make for yourselves, anything is possible. If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.” He paused and shrugged. “Or whatever politically correct spiritual representation of universal goodness you happen to believe in,” […]”
Kindness costs nothing. “Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.” as Robin Roe described it in her book “A List of Cages”. And a book that spreads word about the power of kindness and the influence of other peoples strength, of their bravery, like “Wonder” here does, makes me hope all the same. Because this is what I am wishing for. I am rooting for kindness. Rooting for it just as someone rooted for Libby, just as Mr. Tushman rooted for August. Because if there would only be a little more kindness, “the world really would be a better place,” and that is all I can say here.
The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout– The past is what ties Mallory Dodge and Rider Stark. But years have passed since Mallory has last seen him. Ever since then everyone around her, she among them, is working hard on making her better, trying to help her overcome the brutal childhood she had to experience, the brutal childhood Rider always fought to protect her from. But one can’t erase the past and just when Mallory is finally ready to face the world, to shape her future, Rider is right there at her side again. With him she can’t keep all the memories from coming back to her anymore and eventually Mallory has to face the fact that the past is a part of her, and yet it does not define her, but, as it turns out, so has Rider.
“Forever. I used to believe it didn’t exist. But now I knew, in many small ways, that it was real, but it didn’t scare me anymore. […] Forever wasn’t pain and grief. Forever wasn’t a problem. Forever was my heartbeat and it was the hope tomorrow held. Forever was the glistening silver lining of every dark cloud, no matter how heavy or thick it was. Forever was knowing moments of weakness didn’t equate to an eternity of them. […] Forever was simply a promise or more. Forever was a work in progress. And I couldn’t wait for forever.”
I didn’t know what I thought about this book at the start of it. It was pretty slow and I honestly did not go where it was going until I had read about half of it, but please, keep reading all the way to the end, because the second half makes up for it all. It gets honest and real about life. It gets emotional. Even if it seems like a classical High School romance, this is honestly not it, but I don’t want to spill the beans here. The hope through it all it strong though. It teaches that the past is the past, that it shapes one, but is not what one is defined by, that whatever lies in ones past, there can still be hope for tomorrow and sometimes, that hope for another day is as golden as forever. And sometimes the only hope ones needs, is the hope for a bit of that forever.
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella- Something happened and suddenly, just like that, Audrey got sick. Not sick in a cold kind of way, but mentally, and actually it has not been all that suddenly either. That has been a while ago, but ever since then, she hasn’t been outside, she can’t make eye contact. It’s not like she isn’t trying to get better, she is, but it seems like being-well is a whole world away. Until Linus shows up. It all changes again. A normal life suddenly seems more than possible, the graph of Audrey’s life is heading straight for the stars. But to get better she first has to face the fact that getting better sometimes involves a few setbacks too.
“I think what I’ve realized is, life is all about climbing up, slipping down, and picking yourself up again. And it doesn’t matter if you slip down. As long as you’re kind of heading more or less upwards. That’s all you can hope for. More or less upwards.”
I first read this one the summer I finished tenth grade. I was only fifteen, the same age as Audrey. I was shy, so much younger than most of my classmates and nervous about starting a-levels at a new school. I was unpopular, disliked by fellow students, but liked by teachers, which is a pretty classical problem. I saw myself in Audrey, not quite literally, but I swallowed this book whole. It gave me hope. Just like Audrey hoped for better days, I did. I hoped for a straight-upward graph. But like Audrey I had to understand that life is not like that, straight-upward. Life’s graph is jagged and one can only hope to head more or less upwards.
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone- Samantha is fighting against her own self or more specifically, her mind. With Purely-Obsessional OCD every-day-life is a constant struggle. The feeling of abnormality is her constant companion, especially among her at school well-known friends. Until she meets Caroline. Until she is introduced to Poet’s Corner, a secret hide-away of wallflowers at her school and for the very first time she is starting to feel more or less sane. But it’s only until shortly after, that she learns something that makes her doubt her sanity more than ever before.
“All these words, On these walls. Beautiful, inspired, funny, Because they’re yours. Words terrify me, To hear, to speak, To think about. Wish they didn’t. I stay quiet. Keeping words in, Where they fester, and control me. I’m here now, Letting them out. Freeing my words, Building better walls.”
This book had me in utter shock and tears and emotions all over the place. I devoured it in one sitting. Especially the poetry in it had my heart and soul. I am downright craving to re-read this, writing about it now. I think that it displayed the downsides of mental illness well, but it was still hopeful. It held the hope to get better, to get a hold of ones mind, to be more than ones illness.
Here we are. A thousand and seven-hundred words later, you know about five wonderful young adult contemporaries yielding hope. I hope they end up meaning just as much to all of you as they do to me. All the love, and especially hope, to you.