For Further Reading

For albeit 3.2 we asked our contributors to submit their favorite texts about youth and a brief reason why.

Jennifer Polish:

My favorite books dealing with youth (in addition to the one I’m currently writing!):

Huntress by Malinda Lo: A lesbian romance that has almost nothing to do with coming out and everything to do with fantastical magic and adventures that will save the world, Huntress is set in the same universe as Malinda Lo’s Ash and serves as its mythic-historical backdrop. Full of fleshy characters and skillful perspective changes, Huntress is a magnificent book with magnificent cover art (one of the too few YA books featuring a woman of color on the cover).

Ash by Malinda Lo: Featuring more lesbians (hooray!), Ash is an epic, subtle, and insightful re-orienting of the popular Cinderella story. Again located in a world of fantastical adventures and mythical creatures, Ash artfully translates very real-world emotions and characters into an amazingly vivid new world.

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson: Jacqueline Woodson turns everything she writes to gold, and If You Come Softly is no exception. An incisive and devastating romance between two New York City teenagers, this novel is an all too real account of the earnestness, persistence, and failings of young love. A damning, wrenching account of the way that racism operates in everyday microaggressions and in everyday, lethal state violence, If You Come Softly is both poignantly unsurprising and traumatically shocking.

Allison Sharp:

The first book that comes to mind when I think of youth is also the book that began my fascination with stories of the coming of age: Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. The anxiety of youth and the influence of education and literature on maturation in Morrison’s classic continues to intrigue me. More recent, The Marriage Plot and Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides narrate that prolonged youth and searching so common in literary representation and reality.

An Education mixes a Mad Men aesthetic with all the aspects mentioned above in a really enjoyable and heartbreaking way. And because by some freak lapse of parental supervision I watched this movie in my youth, I have to mention The Royal Tenenbaums. It remains one of those movies I return to from time to time to remember my youth of put-on angst and heavy eyeliner.


Tracy Bealer:

My favorite texts about youth center on disaffected, disingenuous, over-privileged young men suffering through crises largely of their own making. The Cather in the Rye, Rushmore, even Absalom, Absalom! follow this pattern. I’m not sure why I’m attracted and attached to such a myopic vision of what it means to be young, but I am much less interested in the “age” than the “coming of” in each story.

Natalie Leppard:

The idea of this theme seemed so obvious, yet, when, it came time to make this list, I was at a loss. Youth? What books have I read about youth? I finally landed on some obvious classics and a few newer choices. Nine Stories and Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger (I am not a Catcher fan); Dubliners by James Joyce; All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders; We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo; Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward; and Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming. Visually: Bring It On, Center Stage, The Goonies; Stranger Things, and Shameless.