Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Contempo-May Reading List: Ultimate Intense Reads

So here is the first reading list I've got for you as part of Contempo-May - great books, some new and some classic, that I would encourage you to read. Tonight, in honour of yesterday's review of the intensely shudder-making Heart-Shaped Bruise, I present the ultimate collection of intense YA reads. Be warned, attempt any of these books and you may end up either thoroughly chilled, disturbed, or in floods of tears. 

1. Dance on my Grave by Aidan Chambers
One of the first LGBT YA books I ever read, and one I haven't forgotten in a hurry. Told in chilling, numbered snippets, this book tore me apart.

2. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Intensely difficult to read in places due to the content, it's the beauty of the language that keeps you going through the particularly tough bits. I cried in three separate places during this novel and by the end I was a total mess. 

3. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
One of two novels on this list that I actually haven't read yet. Probably because I'm terrified that its going to absolutely wreck me. 

4. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
The other book on this list that I haven't read yet (but desperately want to!). I've read other novels told in verse, and I can assure you it makes for an intensely personal read, akin to glimpsing someone's diary.

5. Tenderness by Robert Cormier
Annoyingly can't find a link to this one through my preferred online retailer... (am not entirely sure that it's still in print!) Basically I could have chosen anything by Robert Cormier because dude is Dark with a capital D. But this book has a gentle sensitivity to it that makes the ending particularly chilling. 

6. Junk by Melvin Burgess
Melvin is my king of first person POV. He draws you in with intensely believable characters, then sucker-punches you with raw emotion. This book is also an education and may change your attitudes towards squatters and drug addiction. 

7. When I Was Joe by Keren David
Good and bad, right and wrong, this book is a journey through some of the darkest YA issues of our current times. And yet you'll be gripped the entire way through by the voice of Ty, captivating from the very start. 

8. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
If you're looking for seriously fugged up romance, look no further than this book. Whenever I show people the blurb the response is always "EEEWWW!" but the real revelation of this novel is the fact that you end up completely and utterly rooting for the main characters. Which is weird. 

9. Nothing by Janne Teller
We're going into the seriously weird zone with this book. A modern fable with traces of The Lord of the Flies, you think it's not going to go there, but it TOTALLY goes there. Leaves you with a seriously icky, shuddery feeling. 

10. You Against Me by Jenny Downham
I'm going to leave you with the 2012 winner of the Teen division of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize. This is a book that not only gets under your skin, but settles in your bones. The ultimate tortured, fugged up romance (not involving siblings - see above). 


  1. Excellent list. Particularly agree with no.8 ;-) And of course anything by Robert Cormier is just genius!

  2. I've read 6/10 and I completely agree with you. I also like that they are all quite different thematically. Now must read Crank, Tenderness, Nothing and 13 Reasons Why. Or I should say I need to buy them and save them for when I need a good cry...

  3. Fab list! Definitely agree with 13 Reasons Why, Junk, You Against Me, Wintergirls, and When I Was Joe. Haven't read Tenderness but there needs to be some Cormier on there, obviously - my pick would have been either The Bumblebee Flies Anyway or The Chocolate War, but I'll try and track Tenderness down...

    HATED Nothing with a passion, thought it was utterly vile and wanted to throw up after reading it. (Which, I suppose, at least shows it had an effect on me!)

    Two others which I'd recommend as really intense are Black Heart Blue, Louisa Reid's upcoming debut about a disfigured girl struggling to cope with her twin sister's death and with several secrets, and Pieces of Us, Margie Gelbwasser's story of four teens which includes rape, blackmail, cyberbullying, and emotional abuse. It's incredibly harrowing but very well-written, as is Reid's book.

  4. What a great list of books! I loved the ones I've read from it and now I'm curious about the books I haven't yet read..

  5. I've been wanting to read more YA contemporary lately so thanks for this list! I have heard that You Against Me is brilliant.