Let’s start a Realistic YA revolution and….Amplifed ARC contest!

I’ve talked with quite a few debut contemporary realistic YA authors over the last year, and the vast majority of us agree on one thing — our books just didn’t get the attention we’d hoped for. Most of us are nervous about where we’re at and generally spend way too much time wondering…what’s next?

But it’s not really about ‘us’ or our careers –it’s about the importance of realistic YA and how I, for one, don’t want to see it go anywhere! You know, I’ve seen folks saying they want realistic YA to make a comeback. There have even been hints that editors are hoping for it. This is usually followed by…well, people have to start BUYING it first.

And there’s the real issue. Why aren’t more people buying realistic YA? The trend these last several years has been all about escaping reality. As someone who is fascinated by psychology and the human mind, I always try to come up with theories for trends and why what’s ‘cool’ is forever changing. But the problem is…I’ve never been cool or into popular culture. Seriously, I’ve been known to watch ANTM out of morbid curiosity and I still can’t name a single designer or understand the point of a painful weave. Or, really, understand why it’s still on after 55 seasons (or something).

But I digress, this post isn’t about why trends are trends (because who actually knows the answer to that). It’s not even about why people should read realistic YA. Most of you know the WHY. In fact, Stacked Books made this amazing post last week as part of their Contemporary YA series (definitely check that out)

This post is about what we’re going to do about it. Well, we should start small. I’m thinking along the lines of a Realistic YA revolution (grin). I’d like to start by sharing a list of some of my favorite realistic contemporary reads, with a focus on those books I feel didn’t get the attention they deserved.

I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE and BALLADS OF SUBURBIA by Stephanie Kuehnert: This woman does raw emotion like no other. These books pack a formidable combination of beautiful writing, messed up, but REAL and loveable characters, and emotional power. Read them. You will NOT forget them.

INCONVENIENT by Margie Gelbwasser: A heartbreaking story about a girl who has to clean up her mom’s mess–something way too many kids do every day. Margie has a beautiful voice, and her MC (Alyssa Bondar) will introduce you to a culture we don’t often get to read about.

THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1 by Steven Brezenoff: There’s no doubt about it–this guy knows how teens think and talk. Packed with realistic dialogue and very believable and authentic narratives, this book manages to mix raw emotion with humor in a unique story about three friends. I also have to mention that his upcoming book blew me away.

FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers: Let’s face it, we all wish we had the talent this chick does (Okay, I know I do). I’ve yet to be able to put ANY of her books down and that is very rare for me. I have ADHD, people. Her latest book is a bit different from her first two, but every bit as powerful with unforgettable characters.

DEBBIE HARRY SINGS IN FRENCH by Meagan Brothers: Okay, this book came out a few years back and seemed to get very little attention, but it’s fucking AWESOME, okay? It’s a heartwarming story about a cross-dressing boy falling in love with a messed-up, but loveable girl. It’s authentic to the core. What’s not to like?

PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King: This book got a well-deserved Printz Honor medal, but it’s so damn amazing I had to add it to this list. I’ve read it THREE times since it came out (I hardly ever reread books) This is the kind of book that inspires me to become a better writer. These characters…wow. I will NOT forget them.

Okay, now….onto the AMPLIFIED ARC giveaway.

Synopsis: When privileged 17-year-old Jasmine gets kicked out of her house, she takes what is left of her savings and flees to Santa Cruz to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Jasmine finds the ideal room in an oceanfront house, but she needs to convince the three guys living there that she’s the perfect roommate and lead guitarist for their band, C-Side. Too bad she has major stage fright and the cute bassist doesn’t think a spoiled girl from over the hill can hack it. . . .

All you have to do is comment on this post with your name, email address, and a realistic YA recommendation you feel hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. But I highly encourage you to tweet/facebook/blog about this contest and–more importantly–your realistic YA recommendations. I can’t start this YA revolution alone. It’s going to take a lot of us to get the word out there and to bring attention to these books. We all have different tastes–some of us like it light, some of us like it dark. I’m betting at least ONE person out there will love your recommendation as much as you do.

As an added bonus, I’m recruiting other realistic YA authors to donate their books or ARCs to this contest. I’ll update this as authors offer up their signed books. But so far we’ve got:

Contest ends June 30th! I’ll do a drawing for each book/ARC, and list the winners on July 1st. I’ll also write up a post with all of the realistic YA recommendations listed, including a ‘top’ 5 of the most listed books.

Now, let’s get this revolution started.

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122 Responses to Let’s start a Realistic YA revolution and….Amplifed ARC contest!

  1. Erica says:

    I am very excited for Amplified! There are so many realistics that definitely don’t get enough attention, I have a kind of “Top 5″ I pimp out to people when they ask about realistic – Sea by Heidi R Kling, Twenty Boy Summer by Sara Ockler, Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelley :) , both Salvaged and Rise by Stefne Miller, and Where The Truth Lies by Jessica Warman.

    thebookcellar @ wi.rr.com

  2. Love, love, LOVE this post. I agree 100%. I will always be a contemporary girl at heart, in both my reading and my writing. All of my finished manuscripts are contemporary and every time I make a list of favorite reads, it dominates. I did a post on this a couple months ago and will add another one about the revolution.

    Let’s see, here is my list.
    Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly– Justin is one of my all time favorite book boys (I’m sure you’re tired of me saying that by now, lol) but I also love Drea. Love the way she thinks. Love that its not “typical”, but maybe it should be?

    Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler– beautiful, beautiful writing that makes me aspire to be better.

    I Know it’s Over by CK Kelly Martin– I am a HUGE fan of boy POV and she does it so well. Such an awesome book to see written from the boy’s POV.

    SPLIT by Swati Avasthi– WOW. Powerful, powerful book. I’ve read it twice this year alone.

    FREEFALL by Mindy Scott– Another great boy POV and powerful story.

    FLASH BURNOUT–by LK Madigan. Unique, heartfelt, REAL story.

    WITH OR WITHOUT YOU by Brian Farrey– Devoured this book in one day. Such an important story. Powerful.

    That’s my list for now. Will probably be back for more and will blog it soon as well! So glad you did this!!

    Oh, and I ordered Absolute Value of -1 a while back. Haven’t read it yet, but can’t wait. Brooklyn Burning looks incredible as well!

  3. You originally turned me on to Courtney Summers and I am completely addicted to her novels now! So, thanks for that rec!

    As for my recs, I just read ALBATROSS by Josie Bloss and can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner. I don’t know how that one slipped by me, it was fantastic. Also, STAY by Deb Caletti. Gorgeous novel. I wish I could throw my book into the pile, but I self pubbed it. But, I will def be blogging about this!

    Realistic YA, FTW!! :)

    • Margie says:

      ALBATROSS is one of my most favorite books. It’s so gripping and beautifully written and you just feel for the MC so much.

  4. angela fleming says:

    Sarah Dessen’s Lock & Key……. I LOVE that book fiercely!!

  5. Dayse Dantas says:

    Realistic YA is actually my passion
    So here goes my recommendations:
    Anything by Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Dessen (SPECIALLY Dreamland) and John Green.
    The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson
    now, this one is REALLY important, because it’s crazy but realistic at the same time. I like to call it the “Black Swan” of literature, and it is more than a decade old!
    The Basic Eigh by Daniel Handler

    oh, and also there’s “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower”, but I think that one gets recognition enough :)

  6. Alexa says:

    This is awesome! :)

    Here’s my list:
    -Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly
    -Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
    -Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder
    -Fall For Anything by Courtney Summers

    And I love Aussie YA! Some of the books I’ve read have not been published in the US, but even the ones that have been don’t get nearly as much attention as they should. Here are some amazing ones that I love and wish more people would read:
    -A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley
    -Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley (will be published in US in 2012)
    -Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar (not published in US; what are you waiting for US publishers?)
    -Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
    -Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
    -The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

    I’m always recommending these books. Love them!

  7. Thanks for including my books and you know I am 100% about spreading the word about realistic YA fiction. Count me in to give away a copy of BALLADS!

  8. Okay, I’m starting with an older release, too: MY BIG FAT MANIFESTO by Susan Vaught.

    Then I have to give a shout out to TWENTY BOY SUMMER by Sarah Ockler. It got some attention, but not enough.

    My last overlooked book recommendation is DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C.J. Omololu. This one didn’t get nearly enough attention either.

  9. Mike Jung says:

    INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER by Julie Halpin;
    MINDBLIND by Jennifer Roy;
    THE MIRACLE STEALER by Neil Connolly;
    LIFE, AFTER by Sarah Darer Littman; and
    Anything by Jaclyn Moriarty. Francisco X. Stork gets a lot of acclaim, but hey, put him on the list too. And Courtney Summers is like a god to me, of course.

  10. Paul W. Hankins says:

    So many super titles here, I could recommend most–if not all–of the titles listed within the comment thread.

    I am still championing Between Shades of Gray.

  11. Audrey says:

    I am in love with all of the books by Melina Marchetta (like Alexa mentioned) A few lesser- hyped ones that rock include Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian, Leftovers and Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess, Like Mandarin by Kristin Hubbard and of course, Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert. Totally second the Courtney Summers recs as well :)

  12. Steph Campbell says:

    Oh! I forgot one of my fav’s THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer Hubbard. Genius. Loved it!

  13. Kip says:

    One of the best YA contemps I read recently was TRUTH & DARE, edited by Liz Miles. It’s a compilation of 20 stories from some really awesome contemporary YA authors, including Heidi Kling, Luisa Plaja, and Sarah Rees Brennan. It was great to read shorts from people I already know, plus discover new authors who I am definitely going to look up!

    My favorite contemporary novel I read in the past few months was actually wildly successful (ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins), but another one I really liked didn’t get that much buzz: SOMETHING LIKE HOPE by Shawn Goodman.

    And ditto on CJ Omolulu’s DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS. Great book, and can’t wait for her new ones to come out!

    I’m looking forward to reading the others people have mentioned here!

  14. Tiff says:

    I LOVE realistic YA (though I usually call it “contemp” and I think I need to change that, realistic makes more sense when talking about it with teens). Here are a few realistic YA books that I adore that need some recognition!

    ~ Popular by Alissa Grosso
    ~ The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner
    ~ Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt
    ~ Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick
    ~ Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
    ~ Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

    Sidenote: I’ve been a high school librarian for the past 3 years and contemp/realistic is what MOST of my teens want! I’m definitely a part of this revolution.

  15. Lindsay R. says:

    Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz is an amazing realistic YA novel. It’s powerful and gritty and honest. I loved Harmonic Feedback. Heidi R. Kling’s Sea was an unexpected surprise. Freefall by Mindi Scott is another favourite, I love the characters she creates.

  16. Jenn Hubbard says:

    Ooh, I have a lot to say here!

    First–Steph Campbell and Kip just made my day by mentioning my novel and the antho that carries one of my short stories. :-) Thank you.

    Second–Contemporary realistic YA is my favorite subgenre, and I suppose that’s why I write it. I created a shelf on Goodreads with a batch of some of my recent favorites, so I’d like to point people there:
    There are 19 books, but I keep meaning to add K. L. Going’s FAT KID RULES THE WORLD.
    And some of the books on that list have gotten wide recognition, but others deserve more attention than they’ve had so far, IMHO.

    I would encourage others to create Goodreads shelves and Listmania lists of your favorite contemporary titles.

    Finally, I’ll donate a paperback of THE SECRET YEAR to this revolution.

  17. kelly says:

    Thanks for posting this, and thanks for linking to our post from last week.

    As I mentioned in my top hitters list…there’s a ton of titles for me that are so underrated. To pick just two: RECOVERY ROAD by Blake Nelson and HIGH DIVE by Tammar Stein.

  18. Cindy Sherwood says:

    Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork
    Sweethearts and Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

  19. My absolute favorite realistic YA is The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.

    • Steph Campbell says:

      I LOVED that one as well. One of my very favorite reads ever. To me, it had a decent amount of hype around it, though. That and Anna and the French Kiss had a good bit of marketing (in my opinion…)

  20. Andrea says:

    I think Stephanie Kuehnert’s books are amazing. Both of those books are on my list.

    Also, Total Constant Order by Crissa-Jean Chappell was so raw and real and deserved a lot of attention and respect.

  21. Pam Vickers says:

    I can’t wait to read Amplified! I think the book CAMO GIRL by Kekla Magoon deserves some attention.

  22. Laura says:

    I’m Laura and my email is: the (dot) zealous (dot) reader (at) gmail (dot) com

    My recommendations for unpopular contemporary realistic YA fiction are:

    After the Moment by Garret Freymann-Weyr
    Crash Test Love by Ted Michael
    Love Inc. by Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout
    After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy
    No More Us for You by David Hernandez
    The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee
    The Running Dream by Wendelin van Draanen
    Waves by Sharon Dogar
    Breathless by Jessica Warman
    No and Me by Delphine de Vigan
    Nothing by Janne Teller

  23. Edna says:

    Last year I was recommended Courtney Summers’ Cracked Up to Be because I enjoyed Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles. Those two books changed how I looked at YAs. I had read other contemporary YAs before but this was something different. It made such a huge impact on me and instantly contemporary YA became one of my favorite genres. Other very dear-to-my-heart books are Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, Harmonic Feedback, Willow by Julia Hoban, You Against Me by Jenny Downham, and Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt. I know majority of the ones I mentioned have had some attention but I couldn’t help but list them. They’re ones that made me so excited about reading.

    Thank you for this post. I’m getting a lot of great recs from everyone’s answers.

    • Geceosan says:

      Courtney Summers’ “Cracked Up to Be” is an amazing book. On the level of “Just Listen” by Sarah Dessen and “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, in my opinion.

  24. lindsaywrites says:

    I would really love to just read anything contemporary. I don’t think I ever have before, I am a scifi/fantasy/action/adventure girl, but I have heard great things about this genre!

    I’d love to be a new fan! =]

  25. Nicole Weisz says:

    Contemporary novels are always nice, easy to relate to! I don’t know how unpopular this one is, but is fabulous, it was Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, absolutely loved this one!


  26. Laura says:

    LOVE this post as much as I LOVE realistic YA.

    First off, FUNNY HOW THINGS CHANGE by Melissa Wyatt is a gem that’s been waaay overlooked. It came out a few years ago and I’d encourage anyone to read it. It’s my unsung hero.

    FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers
    I KNOW IT’S OVER by C.K. Kelly Martin
    FAR FROM YOU by Lisa Schroeder
    ALL WE KNOW OF HEAVEN by Jacquelyn Mitchard
    BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham
    THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams

    These books have stayed with me and deserve lots of love. THANKS, Tara, for starting the Revolution. I’m 100% on board.

    • Liana says:

      I loved that book (Funny How Things Change). It was a slim read but very powerful. Loved the voice of the novel and how it was such a different setting.

  27. tracy says:

    Wow, I there are so many. I will name the most recent ones I have read that pop into mind:

    The one I just finished that I really liked: Hold Still by Lacour
    Willow by Hoban
    After by Efaw
    Twenty Boy Summer by Okler
    The Secret Year by Hubbard
    What Happened to Goodbye by Dessen
    Lock and Key by Dessen
    Lonely Hearts Club by Eulberg
    Anything by Laurie Halse-Anderson

    Okay, I’ll stop. :)

  28. Cass says:

    So excited about Amplified. I absolutely loved Harmonic Feedback. I’m in the minority here – I prefer contemp & history to paranormal/fantasy. One title I shall recommend to you, that I don’t believe has gotten quite the attention it deserves, is DAUGHTER OF XANADU by Dori Jones Yang. I know it’s recent, but it’s one of my favourites – ever! I have heaps of lesser-known titles on my TBR so hopefully I’ll get to them eventually.

  29. Let me first say that I’m 30 years old and although my family makes fun of me, I love YA books! High school is a tough time in a girl or boys life and these books show that. They don’t sugarcoat it either. That’s why I believe that JUMPING OFF SWINGS by Jo Knowles is a book that doesn’t get the attention it deserves at all! Teenage pregnancy isn’t taboo, it’s a reality and parents need to realize this and educate their children, not ban books like this. A friend of mine was 17 when she had her son and he’s 12 now and she’s a wonderful mother,

  30. Great idea. I don’t think teens have tired of contemporary realistic fiction, but it just isn’t getting the hype with few exceptions. I loved Harmonic Feedback, so please put me in the drawing for Amplified.

    Some of the realistic titles I’ve read recently and recommend:
    After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
    Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon, which someone else also mentioned, but I’d add to that one The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante
    Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
    Shine by Lauren Myracle
    This Girl is Different by JJ Johnson
    What Can’t Wait by Ashley Hope Perez
    Hush by Eishes Chayil
    A Good Long Way by Rene Saldana, Jr.

    And for those interested in realistic titles set outside the United States:
    This Thing Called the Future by J.L. Powers (South Africa)
    The Queen of Water by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango (Ecuador)
    Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy (Afghanistan)
    Abe in Arms by Pegi Dietz Shea (Liberia)

  31. Jolene Perry says:

    A self-pubbed YA I stumbled upon by accident and LOVED – Grounding Quinn by Stephanie Campbell – a totally fucked up girl and the guy who loves her. Awesome.

    Another small publisher book I loved – Geek Girl by Cindy Bennett

    SO – those are my two picks.
    Off to goodreads to add your picks to my TBR list :D
    Awesome post. Off to tweet it now!

  32. Dayse Dantas says:

    Oh, I forgot about these:
    Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson
    Sundays at Tiffany’s, James Patterson
    The Things a Brother Knows, Dana Reinhardt
    Remove from wishlistJumping Off Swings, Jo Knowles

    I’ll come back if I remember anything else.

  33. Tiffany D. says:

    Hmm. How about Stay by Deb Caletti? I really liked this one, just read it a few days ago.


  34. jpetroroy says:

    Twenty Boy Summer (though it did get some press in the whole controversy a few months ago), definitely deserves more attention. Sarah Ockler’s writing is poetic and beautiful.
    I’d also strongly advocate for Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder–I think books in verse are often ignored.
    And anything by Dana Reinhardt.

  35. Oh, man, I love thes rec’s! I just wanted to second Dirty Little Secrets and The Secret Year — just loved both books so much. Also, anything by Laurie Halse Anderson and CK Kelly Martin. ‘Scuse me while I run off to make my to-read list!

  36. Kirstin Cronn-Mills says:

    I write contemp YA, and this is what I say when people ask me about let’s-escape-reality books: contemp YA is perpetual as the sun. No, we absolutely don’t get the attention we deserve (what a great, great list of books on these comments–all deserving of more love!), but we won’t go away. Vampires and werewolves, to some extent, have expiration dates because they’re trends (even though they trend over and over again). Every day, however, there’s contemp YA (didn’t mean to rhyme, but oh well)

  37. nana says:

    Great post!
    I am going to give few titles and authors that I love:

    -”Jellicoe Road” by Melina Marchetta. (or any other book written by Marchetta) <This book is something not short of amazing. I wish I read it when I was 16. And it is close to my heart as much as The Catcher in the Rye.

    -"Forbidden" by Tabitha Suzuma.
    <very delicate subject matter. truly beautiful.

    -"If I Stay" and "Where She Went" by Gayle Forman

    -"The Sky Is Everywhere" by Nelson, Jandy

    -"Brooklyn, Burning" by Steve Brezenoff
    < I am half way through this book. and it's already one of the best realistic YA I have read this year. (will be published : Sept. 2011 )

    I hope you will add at least one to your TBR list.

    Go Realistic YA revolution !!

  38. Doug Solte says:

    Yes! Contemporary YA does need a revolution. Great post Tara! Here are my picks…

    SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers
    CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summmers
    FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers
    BURNED by Ellen Hopkins
    PAPER TOWNS by John Green
    CRASH INTO ME by Albert Borris
    THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams
    GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams
    THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney

  39. Aydrea says:

    First off I am so excited for Amplified!

    Here are some of my recommendations that I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet: The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Andrea Howells,
    Take Me There by Carolee Dean,
    The Tension of Opposite by Kristina McBride,
    Winter Longing by Tricia Mills,
    Freak Magnet by Andrew Auseon,
    A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker,
    Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson,
    The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer,
    All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab.

    I tweeted it – http://twitter.com/#!/arick01/status/81880709458952192

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  40. Whoa, apologies for my earlier comment – while moderating please exclude that one. So used to the Blogger system where name and email aren’t part of the package! Here’s my original comment with personal info excluded from the body:

    SO agree with this post! Sci-fi and dystopia will always have a special place in my heart, but contemporary and realistic YA has the potential to change lives like quite no other. I know that JUMPSTART THE WORLD by Catherine Ryan Hyde pretty much blew my mind this year. Talk about life-changing!

    Awesome giveaway, too! Viva la revolution! =)

  41. Erica Olson says:

    YAY for realistic/contemporary YA!! Thanks for the list, I’ll check those out. And I’m cheating a bit because she’s a friend of mine, but I’ll go ahead and wish the best for Gae Polisner and her book The Pull of Gravity.

  42. I am so addicted to this thread! ;)

    Another one of my absolute fav’s (a few years old, though) is Jake Coburn’s LOVESICK. Great boy-pov. This one definitely deserves a read!!

  43. I just read and reviewed The Secret Year and I LOVED it! It included the perfect amount of heartbreak and recovery. There are so many great titles I’ve seen listed above while I was scrolling down. I may have to add some to my wishlist….

    Other than The Secret Year, I’d have to recommend Wasteland by Francesca Lia Block. Her writing style is beautiful and magical and I just love that book so much.

  44. I LOVE realistic YA. It’s my favorite genre to read … and to write! Courtney Summers is one of my fave realistic fiction writers, along with Sarah Dessen, Jay Asher, Megan McCafferty, Sara Zarr, and Maureen Johnson. I’m definitely dying to read Amplified!

  45. Denise Jaden says:

    I’m a little late to the party, but I absolutely want to support this cause! I’d be happy to donate a copy of LOSING FAITH to the revolution!

    I have too many favorites to list, and many of them have already been listed, but of course I agree on HARMONIC FEEDBACK, and I’d also love to add to the list anything by Sarra Manning, especially GUITAR GIRL.

    • Cazzle says:

      I’m so glad someone else posted love for Sarra Manning! I fell in love with her as a teen myself, and I’m so pleased that she’s still writing. “Guitar Girl” is a cracking novel, and I love her “Diary of a Crush” series too.

      I also adore anything by Kevin Brooks, but especially “Lucas” which is just a beautiful, glorious novel. Wonderfully written from a girl’s POV, too.

  46. Jordyn says:

    Tara, I absolutely 100% agree and I’m going to do my own blog post of realistic/contemporary YAs I want people to read (and wish had gotten more attention), but for right now I’ll just list the last really really good realistic YA I read…

    WHERE THINGS COME BACK, by John Corey Whaley – A brilliant portrayal of small-town life and personal losses. So beautiful.

    Also, I’ll (try to remember to) come back and link up my blog post after it goes up. :)

  47. Geceosan says:

    other realistic YA titles that i highly recommend:

    Rage by Julie Anne Peters
    Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles
    Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Doyle
    Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
    Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

  48. Jeni says:

    I love realistic YA and middle-grade, and can’t say enough about David Klass’ YA novel YOU DON’T KNOW ME. I stumbled upon this one when it was featured on my son’s freshman reading list last summer (I read the books, too, because I love to read) and fell in love with it. It’s an excellent choice for boy readers and reluctant readers, who will be pulled into this first-person story about a boy with a secret: his mother’s boyfriend beats him daily while his mother works two shifts to make ends meet.

    I tweeted this contest at twitter.com/jeniw. Jeni at jenibell.com

  49. wow. I’m loving all these great suggestions. I saw Between Shades of Gray recommended, which is one of my favourite books of the year. If that belongs on this list it has my vote!

    Wonderful idea – revolution! Here are my favourites:

    OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy
    Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
    Illegal by Bettina Restrepo
    Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
    The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
    Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner

  50. ODell says:

    A few of my favorites are:

    Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
    Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
    Ordinary Beauty by Laura Wiess
    Shine by Lauren Myracle
    Sixteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton

  51. Hikari Black says:

    I love contemporary YA! There are so many that I’ve been literally dying to read but I can’t seem to find anywhere in HK… (stuff like Freefall and Burned) Bookstores here really do suck.

    Anyhow, list, list…

    Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
    It’s sweet, fun, and set in one of the best places in the world–Paris (though I love it for the food and not the romance), what’s there not to love?

    Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
    I freaking loved this. Okay, maybe this doesn’t exactly fit into “no attention,” but it’s amazing. So yeah. Suicide always gets to me best.

    And some others I can’t remember because they’re not that recent… Which is why we need more realistic YA. See? I can’t even remember anymore good contemp books, because not much has been here recently!

  52. Jessi says:

    Happily joining the revolution! Some of my faves that warrant attention: Sea by Heidi Kling, Twenty Boy Summer and Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen. Loved these books!

  53. Ashley says:

    Oh! What an awesome idea! I LOVE it!! I shall have to return to this post and see what more I can do to get this moving! :) Realistic is my FAVORITE and has been as long as I can remember!!

    Some personal favorites- Melina Marchetta is BRILLIANT! Her book, Jellicoe Road did win a Printz Honor in 2009, but I feel like it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I’ve also read Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son, both of which were completely brilliant and are also included in my list of favorites.

    I completely agree with the Ballads of Suburbia nod. I recently read that one, and it definitely changed the way I view my world. Powerful stuff.

    I’ve recently read some of Lisa Schroeder’s stuff and boy does this woman know how to write powerful verse novels! Goodness! More people definitely need to read her! I read an advance copy of The Day Before 2 months ago (or something like that) and I still can’t stop talking/thinking about it. And even now, it evokes a powerful emotional response whenever I think about it. That right there is power in writing.

    Sonya Sones is another who has amazingly well written verse novels.

    I’m sure I could go on and on, but that’s what comes immediately to mind! I’m definitely going to need to post about this soon!!

  54. Kate Messner says:

    Great idea, Tara! Here are some of my recent & upcoming favorites:

    THE DAY BEFORE by Lisa Schroeder
    PEARL by Jo Knowles
    HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by Sara Zarr
    TEN MILES PAST NORMAL by Frances O’Roark Dowell
    SCRAWL by Mark Schulman
    TRAPPED by Michael Northrop

  55. Here here! I’m tired of feeling like the entire YA market revolves around vacuous girls who never liked to read until they discovered Twilight and only want books that push the same buttons. But a mid-lister getting a realistic book (or, well, ANY book) onto the shelves at stores these days is tough as hell. No one hates this more than I do.

  56. Chelsey says:

    I’m all over this!

  57. kathy says:

    I love contemporary YA. :) A couple of my favorites are pretty well-known (Anna and the French Kiss, Jellicoe Road, The Sky is Everywhere) but I also love Sweethearts by Sara Zarr. She’s a great writer but a lot of people have never heard of her.

  58. Bee says:

    You’re doing two of my favourite things here:
    1) Starting a revolution
    2) About realistic YA! (Gah, you are so cool!)

    I’ve had my eyes on Amplified ever since you had it up on your website.
    Realistic YAs are the reason I love reading so bloody much! They are cathartic and amazing and every bit the real deal.
    And those are some of my favourite books up there. Stephanie Kuehnert’s Ballads of Suburbia is one of my favourite reads ever. Others which were awesome and all that – Before I Die by Jenny Downham, Missing Judy by Anne Cassidy, Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, The Sky Always Hears Me And The Hills Don’t Mind by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Doing It by Melvin Burgess, Fury by Shirley Marr, My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman, Her And Me And You by Lauren Strasnick, Tell Me A Secret b Holly Cupala and just about everything by Jaclyn Moriarty.

    Thank you SO much for doing this! I’m definitely going to be spreading the word for this.

  59. Stasia says:

    Yeah, Tara! Hurrah for realistic YA! I’m a huge Courtney Summers fan & also loved WILL GRAYSON WILL GRAYSON (Green/Levithan) or, heck, anything by John Green, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE (Nelson), LEVERAGE (Cohen)…and so many of the great books listed in the comments above.

  60. Liana says:

    Awesome contest/post. I hadn’t heard of a few of these books! Thank you. One of my fave realistic contemp YA authors is ER Frank and I think everyone should read all three of her books. I hope she comes out with something new one day soon! Realistic YA is my fave. I never want it to go away!

  61. Eliza, the Book Tramp says:

    I really like realistic YA and AMPLIFIED sounds fun. I just finished THE BIG CRUNCH by Pete Hautman, a sweet romance. Another book that I always recommend is SPROUT by Dale Peck. It’s a great GLBT novel set in Kansas. I’m bookmarking this post–awesome recommendations.

  62. Amanda says:

    Thanks so much for the giveaway! I’m definitely going to have to check out the books on the list I haven’t read yet.

    My favorite has to be Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitiz…her writing is so real and beautiful.

  63. Sarah says:

    Wow. I didn’t realize it until now, but I barely ever read realistic YA anymore! It’s really what pulled me into reading to begin with so I’m going to try and concentrate more on it from now on! This is an awesome idea, I’ll be spreading the word!

    I love Hannah Moskowitz, I just recently read INVINCIBLE SUMMER and an ARC of her upcoming novel GONE, GONE, GONE. Awesome books! I’m hoping to get BREAK by her ASAP.

  64. Sylvia says:

    I don’t know why contemporary/realistic YA do not get as much, if not more, “recognition”. I LOVE contemporary YA, it is the reason I started reading YA! I think that it just doesn’t get as much hype as books in another genre even though I think some books are really good and much more deserving than the popularity it gets! Authors like Courtney Summers, Gayle Forman and Melina Marchetta? They are AH-MAZING and really talented and I think they deserve to be as famous as the famous S.M. :D Anyway, I just want to say “More power to contemporary YA!”

  65. Finally it’s been said. Thank you for saying it. Realistic YA deserves some attention and some readers. I’ll nominate: Flash Burnout, Waiting to Score, The Body Finder and then shameless add mine because I really would like some readers. Sliding on the Edge and The Princess of Las Pulgas.

    In addition I can offer one book for your giveaway.

    My best, Lee

  66. This is a p.s. How about adding a # to Twitter #YA_RealRevolution. Something like that?

  67. Yan says:

    I definitely recommend Harmonic Feedback! And The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Fat Cat by Robin Brande, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols, I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern , and Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales.

    *deep breath* Finally I REALLY recommend Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma!

  68. Alexa says:

    Yay! Long Live the Revolution!

    My all time favourite is Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

    My favourite recent read is Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

    and my most anticipated is Saving June by Hannah Harrington

  69. Nic @ Irresistible Reads says:

    Awesome idea. Definitely some great books on the list.

    I recommend The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, Sweethearts by Sara Zarr, But I Love Him by Amanda Grace, Beautiful by Amy Reed, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta and Saving June by Hannah Harrington.

  70. Jade Walker says:

    awesome post and giveaway!

    For me its really anything by Sarah Dessen (but especially This Lullaby), anything by Courtney Summers as well. i tend to stick to authors I know for YA realistic fiction! I’ve recently started reading Sarah Zarr as well, I love Sweethearts!

    jade-walker at hotmail dot co dot uk

  71. nana says:

    (This is only a PS.)
    ok, just a quick update. I have finished -”Brooklyn, Burning” by Steve Brezenoff
    and can confirm that it IS the BEST realistic YA have read this year. AMAZING!

  72. Chen Chang says:

    A realisitc recommendation that hasn’t gotten much attention? Aside from Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han books (I so love them), here are a couple I’ve read and loved that may not have as much attention: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, Nothing But the Truth (And a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen Headley, Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, What Happens Here by Tara Altebrando, and Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols


  73. Mindi Scott says:

    I enjoyed many of the realistic YA novels that I read last year: A LOVE STORY STARRING MY DEAD BEST FRIEND by Emily Horner, THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer Hubbard, THE SNOWBALL EFFECT by Holly Nicole Hoxter, THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1 by Steve Brezenoff, THE FREAK OBSERVER by Blythe Woolston, LOSING FAITH by Denise Jaden, AMY & ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR by Morgan Matson, and TAKE ME THERE by Carolee Dean to name just a few.

    I also love everything I’ve read by Courtney Summers, C.K. Kelly Martin, and Carolyn Mackler. :-)

    I’m going to have to check out some of these other recommendations for sure!

  74. Shari Green says:

    I’m all for a Realistic YA Revolution!! :D

    Some of my recent faves include:
    Gravity Brings me Down, Natale Ghent
    Fall for Anything, Courtney Summers, but that’s already on your list…
    Just in Case, Meg Rosoff
    The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson
    Love is the Higher Law, David Levithan
    Once Was Lost, & How to Save a Life, Sara Zarr
    Saving Francesca, Melina Marchetta

  75. Jen Duffey says:

    I love contemporary, realistic YA and the revolution!

    My recommendations are: Split by Swati Avasthi, Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff (I know it’s not out yet….but it’s a MUST read this year), and The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder.

    Jen Duffey

  76. Harmony says:

    I LOVE this! I think most of my favorites have been mentioned but:

    Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert (lovelovelovelovelovelovelove that book)
    Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder
    Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala
    Sea by Heidi R. Kling
    My Heartbeat by Garrett Freymann Weyr (this came out a while ago but it’s so amazing. Every should read it!)

  77. Melissa Smilgys says:

    I was introduced to this blog via Stephanie Kuehnert’s blog. So, I’m definitely a huge fan of her work! I am also a huge fan of realistic YA fiction. As a special education teacher of students with special needs, Asperger’s, and autism in high school, I feel as though I have a connection with kids that are the outsiders or “weirdos” in high school. As I, too, always felt like I never quite fit in with the in crowd.

    I try to build my classroom’s library with varying YA books, particularly those that impact students that live on the fringe of “normalcy.” After reading both Stephanie and your blog entries, I grabbed a pen and a legal pad, jotted down your recommendations! Today, I’m taking my summer school students to our local library to check out some of these books. **Hopefully I can carry all of them back! ;-)

  78. Brandy Graves says:

    I am loving this idea! Here are some of my suggestions:

    Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert
    Paper Towns by John Green
    Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
    By the Time You Read This I’ll be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  79. Elizabeth says:

    Love this post so much! I have read so many great realistic YA fiction books that deserve more publicity. Here are a few:

    1) Hold Still by Nina La Cour
    2) After by Amy Efaw
    3) Sweethearts by Sarah Zarr
    4) Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee

  80. Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford
    Audrey Wait! by Robin Benway.
    Guitar Girl and Diary of a Crush by Sarra Manning
    Withering Tights by Louise Rennison – everyone knows about Georgia Nicolson but have they heard of her cousin Tallulah? :)

    I freaking LOVE Realistic/Contemporary YA. This is an awesome contest, thanks Tara! :)

    SarahERBillington at Gmail dot Com

  81. Bean says:

    Laurie Halse Anderson is the queen of realistic YA but I also love Stephanie Kuehnert more than any other author with how realistic and brutal her characters are; they just look you straight in the eye and tell you what’s what. I also would have to say, Perks of Being a Wallflower is a really good one too. It’s simple but meaningful and passionate.
    Also, sign me up for this contest! It sounds totally freakin’ rad!! Except, if I do, somehow, awesomely win, don’t send me Ballads. As much as I love it and I love Stephanie, nothing can replace the copy I bought the day it came out. I even had to shop at… BOARDERS!!! (My family has a long standing love affair/job history with Barnes and Nobles). [= Excited!

  82. Love this post! Make sure I get a copy of your master list, okay? I do have to add Witch Baby (Weetzie Bat series) by Francesca Lia Block and Sing Me To Sleep by Angela Morrison.

  83. Pingback: Realistic YA Revolution! | Mindi Scott

  84. As someone writing contemporary YA novels, I am thrilled to see you give this issue the attention it deserves. The list of overlooked novels is so long, but here’s a few with enough grit in them to create a pearl:

    Miles From Ordinary — Carol Lynch Williams
    After — Amy Efaw
    Almost Home — Jessica Blank
    By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead — Julie Ann Peters
    Sweethearts — Sara Zarr

    calliekingston (at) gmail (dot) com

  85. Julia DeVillers says:

    Great list! Favorites and some new ones for me to check out.
    My twin would like to offer a copy of her book MINDBLIND (mentioned already above. yay!). She’s at ALA promoting it right now…lucky her.

  86. AudryT says:

    Vive la YA revolution! I personally would love to see HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT get more attention.

    Also great are:
    THE GIRL WITH MERMAID HAIR (no mermaids, trust me)

  87. aleeza rauf says:

    ahhh, i love this!

    here are my recs:

    fixing delilah by sarah ockler
    forbidden by tabitha suzuma
    stay by deb caletti
    dreamland by sarah dessen
    ordinary beauty by laura weiss
    luna by julie anne peters
    and lastly…amy & roger’s epic detour. that book is…EPIC! all of the above are actually. contemp needs to be read more!

  88. Yolande says:

    Awesome! I am recommending Choker by Elizabeth Woods and Popular by Alissa Grosso. They are AWESOME novels that I believe don’t receive the attention they deserve.

  89. Love the post. I do love sci-fi/fantansy/paranormal/Dystopian but I think that’s just because I love books in general. Anything that entertains, involves and touches deeper which usually is the case with realistic YA. So here’s my list:

    Dirty Little Secrets by CJ Omololu (really hit close to home)

    How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford (so good!)

    Stolen by Lucy Christopher (set in Australia – terrible and beautiful)

    Can’t leave out Maureen Johnson and John Greene even though they are well known and get plenty of attention, they are both awesome!


  90. Trisha says:

    Limiting myself to two awesome books I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet: Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine and Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti.

  91. Ashley Coker says:

    I would definitely recommend the Sierra Jensen series by Robin Jones Gunn

  92. Zoe says:

    I love realistic fiction and it’s always my go-to read for a lot of things.
    Off the top of my head,
    The Sky is Everywhere – Jandy Nelson
    Beige & Boy Proof – Cecil Castilucci
    Hold Still – Nina LaCour
    Even though she primarily writes magic realism everything that Francesca Lia Block writes makes me realize the magic in the real world while opening my eyes to other things.
    The Wish House – Celia Rees
    There are so many others that have plenty to be said but those are just the ones I can think of right now.
    Vive a la revolution!
    zoetheplatypus [at] gmail [dot] com

  93. Justine says:

    I haven’t seen anybody mention Kissing the Bee by Kathe Koja, which I thought was clever and painful yet sweet.

  94. Sara Lynn Myers says:

    I’m so excited to read all these recommendations. This is going to require a spreadsheet. My recommendations are:
    Nothing Like you by Lauren Strasnick
    Blood on my hands by Todd Strasser
    Heist society by Ally Carter
    Marcelo in the real world by Francisco X. Stork

    Thanks for getting the word out.

  95. Adrianne R. says:

    “Story of a Girl” by Sara Zarr.

  96. Adrianne R. says:

    Sorry – so excited I hit post too soon! :) russell.adrianne (at) gmail (dot) com

  97. Julia G. says:

    I am so happy that you are doing this and pointing to books that deserve some praise!

    I think that 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher should definitely be talked about more. Every time a suicide happens (I have a friend who committed it) everyone wants to not talk about it when I feel that it SHOULD be talked about.

    I am also thrilled that The Secret Year is up there by Jennifer Hubbard because even though it is sad and it haunted me for DAYS it is so realistic.

    I must also point out the lovely gemstone of a book: A Door Near Here, by Heather Quarles about a girl who is the oldest (15, 16?) and is basically trying to raise her siblings (3 of them) because her mom is too drunk to do so and she does not get along with her father. I felt that she was extremely smart trying to take care of her siblings and even though she makes some big mistakes, she learns from them. I heart this book so much!!

    And, of course, Geography Club by Brent Hartinger about a group of gay/lesbian teens who form a club that no one will want to join (hence the name of the title) so that they can talk and hang out with out being bullied by class mates. This book has a great message about acceptance, tolerance and that gender does not matter in choosing who to love. :-)

  98. Dana G. says:

    “Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty” by Jody Gerhman. It’s so funny and the characters are all great! :)

  99. Michelle P says:

    Love this post – thanks!
    Like many others above, I love anything by Melina Marchetta – most recently The Piper’s Son. All of her books have had such a huge impact on me.

  100. Can’t wait to dig into all these books. My absolute favorite contemporary realistic YA with boy protag is BALL DON’T LIE by Matt de la Peña. His MEXICAN WHITEBOY was also great.

    Read reviews of both at http://www.ashleyperez.com.

  101. Iffath says:

    Such a great post!

    I can think of so many..
    The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
    Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
    Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
    Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
    The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder
    .. and anything by Sarah Dessen!

  102. Jayne says:

    I live and breathe contemporary YA and have read so mny gorgeous titles lately. This post just expanded my wishlist by about 50 books!!

    My recs:
    Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
    With or Without You by Brian Farrey
    And anything in verse ala Lisa Schroeder.

    jayne.l.watkins AT gmail.com

  103. Dani Nguyen says:

    I honestly don’t read that much realistic YA, so I really want to thank you for this post. It’s always good to get new recommendations. I adore John Green’s books, but they obviously get plenty of attention. I also loved Harmonic Feedback & can’t wait for Amplified. Thanks again for the post & the giveaway!

  104. Sara

    This entire topic is right up my alley… realistic YA is my PASSION! :)

    1. A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley
    2. Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams
    3. The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride
    4. Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman
    5. Stalker Girl by Rosemary Graham
    6. Stay by Deb Caletti
    7. Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

    Okay… I have to force myself to stop… there are so many!

  105. Awesome idea! Can’t wait to read Amplified!

    My picks:
    The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
    The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
    My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody

  106. Karen Collum says:

    Although I’ve only had PBs published thus far, I also dabble in writing YA and my absolute favourite genre is realistic/contemporary YA. I’ve just finished reading BEAUTIFUL MALICE by Rebecca James and it was simply incredible and very chilling. I’m still thinking about it 3 weeks down the track… I also love anything by Melina Marchetta, especially SAVING FRANCESCA and THE PIPER’S SON. I also loved MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD. Nick Earls writes some awesome stuff too – 48 SHADES OF BROWN and MONICA BLOOM are among my favourites.

    Thanks for compiling such a great list. I’ll be hitting my library shortly!

  107. Kim says:

    I just finished Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers and loved it. Going to read Some Girls Are next. I love realistic YA. I get sick of all the paranormal stuff.

  108. Racquel says:

    What a great revolution! There are several realistic YA books I love recommending to people:

    Justina Chen Headley – North of Beautiful
    Deb Caletti – Six Rules of Maybe
    Sara Zarr – Sweethearts
    Courtney Summers – Some Girls Are
    Laurie Halse Anderson – Speak
    Jessi Kirby – Moonglass
    Stephanie Perkins – Anna and the French Kiss

    It’s great to read everyone else’s recommendations! I’m putting many on my TBR list!

    thegreatest_aeariana (at) yahoo (dot) com

  109. Theresa says:

    As a YA contemporary writer and reader I am all for the revolution. I just started reading the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty and I am in love with the characters. I absolutely loved The Duff by Kody Keplinger and Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt. Also anything by Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols and Sarah Dessen.

  110. mfay2 says:

    This post makes me grin! Because I love contemporary YA. Is what I mostly read and I don’t get why people are so hesitant to try it out.
    This is what I read and blog about. This is my love.
    As far as recommendations go:
    - Love Sick by Jake Coburn (2005)
    - Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
    - Stolen by Lucy Christopher

  111. Ashly Ferguson says:

    Melina Marchetta: Piper’s Son

    C.K. Kelly Martin: One Lonely Degree

  112. Dayse Dantas says:

    one last before you it’s too late:
    And Then Everything Unraveled by Jennifer Sturman