Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Books With Impact

Although I read books primarily in the Urban Fantasy and Sci-Fi genre I also have a passion for reading books that have an insightful moral message, books that question societies values, and books that spotlight sensitive topics such as drug abuse, homosexuality, physical, mental, and sexual abuse, death, and rape.  You may or may not know that I graduated a year ago as a Child and Youth Counselor so many of these topics are very real for the youth I work with and are therefor of great personal and professional interest to me. I have compiled a list of books that I have read over the years that have truly bring these topics to light in a unique way. Although many of the books you'll see listed tackle heavy subjects they are all about so much more.  They are messages of hope, examples of courage, and role models in life.

Quite a few years ago I picked up a novel in a used book store called, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  Since that time this novel has increased in popularity and even become part of high school and college curriculum.  In 2004 it was adapted into a film staring, Kristen Stewart who is best known for her role as Bella in Twilight.

Title: Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Thorndike

From the Publisher:

Melinda is a friendless outcast at Merryweather High. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, and now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. It is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and who is still a threat to her. It will take another violent encounter with him to make Melinda fight back. This time she refuses to be silent.

Speak Trailer:

Its been years since I read this book so I apologize for any inaccuracies.  To me Speak was a novel about resilience and courage.  I really enjoyed the slow progression of this novel and that the entirety of the story is not revealed to you all at once.  To me this novel was like putting together a large puzzle, clarity came slowly as more and more of what happened to Melinda is revealed.  One of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much was because I could see myself in Melinda.  Although (thankfully) I am not a survivor of rape, throughout high school I expressed my own life challenges through art and spent many lunch periods alone or with other art students expressing ourselves through various mediums.  The awkwardness of high school, making friends, and having the courage to speak out are things most youth struggle with and overcome.  I believe this to be a "must read" novel for any young adult or adult.

The next author has two books that I think are fantastic.  High school can be a scary place where through our life experiences we slowly begin to discover who we are (I don't think we ever stop).  I can still remember trying to figure out who I was (I was in a rush), maintain decent grades, make friends, find acceptance, and generally try and pass through the day without attracting to much attention (I hate attention). The novels, Luna and Keeping You a Secret, by Julie Anne Peters bring to light issues surrounding sexual orientation and the search for love and acceptance for two very different teenagers.

Title:  Luna
Author: Julie Anne Peters
Website: Julie Anne Peters
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

From the Publisher:

Regan''s brother Liam can''t stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister''s clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam''s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen''s struggle for self-identity and acceptance.

Title: Keeping You a Secret
Author: Julie Anne Peters

From the Publisher:

With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaeger. At least it seems to be. But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship? This moving love story between two girls is a worthy successor to Nancy Garden''s classic young adult coming out novel, Annie on My Mind. With her characteristic humor and breezy style, Peters has captured the compelling emotions of young love.

I LOVED this coming of age love story and it brought to the surface may of the awkward moments I experienced when falling in love with my first boyfriend.   I also really respected the honesty of this book and the characters.  I was especially frustrated by the expectations of the adults in this novel, I was angry at the harassment issues the main characters faced, and pleased that this novel tackled some of the stereotypes that exist surrounding sexual orientation.

At the end of this novel Julie Anne Peters writes a letter to her readers and in it she says,

"Readers, from my heart to yours: May you find the happiness you seek, the peace and you and comfort of community.  May you be save and secure and strong.  Be proud of who you are.  Be visable so you can see each other, find each other, show the world our humanity.  Be true to yourself and those you love. Use the words and actions against you to strengthen your will.  Teach acceptance and celebration of difference and diversity.  Keep your sense of humour.  Recognize your place in history and continue to work for positive, peaceful social change." - Jule Anne Peters

AMEN to that!

I have about seven or eight more books for this post but this is getting long so I think I'll continue this post throughout the week.

If you have any books that changed your life, the way you viewed the world, or that highlighted topics such as the one above please share!  If you have any comments or questions I always love hearing from you!


Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Thanks for Keeping You a Secret review. I'm researching a 14 year protagonist. Can use the help!

Bill ;-)

Hope you'll check out my book giveaway:

Lindsey said...

No worries I'll have more up within the week!

JAD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JAD said...

There were two books, actually: Elric of Melnibone, that I fell in love with in high school and I have since wanted to be a writer due to that discovery. And in college, I absolutely flipped over Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse. At the moment, I can't remember exactly what it was about the story, except to say her style was so beautiful, and lyrical and unlike anything I had read to that point. To this day, I adore her. If you have not read either of these authors, I recommend them highly! PS. Thanks for following me, Lindsey! :) *hugs*

B.Kienapple said...

I didn't know Speak was made into a film. I really need to read that book. Laurie has a new one too, Wintergirls.
A Million Little Pieces really spoke to me for some reason though I've never had addiction issues. I think it was his honesty that really got me.

Lindsey said...

JAD - I am actually ashamed that I have yet to pick up a Virginia Woolf novel :( But thank you for the reminder/suggestion as I really need to read some of her work! *hugs back*

B - I really need to read A Million Little Pieces but was hesitant to do so after reading that it was not a factual memoir as he has originally stated. I honestly didn't know Speak was made into a movie until recently either but its an excellent book. I'll have to check out her newest novel. I swear I need a job at a book store in addition to my other jobs lol I spend far to much on books!

Sara said...

Oh my goodness Lindsey great post! I actually absolutely loved Speak, I feel the same way about it. I had no idea it was movie as well, I'll definitely have to check it out!

You've won an award over at my blog :)

Lina said...

Very warming and heartfelt review. And love that u've included the youtube trailer for Speak too. Looking forward to your future posts on similar stories :D

Allison said...

I read Speak and Keeping You a Secret in middle school and they were definitely two of my favorite books! Great reviews!

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