Today I’m coming at you with a special post that’s close to my heart – Books can be an amazing escape, something that takes us away from reality and transports us to a fantastical world of adventure. But other times (or maybe even at the same time,) they teach us something important.
I meant to do this post back during Mental Health Awareness Month because of my own struggles with body image and bullying in high school but unfortunately, the post never saw the light of day. Lately though, with all the big changes that have been happening in my life (more on that in my upcoming Monday post!) and the recent hardship my family went through when one of us got sick (it was quite the scare but everything is much better now,) I’m more aware than ever of the importance of taking care of yourself.
It’s also made me recall the books and authors I’ve read over the years that remind me of this, along with so many other important lessons. So, here are 9 books that are more than just a good story 🙂 Some are more everyday, mundane messages while others like from the apocalypse genre are on a bit of a bigger scale.
. . .
Unwind (Neil Shusterman)
Unwind is the journey of 3 teens caught in a horrifying post-apocalyptic system that aims to allow parents to sign their unruly children to the government who ‘unwinds’ them and uses their organs for ‘a better, more deserving’ person. For many parents, it’s a way to redeem a troubled child who’s going down the wrong path and for a population that was once divided over pro-life/pro-choice, it’s a solution that suits both sides. The novels, while also being an epic adventure of three teens-turned-heroes, does an amazing job of touching upon many political and social issues that tend to stir controversy, but I think that at the end of the day, it shows a very terrifying result at what could happen if we don’t talk about those issues more and allow the solution to come from the wrong hands.
The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
The social issues that are intertwined within the story of Katniss and The Hunger Games might not seem obvious at first but once you realize them, it’s pretty crazy because at least for me, I was way more focused on the action than what Collins might have been trying to say. If you think about it, The Hunger Games takes quite a few chapters to actually get Katniss into the arena. Once the reaping is over, there is a ton of focus on glamming her up and a then a bunch of interviews or other televised appearances where there is so much importance put on what she’s wearing and how she looks or acts in front of the cameras. An English teacher in college once told us that The Hunger Games goes way beyond just a violent dystopia about survival and actually delves into a lot of relevant social issues like negative beauty standards set by the beauty/fashion industry for example.
I love makeup and dressing up as much as the next girl, but the harmful aspects within social media and our society in general (like being ‘pretty enough’, ‘fashionable enough’ or ‘thin enough’) are always going to be present as well. While it’s extreme, I think The Hunger Games is really trying to point out that as long as something looks trendy and cool, people will be entertained and excited no matter what they’re looking at. While the districts are ruled by fear and simply surviving, the richer citizens of The Capitol are obsessed with trends, beauty and good entertainment. The phrase ‘they just want a good show’ is repeated over and over throughout the first book of the series. Just think about the ridiculous surgery’s or changes people of The Capitol make to themselves to stand out. While the book is equal parts badass woman surviving for her family, it also shines an ugly light on how far people will go in today’s society to obtain ‘true beauty’.
Breathless (Lurlene Mcdaniel)
While this book might seem deceivingly short and sweet, it’s anything but. Much like the horrible cancer that protagonist Travis obtains, this book is a hard-hitting one. When swimmer, Travis, is on a boating trip with his friends and fears he’s broken his leg after a risky cliff dive, he discovers he has cancer and has to amputate. The unimaginable choice is made by Travis’ parents and his life is forever changed. Told in not only his perspective but also his best friend, girlfriend and little sister, Breathless is a tough but probing story that I think everyone needs to read at least once. When choice is all that Travis has left, it explores the heart-breaking decisions he begins to think about making.
I can’t say too much without ruining the story, but the struggles that Travis go through are an all too familiar kind that many people sadly also go through in real life and after I read Breathless, I felt like I understood those struggles a little more and it completely changed my outlook on this important controversial topic.
Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)
Thirteen Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah, a girl who committed suicide and Clay, the boy who had a crush on her. After her untimely death, Clay receives a box of tapes that were made by Hannah and she explains that if your name is on them, then you’re a reason she died. This book-turned-netflix-original blew up recently and became to topic of epic controversy between teens, parents and schools. Some of the reports I read online or saw on tv made me really upset if I’m being honest, because while graphic, the book and show had good intentions from the start. In an effort to shine light on the affects of bullying and the horrifying consequences that can become of it, Thirteen Reasons Why was definitely written to be a conversation starter. One that’s much overdo.
While many interpreted the show as ‘glamorizing suicide’ because Hannah seems obsessed with putting the blame on others and outing them, Jay Asher openly admits in an interview with Barnes and Nobles that his intention was in fact for people to get upset with Hannah’s thinking and choose differently than she did. He wants people to also realize that while bullying is horrible, even the smallest unkindness towards others can have a catastrophic impact because you can never fully know what another person is going through. Not only is it so well written but I think that Jay Asher has really opened the door for a conversation between teens that was seriously needed.
Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)
Don’t be fooled by the meek, sarcastic narrator behind Speak. Melinda is in her first year of high-school and having a hard time with it seeing as she’s an outcast and no one will speak to her. It’s all because she called the cops on a house party just a few months back and everyone’s decided that she’s not cool enough. If no ones willing to listen, then why should she bother telling her side of the story? The side where she was sexually assaulted and she needed help.
It’s a horrifying experience that I’m sad to say way too many girls go through and not enough speak up about but it’s because of situations like Melinda’s, that I understand why. I hope that anyone who reads speak becomes more aware of their treatments of others or more willing to speak up about their own problems because everyone is given a voice and each one deserves to be heard.
Finding It (Cora Carmack)
While this book might first appear to be a cheesy, steamy romance about a party girl and a brooding boy, it’s so much more than that and that’s why I included it on this list! Following the story of Kelsey, a girl travelling across the pond after graduation, I think her story felt super relatable to me at the time I was reading it (in terms of how she feels like all her fellow grads have are realizing their dreams and she feels directionless).
While the book, on it’s surface, is a story of a girl trying to find herself it’s also about a young woman suppressing a trauma she is afraid to confront but is slowly eating away at her. I think it just tells a very realistic story of a girl who practically pretends it never happened to being unable to move forward until she admits it did and dealing with it. Much like Speak, it’s a beautifully crafted but heart-wrenching story that I wish wasn’t so taboo.
Some other great books to add to this list:
Cut – Patricia McCormick
Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver
Perfect – Aimee Friend
. . .
Well, that’s all I’ve got for you tonight! Have you ever read any of these books? What are your favorite books that carry a special message? Let me know in the comments down below! Thanks so much for reading this post and stopping by, goodnight everyone! <3 Much love,