Friday, 26 April 2013

Top Ten Teen Angst Books

A while back I posted a list of my Top Ten Underrated Teen Angst Movies. Actually, though, I don't watch a lot of movies. I mostly read books.

I've thought a lot about why I never outgrew teen fiction and I've come to the conclusion that most of the time, a 35 year old will write as a 15 year old. The resulting fiction will read like a 25 year old has written it. And maybe that's why I like it. Or maybe it's just that I'm a writer (I've written two books for non-adult people). Anyway. Here is a list of my ten favourite teen angst books and why I like them.

10. Why We Broke Up- Daniel Handler
This book is a super long letter from a girl highschooler to a boy highschooler, all about their relationship from beginning to end. It's beautifully written: the girl is super-quirky and the boy is a conventional. Since it's written from the perspective of the girl, you get to see how the jock boy is actually weird (to quirky people) in that he doesn't think about stuff very much. I don't usually like books where a male author writes as a female or vice versa, but in this case, it works.

9. How To Keep a Boy as a Pet- Diane Messidoro
 This is one of the funniest books I've ever read. It's about a girl living in a small English town and her plots to get a boyfriend. It reads authentically and you can't help but root for her (on one occasion she learns that the boy she crushes on likes horses... so she tries to subtly dress like one). It may not actually help you to keep a boy as a pet, but it will help you feel less alone in the world, and happy that Diane Messidoro and her lovely brain exist.

8. Gingerbread- Rachel Cohn
This was my favourite book when I was fourteen and I've never really stopped liking it. It's about an angry goth girl who carries a doll with her everywhere. She moves to San Francisco to live with her Dad and is completely herself even though he doesn't enjoy her personality very much.

7. Rookie Yearbook One- Tavi Gevinson
A bunch of teenage girls writing about what it's like to be alive and female. It's like a magazine only a lot less stupid, because it's full of long essays and beautiful art and it isn't trying to sell you anything. It takes hours and hours to read the whole thing, but they are hours well spent and you will come out the other end feeling smarter and better informed. There's also a rookie mag website, which is great, but I prefer reading the long, long articles in print format.

6. Looking for Alaska- John Green
This book is written from the perspective of a completely geeky guy who doesn't really have any friends, until he goes to boarding school. His roommate is one of my favourite characters in literature and the best thing about it is, the main character doesn't really undergo a major personality transplant halfway through: he's still a completely geeky guy who doesn't really understand people.

5. Stargirl- Jerry Spinelli
My favourite book when I was sixteen: a new girl moves to town and shes not like anyone else in the world. It's almost like she exists on a different plane: she's so weird, but she doesn't even seem to notice. She tries to make the world better and then she's gone. If this book was written in the sixties I'd say she was an alien, but she's not: she's a strange unworldly girl and the boy narrator gets sucked into her world.

4. The Lover's Dictionary- David Levithan
I used to be obsessed with the concept of shuffle novels: I sort of wrote one, although the last few chapters are all in their proper place. The Lover's Dictionary reads like a novel which has been written, chopped up, and put back into an arbitrary order based around the alphabet. It's about a relationship, from start to finish. What's clever about this book is that it reads almost universally: it could be about any relationship. It could almost be a relationship dictionary.

3. Rose of No Man's Land- Michelle Tea

Rose of No Man's Land is about a girl who is doomed in an almost Shakespearean way. Not many novels write about poor white people: most novelists are middle class. Rose lives under depressing circumstances: her mother doesn't leave the house, her mother's boyfriend steals stuff. They are super poor. Her sister, the 'normal' one, gets her a job at the mall. Within a few hours it becomes hopelessly apparent that Rose cannot fit in. She goes on this whirlwind adventure, where things get worse and worse as the night progresses. And then she goes back home.

2. Love Lessons- Jacqueline Wilson
It continues to surprise me that Americans don't read Jacqueline Wilson. In Love Lessons, her least popular book with parents since 'Waiting for the Sky to Fall' (1983), the main character (a fourteen year old girl attending school for the first time) falls in love with her art teacher, who happens to be married with children, and they have a relationship, of sorts. She's lonely and self-centered and not very happy, and sort of reads like she was born in the 1950's. But I like her anyway, and it's perhaps Wilson's bravest book.
1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Stephen Chbosky
If you read this book, it will change you. You will come out at the end of it as a different person than the one you went in as. So full of love it almost hurts.

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