Boldly going where young adult books rarely go

One of the things I like about young adult books is their willingness to explore serious and difficult issues in sensitive and interesting ways. So I was very excited to find two new books to recommend to the young people I work with.

all bright places art being normal

Two new young adult books crossed my path earlier this month. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. They deal with different issues, but both tackle difficult territory that probably don’t register on the average teen’s radar.

With Bray Youth Service having started a youth group for LGBT young people and their friends, the issues faced by young people growing up feeling they inhabit the wrong gender body are something we in the service are slowly learning about. The Art of Being Normal adds to our knowledge in a sensitive, sometimes entertaining, but occasionally heart wrenching way.

Depression is an all too common part of life for some young people, and bipolar disorder a condition that I guess is a confusing and misunderstood form of depression, particularly to anyone looking from the outside in. All The Bright Places has at its heart a love story, but the fact that when ‘boy meets girl’, it’s at the top of a bell tower where one or the other or both are considering jumping, drops a major hint that there might be more to this story than meets the eye.

These books are very different, but have some common themes. Loss, bereavement, identity, self discovery, families and the pressure to conform in school feature in both. But don’t think either book is full of doom and gloom. I won’t lie – there may be tears. A quick flick through twitter, particularly about All The Bright Places will discover tweet after tweet from distraught young people, but all of these people also love the book.

We blogged before about staying ahead of the crowd and reading books before they become films. All The Bright Places presents an opportunity to do just that. It has been pencilled in for development with Ellie Fanning in one of the lead roles. It’s being touted as the new Fault In Our Stars, and it should appeal to the same audience, but it is a very different story.

If you like reading, put both these books on your ‘to read’ list. They will cheer you up and horrify you in equal measure. I got my copies in Dubray bookshop in Bray, but I’m sure they can be easily found in most decent bookshops.

Extra info- If you would like to read more about Transgender issues or about bipolar disorder, below are two links to websites that work with young people.


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