Books for teens. Local authors. Sounds like a good formula for spring break reading at the beach!
We were reading a recent Winston Salem magazine and noted a brief article about books for teens, written by local authors. Great! Cynthia is an avid reader and was looking for a ‘spring theme’ for books, following the enjoyment she had reading 2018’s top award-winning books. So, here we go.
Books for teens contain some very adult themes
At A Step Ahead, we are a family-oriented tutoring community, and therefore we want to start with a warning for parents, private tutors and teachers: These books are not for every teen. The book reviewed in this blog post, and the two books in the next post, are primarily of interest to girls, with female central characters in each story. Each of the books has a coming-of-age theme, as we would expect in books for teens. Each book also explores that theme with explicit scenes and developments for the central characters. In one book, the eleven-year-old girl sees her parents when they are intimate. In another, the central character marries and then is intimate with her husband. And in the third, the central character deals with mental illness, drug addition, and suicidal thoughts. So please be thoughtful about what is right for your teen. We were a bit surprised that books for teens were this explicit, and we wanted to be sure you knew that too.
We all have a story to tell
In Piecing Me Together, Renee Watson‘s award-winning new book for teens, the principal character struggles with what success will require of her. Will she have to leave her neighborhood, friends, and culture? Why can’t she be successful within her own culture? Does she really have to become like “them” to succeed? Why can’t she be herself and still succeed?
As I noted in a previous post, I have increased my listening to others’ stories. It’s not that I didn’t listen before, but I’m more active now. Especially when others’ stories have different backgrounds, different cultures, different perspectives.
Recently, I was attending a work dinner, and happened to be seated across from a wonderful colleague. During dinner, the topic turned to diversity and inclusion. Not what people call diversity and inclusion as a label, but real, true, vivid inclusion.
My colleague and her family are from Puerto Rico, and during dinner she told chapters of her story. Parts of her story mirror experiences of the central character in Sarah McCoy‘s lovely novel.
The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico
The book is set in 1961. Puerto Rico’s citizens are divided between those who want to be more connected to the US mainland and those who want independence.
Eleven-year-old Verdita Ortiz-Santiago sees the political struggle around her, but her real struggle is for who she wants to become. Verdita feels the desire to conform to the American blond, straight-haired ideals on a Simplicity pattern cover. My colleague, raised in a Puerto Rican family and trying to attain success in the US, felt pressured to straighten her lovely hair so she would fit in. My hair naturally looks like the girl in the Simplicity pattern cover, and I long for my colleague’s look. But I never felt pressured to change my look to fit in.
Verdita grows awkwardly, changing her mind and making mistakes. A typical curvy, bumpy road through adolescence. But McCoy has us hear this coming-of-age story through the lens of another culture, with the added complexity of deciding how to adapt, blend and grow.
It’s a story McCoy tells with joy and heartbreak, and it’s a story worth hearing. As was the story of my colleague.
I am growing with each story I hear.
In Puerto Rico, everybody had two names. One was printed on a birth certificate. Another was the one you were called, the name you answered to, and that name always came with a story.