Rich characters that shine in stories where hardship, pain, sorrow, or pure joy are played out is the hallmark of a gifted writer, and extra points when the secondary characters are as vibrant as the main one. For the second installment related to a new favorite quote, let’s discuss how books can be accessible and wise counselors.
I’m going to skip over YA titles like Crank by Hopkins or Hole In My Life by Gantos and talk about four newer titles that certainly have their place as catalysts for conversations about the real world issues teens can encounter and how to respond—or not.
Addiction is tough, but when you’re watching an adult continually make horrible decisions that affect them and their families, like Gabi, there’s not much to help navigate through it other than some humor. In Gabi, Girl in Pieces by Quintero, it’s exactly her humor that makes it memorable. So first, you need a dose of humor. Second, like Riordan Hall’s first book, Sugar, you’ll need the help of family. For Mercy, an emotionally abusive mother and brother dependent on her for more than any teenager should have to support, its Mercy’s older brother, who has pulled himself out of the tumultuousness that is now helping her too. Second, you need a cheerleader. And speaking of a cheerleader, Arlie from Mikulencak’s Burn Girl, has a long-lost uncle and best friend along with a new boyfriend who are her biggest supporters. They need her to move on from her mother’s fatal overdose and her burns from a meth explosion years ago. So, third is not just a family member for support but friends who are rooting for you as well.
In each of these three books, our female main characters show perseverance in the face of adversity and how they do it is just a little bit different: humor, family, and friends. For Quinero, Riordan Hall, and Mikulencak, they nailed it. They made the books easily readable, with likeable characters who have just enough to help them get through- and can teach us all a lesson while we’re reading them.