Top Ten: Contemporary YA fiction

I only got into YA relatively recently as I pretty much transitioned straight from reading children’s books to adult fiction, but I’m loving it. Many of these books were recommended and lent to me by a friend, which reminds me of times at school when certain books of the moment would be passed around the class, like the Twilight series. 

These are some of my favourite books that I’ve encountered on this YA odyssey, and all provided a great break from some pretty heavy course reading. 

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The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

When I was thirteen or thereabouts, I read The Catcher in the Rye and it changed my world. Stereotypical, I know.

Recently, I found myself trying to explain to a friend why it had such a powerful impact on me, and it was difficult to find the words.

When I cast my mind back, an assortment of significant and not so significant events spring to mind, but I find it harder and harder to recreate my mindset during that period: what it felt like to be that person who had these experiences and is me, but is also so different to who I am now.

One way in which I can go beyond remembering specific events, and recapture a more general sensation of what it felt like to be me at that age, is through books.

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One Day at a Time

I’ve recently become obsessed with the Netflix original sitcom One Day at a Time.

It’s loosely based on a 70s-80s sitcom of the same name, and centres around three generations of a Cuban-American family all living together in one apartment. The general concept and style reminds me a bit of black-ish, in its juxtaposition of laugh-out-loud sitcom moments with serious contemplation of contemporary political and social issues.

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Top Ten: Female Characters

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it took me a lot of time to whittle it down to just ten. But here it is: just a few female characters from literature that I consider to be interesting and well-written.

I also tried to pick examples which highlight that a ‘strong female character’ doesn’t have to be likeable or indeed ‘strong’; that complex, living, breathing women are the types of characters I, and many others, want to read about.

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The most elegant anime of all time? Perhaps so.

Neo Yokio is the greatest city in the world, or its worst specimen of destructively wasteful consumer capitalism- depending on who you ask.

It is also the name of a Japanese-American animated television series which has been the source of much internet controversy and criticism.

From the moment I pressed play on the first episode on New Year’s Eve – start the year as you mean to go on, right? – to the end of the finale a few hours later, I found myself loving every. single. minute.

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Everyone’s thought about it, at some point.

From the moment we realise that there is a whole wide world outside our homes, the radius of our awareness is constantly expanding- from our street, to our neighbourhood; to other countries and continents, until finally we realise just how miniscule a place our planet occupies in the dark and infinite universe.

This can naturally make us, as individuals, feel small and unimportant. What do our lives matter against this never ending expanse of space and time?

Sense8 provides one answer to this difficult and enduring question: it is through focusing on what we have in common, and learning from our differences; through forming relationships across divides of race and gender and sexuality, that we can find certainty and meaning in the world.

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The Crown

I’ve nearly finished watching the first season of The Crown and I don’t know what to say about it.

For those of you who’ve been living under a rock the past few years, The Crown is a Netflix drama ostensibly about Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family, but which also acts as a kind of potted account of British history post-WWII.

It’s an interesting show, as it’s about as far from a sycophantic and flattering portrait of the royal family as you can get, but the overwhelming impression that you receive about their lifestyle and position is that it’s rather bleak. And lonely.

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Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn

I still can’t believe that I read this book- nay, devoured it like the titular pterodactyl- from the first to the very last page.

I first spotted it in Waterstones a while ago, and was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. It is a very striking cover. Hot pink and dominated by the title in enormous bold white print, broken down so as to have maximum impact on the reader; “HOT”, okay, “PTERODACTYL”, intriguing, “BOYFRIEND”, wait, what? Only then is your attention drawn to the image behind the text, of what is unmistakably the head of a pterodactyl atop a muscular, shining torso.

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