YA 101: Realistic Fiction

For me, realistic fiction is probably my least favorite genre.  When I read, I want to escape the humdrums of normal life and be swept away by something grander, more romantic, more fantastical than every day life.  I have only read three  pieces of realistic fiction recently that knocked my socks off:  THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky, and THE FALL: An Autobiography of an Altar Ego by Elle.  However, I own several copies of classic realistic fiction that I re-read to this day:  LITTLE WOMEN, LITTLE MEN, THE ADVENTURE OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, THE GRAPES OF WRATH and OF MICE AND MEN.

To find the characteristics of realistic fiction, one doesn’t have to go far from looking in the mirror or examining the world.  The characters are believable, the themes plausible, and the plots convincing.  The language is often colloquial, and there are very view romantic perceptions of the world.  The world is what it is and you and the characters travel along trying to deal with it.

Common themes in realistic fiction, especially YA fiction include problems, humor, and coming- of-age.    Problem themes can include bullying, sexual/mental/physical abuse, drug addiction.  Humor themes have the characters in peculiar, funny outrageous predicaments and they have to use their ingenuity and crafty skills to get out of the mess.  I find this a lot in middle grade novels as younger kids, I think, relate more to this than more serious issues that arise in the later teen years.  Coming-of-age stories are always a winner with teens as they show how the protagonists leaves his innocence behind and grows into a confident, strong individual.  In my opinion, if you’re writing any YA story, this later theme should be prevalent across the board, in any genre you write.  The protagonist has to grow, has to learn.  It’s part of growing up.

What are some good YA realistic fiction novels to dive into?  I’ve been told the following are fantastic.  They’re on my TBR list.



Curse you, John Green, for making me cry

The Fault in Our StarsI thought I was doing well, getting through The Fault In Our Stars without shedding a tear. And then I reached page 261 and I fell apart. I sobbed. I couldn’t help it. I’d even been warned and I thought I had prepared myself. I was wrong.

This novel found its way deep into my heart. The two main characters, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, are so real I felt as if I were in the same room with them. I fell in love with them.  They both made me laugh.  They both made me cry. They both made me long for what was and could never be again.  They both made me realize how fragile love is.

The descriptions were impeccable, the settings, perfect.  There was one scene where Hazel and Gus visit Anne Frank’s house and I felt as if I was there, following along behind them.  When I found out the author spent time in Amsterdam to write, I understood why the settings were so perfectly scripted.

I looked and looked for something to find fault with in this story and I couldn’t find anything, not even an editor’s mistake. The novel is riddled with lines worth quoting in every day conversations and I highlighted this wonderful bit of ‘author’ advice:

“…this childish idea that the author of a novel has some special insight into the characters of a novel…it’s ridiculous. That novel was composed of scratches on a page, dear. The characters inhabiting it have no life outside of those scratches. What happened to them? They all ceased to exist the moment the novel ended.”

What is The Fault In Our Stars about?  From the inside cover:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis.  But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

This novel is brilliant.  It is an electrifying example of how people inflicted with cancer learn to live with half of their hopes among the living and the other half in the grave.  It deals with every aspect of mortality, including very human realistic fears like Will I ever be loved, accepted, even when terminally ill or damaged physically?  Will people remember me when I’m gone?  Will I leave a mark on the world or will I fade away?  What makes it even more poignant is that the people asking the questions are 16 and 17 years old. I was invested in Hazel’s story from the opening line until the final sentence.

John Green took me on an incredible journey with Hazel and Augustus, one I am sure to travel again and again, if for nothing else than the humor and the prose.  If this story is not picked up and made into a film, curse Hollywood.

John Green, I salute you.  My rating for this novel?  10 stars out of 5.  It is a must read…must own.  It is now a permanent part of my collection.  You should really make sure it’s a part of yours.  You won’t regret it.

What books have made you cry?

I am about to read a book that I’ve been told is one of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching stories ever written:  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

The Fault in Our StarsSummary from Goodreads:  Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

I’ve been told by many to have several box of tissues next to me when I read this book.  I have to admit I’m hesitant to read something I know is going to make me cry. Why put myself through that?  The last book I read that made me sob was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  Sirius’ death really did a number on me.

“But it’s such a great story!  You have to read it,” they tell me about Green’s novel.  Okay, okay. I’m not one to turn down a great story, so I guess I’ll head out to the store today and pick up a couple of boxes of tissues.  Geez, the things we do for the love of a good book.

What was the last book you read that made you cry?  Did you go into it knowing it was a tear-jerker?