Monday, September 17, 2012

Dissecting Genre: Why I Fell for Contemp

Guys, I've fallen in love--with contemporary. Two years ago I would read a contemp book here or there, but that was all. In fact, I remember when I read those first few contemp books: I Now Pronounce You Someone Else, 13 Reasons Why, Heist Society. I remember the first one that made me cry (like, ugly snot cry!) was The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. And when I read Anna and The French Kiss I wanted more like it, but there was nothing. So, I stayed in my magical worlds--worlds filled with hot boys who could turn into werewolves. I was happy. 

Then somewhere, somehow, I fell. I can't place it. I don't know what book made that happen, or where I was, or anything. All I know is now, I thirst for a good YA contemporary. I don't care if it's light and happy or dark and twisty--I just want it. It has been the best discovery ever. 

"Character is power." ~Booker T. Washington

This is what makes a good contemporary: characters. 

When I was a kid, I read all those kids-with-cancer-or-other-serious-disease books. Yes, those. (I've been mocked. I can handle it.) I loved them, and not because of the sadness (not all of them were sad!) or the sickness: because of the characters. In every situation in those books, the characters were different. They had various voices, various backgrounds, various diseases and problems beyond that which I somehow connected with. I had a tough life as a kid, and I think I found some sort of solace knowing there were people who had it worse than me. I also watched A LOT of TV as kid--something which is completely driven by characters who were always dealing with problems. (Have you seen Boy Meets World??)

I love reading contemp because I love meeting these people who are letting us into their lives. Sometimes, it's over a longer period of time; sometimes a short moment; sometimes through a problem. There's not magic to fix a problem. There's no "let's blow up this building" because you don't know what else to do. There are characters who have to own up to whatever they are dealing with and work through it. 

I've talked before about Promises Made, Promises Kept--the idea that whatever you introduce in a story must be delivered on by the end. Contemporary books, in particular, have this notion in a two-fold manner. 1) You have the actual plot of the book and 2) the character. The reason contemp must have powerful characters is because so much of the plot is the evolution of the character. Whatever problem the character is facing in the plot, usually somehow changes the character by the time the plot is resolved. I love that! I love meeting a person with x going on and in order to move beyond x must get out of her own way. I think, whatever the issue, contemporary books are empowering. 

"I can achieve that by personally relating the words that I am saying to something I have known in my life." Mandy Patinkin

Contemp books are relatable!

When I started reading, the last thing I ever wanted was to relate to this person undergoing incredible suffering--or boy drama or life-altering decisions, or whatever! But we all go through that. It's so easy to find yourself, or some aspect of your life, in a contemp book.

 The dreams I had as a teen (and now) are alive on those pages. Some of the things I felt or suffered or hoped for or questioned can be found in the MC's life. This isn't to say that doesn't happen in other genres--but in other genres there is magic or bigger reasons or hot boys to lead the way. Real life doesn't always have those. Or ever. (Thanks, Sabrina, for lying to me about that, you witch.)

"Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great." ~Mark Twain

I think there's something---refreshing!---about getting to experience someone else's life for a few hours. It may be worse than yours, or better, or just FUN, but it offers this sort of hope for your own life. At least, I think so.  The characters resonate with me long after the story has ended--and that's why I love reading contemp. 

 Each of the Tangled Girls give you our top picks (favorites!) for this genre! 

Christina: Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Lindsay: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Ariane: Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Cindy: The Statistical Probabilty of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Patricia: The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer
Danielle: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry; Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers; Clean by Amy Reed; Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins; Stolen by Lucy Christopher. 

Why do you read contemporary?? What are some books you love? Why do you love them?


  1. I love contemp for exactly the same reason: character. I also love me some paranormal/dystopian/whatever, but often the plot or concept in those can take precedence over well-drawn, relatable characters. And characters are why I read.

    One of my favs is The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Clearly I have a weakness for books with pranks :)

  2. I was all about fantastical elements in my reading before- fantasy, magic, paranormal, whatever. Like you, I discovered contemp and fell in love. There are so many great contemp YA books out there and I always love diving into a new one. Although I still haven't lost my love for the magical either!

    If I Stay and Where She Went are beautiful books by Gayle Forman. And if you want hot and sexy contemp, Simone Elkeles is the way to go- Perfect Chemistry, Rules of Attraction, and Chain Reaction.

  3. This is so much more eloquent than what I could have said. Love this post, D!

  4. Contemporary is my favorite genre to read. I'm a new GFC follower.

    If you like Contemporary reads please check out my blog

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  6. Relatable... so true. One of my favorite things about YA contemp is the romance, and how it reminds me so much of how it felt to be in love at that age. I get to feel the butterflies all over again! Great post, Danielle!