Teens and Adversity

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Teens and Adversity

Realistic fiction about young people in challenging situations

Books geared toward teens encompass a multitude of subjects that speak to their interests, upbringing, and personal experiences. In the real world, young people endure challenges that force them to overcome obstacles they have no control over, or from circumstances they contributed to. The proceeding realistic fiction highlights teenagers navigating adversity with an emphasis on behavioral reactions or coping mechanisms that create more harm than good.

Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson
The personal hardship of Laurel Daneau truly defines adversity. Once a standout student and cheerleader, the fifteen-year-old endures the deaths of her mother and grandmother in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Her father moves the family to Mississippi to escape very painful memories of Louisiana; however, Laurel has not fully come to terms with the traumatic losses. She manages to make friends at a new school but begins to experiment with drugs through a new boyfriend. It is this juncture of the story where Laurel numbs surreal circumstances through drug addiction as a coping mechanism. I recommend this title for any young adult reader who can relate to Laurel, or who desires to read how Woodson writes her journey from tragic losses and drug abuse to achieving peace with her past.  

Lifted by Wendy Toliver 
Fifteen-year-old Poppy Browne can be classified as an outsider who keeps company with the wrong crowd. She embodies the classic lone wolf personality at her new school until two popular girls, Mary Jane and Whitney, take to her uniqueness. The trio begins to spend their free time together when it becomes apparent they have one thing in common - the adrenaline rush of shoplifting at the local mall. One innocent pair of jeans turn into multiple articles of clothing and subsequent trouble with the law. I recommend this title for any young adult reader curious about the addiction of shoplifting, and how this behavior catches up to three teens in a story of self-inflicted adversity.         

Tyrell by Coe Booth
Tyrell is a 15-year-old African-American experiencing the pitfalls of a fractured home, bad parenting, and perpetual poverty. While his father serves a prison sentence, Tyrell's mother does very little in the area of sustained work or home leadership. Her unwillingness to maintain employment creates a set of events that see the family check into a Bronx homeless shelter; this is a critical moment early in the story as the main plot shifts to Tyrell carrying all subsequent chapters. This realistic fictional title I recommend to young adult readers who would like to follow a street-savvy teen forced to make adult decisions and help support his family

Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Crank begins with Kristina Snow giving a full detail of her alter ego, Bree. Kristina believes “she” has always existed within her in a dormant state only to emerge in the presence of “crank” - crystal meth. Her drug use and subsequent addiction does not stem from a traumatic experience as with Laurel from Beneath a Meth Moon; however, Kristina does come from a home where her dad abuses drugs and is currently estranged from the family because of it. This is a suggested title for young adult readers on how divorce and parental drug use might pose long-term implications for adolescents. 

Violent Ends by Shaun Hutchinson
Violent Ends delves into the sensitive topic of school shootings in the United States. Kirby Matheson displayed a number of “good qualities" that many school shooters possess before erupting into violence - he had friends who vouch for his character, enjoyed reading, played a musical instrument in band, and had never been in serious trouble before. The first couple of chapters are crucial to the set-up of Violent Ends as the shooting occurs within the first 30 pages. This book explores the humiliating instances of bullying, a chaotic household, and Hutchinson's veiled writing of possible sexual abuse leading up to violent behavior. This is a book I recommend to young adult readers who are interested in following the journey of a school shooter, and the challenges which could potentially influence adverse behavior.