The New Year marks a time of fresh starts and optimism: New Year’s resolutions are a perennial sign of hope. But in order to push for change one needs to feel sustained.
Young adult literature is markedly socially aware these days, populated with books by authors who clearly care deeply about social issues and who are educating and inspiring teens about a range of topics. This is important.
However, it is easy for fatigue and overwhelm to set in—even if you’re a grown-up not contemplating spending your entire adult life on an overheated planet, in a world where inherited social injustices are deeply entrenched. A reviewer recently wrote to me:
“So, this has been a looooong string of adolescent suffering and angst angst angst. I mean, some of them have been very good books, but I am about to start painting my lips and nails black and composing long poems all in lowercase letters. Please please please tell me you've got something fun coming up in the new year!”
We need books that entertain and replenish without striking a jarring note: The challenge with many “light” reads is that they do not always provide the escapism readers might hope for, as they can be rife with unexamined stereotypes or populated with unrealistically nondiverse casts which serve as reminders of how far we have yet to go.
Fortunately, there are a few new titles out that provide pure reading pleasure:
The Disasters by M.K. England (Dec. 18) features a delightfully, multidimensionally diverse cast of talented teens on a fast-paced, high-stakes romp through space, trying to save the Earth on the eve of the 22nd century.
Those who enjoy romance need look no further than the swoonworthy 96 Words for Love by Rachel Roy and Ava Dash (Jan. 15) set on an ashram in the Himalayas and featuring a main character of Indian and African-American descent.
A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (Jan. 29) is a lush, vibrant fantasy starring that rarest of characters, a protagonist whose disability is just another part of her whole being, not merely a tool to inspire others or provoke pity.
Keep up the good fight, but don’t forget self-care too.
Laura Simeon is the young adult editor.