Last month I read two Young Adult novels dealing with very sensitive topics. I am glad that authors increase awareness by writing more about taboo topics like racism, prejudices or teenage suicide. If only they paid better attention to writing itself... Here are my thoughts on both books.
(check my Rating System for detailed explanations of my quick rating)
Ryan's Bed by Tijan
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Source: ARC provided by author
Release date: January 22nd 2018
I crawled into Ryan Jensen’s bed that first night by accident.
I barely knew him. I thought it was his sister’s bed—her room. It took seconds to realize my error, and I should've left...
I didn’t jump out.
I didn’t get embarrassed.
And that night, in that moment, it was the only thing I craved.
I asked to stay. He let me, and I slept.
The truth? I never wanted to leave his bed. If I could've stayed forever, I would have. He became my sanctuary.
Because—four hours earlier—my twin sister killed herself.
Ryan's Bed was my first book by Tijan and I wasn't very impressed with her storytelling skills. It was classical case of telling not showing. Moreover, whole story was built on unrealistic situations and teenage drama. It made otherwise potentially emotional story look sterile to me.
On the top of that, I felt like many important parts that author intended to present to her readers were "lost in translation" among other unrealistic situations and unnecessary drama. What I mean is that heroine's twin sister committed suicide and author never properly got into whys. Tijan probably wanted to focus on Mackenzie and her way of coping. But what is the point of circling around teenage suicide in the book only to never touch the subject properly and to only gloss over it to create "atmosphere" for the story? Why to make such a heavy topic the focus of the story only to never address it properly? Maybe I'm being harsh but that's how this novel made me feel and even twist at the end did not save the book for me.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Release date: February 28th 2017
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
This novel lacked in quality writing department which made The Hate U Give feel simplistic and formulaic. Moreover, characterization felt flat to me and as a result, I never properly connected with characters. On the top of that, I truly struggled with the slang and couldn’t enjoy this book properly.
However, I cannot deny that this book touches some important taboo/sensitive topics that we don’t often see addressed so directly in modern literature. I am glad that I picked this book up only if for the message it tried to tell. I’m not getting into philosophical debate whether this book presents racism/stereotyping in a right way or not (as many reviewers did). Important this is that this novel brings these issues out there, opens a discussion among people and makes you truly think about it.
Sadly, even focus on important topics does not change the fact that writing, storytelling and characterization were weak and negatively affected the quality of this book.
Even though I understand the importance of books that focus on sensitive topics, I wasn't impressed by either of above mentioned novels. But if I had to pick one, I would go for The Hate U Give.
DO YOU KNOW ANY OTHER YA NOVELS DEALING WITH TABOO TOPICS?
HIT ME WITH RECOMMENDATION IN COMMENTS