The Original Rebels
Robert Cormier is renowned for writing dark, intricate and often controversial stories for young adults. His novel After the First Death explores the hi-jacking of a school-bus from three teenagers’ points of view, taking a nuanced approach to morality while showing the irreversible damage to all involved.
'A psychological thriller written in crackling prose. If any author in the field can challenge J.D. Salinger or William Golding, it is Robert Cormier.' (Newsweek)
The Outsiders - S. E. Hinton
When Susan Eloise Hinton’s debut novel The Outsiders was released, it caused uproar both because of its candid representation of teenagers drinking, smoking and ‘rumbling’ and because the author herself was only seventeen at the time. Now regarded as a classic rebel text, it tells the story of Pony and Soda, brothers from the wrong side of the tracks whose world is split into two rival gangs: the Socs and the Greasers. The novel is credited with redefining the young adult genre.
‘Hinton’s novel changed the way teenagers read… empowering a generation to demand stories that reflected their realities.’ (The New York Times)
At the time Naidoo was writing No Turning Back, South Africa’s social and political map was in the midst of being completely redrawn. The novel depicts this transition period from the point of view of a poor street child, Sipho. After he runs away from home and ends up living rough, Sipho struggles to negotiate the ever-changing, violent world around him.
The Twelfth of July is the first in a series of novels by Joan Lingard to feature young Irish couple Kevin and Sadie. A reimagined Romeo and Juliet set in 1970’s Belfast, the novel depicts the love of the two teens, one of whom is Catholic, one Protestant. It presents the very human, intimate side of The Troubles and shows the difficulty the two teens have reconciling both their religious beliefs and family ties with the feelings they have for each other.
'[Lingard] is particularly sound on youthful vulnerability and on the human need, irrespective of range, to find acceptance, friendship and love.' (The Irish Times)
This is the second novel in Lingard's series (see above) exploring the Troubles from the point of view of two teenagers. As you may expect, things do not go smoothly for star-crossed lovers Sadie and Kevin in 1970's Belfast; their love is not only socially unacceptable, it is very dangerous. The barriers they must overcome are of course both physical and psychological.
'Twilight with Terrorists.' (Culturenorthernireland.org)
Based on real events that took place at a school in Palo Alto in 1969, The Wave depicts the point where group-mentality descends to insidious depths. What begins as a light-hearted experiment in a history class ends with a group of teenagers morphing into neo-fascists. The international bestseller was turned into an equally successful film of the same name.
Arguably a precursor to the highly successful film Juno, Berlie Doherty's Dear Nobody tells the story of an unplanned teenage pregnancy. The story oscillates between the point of view of young mother-to-be, Helen, and that of young father-to-be, Chris. The fact that the eponymous 'Nobody' is Helen's unborn child, to whom she writes letters, is a heart-breaking detail. Like the Joy Division song, this book demonstrates the sentiment that love can tear us apart.
'I have never read a book that evokes so vividly how it feels to be a teenager in love' (The Daily Telegraph)
A dark, slim, slip of a novel The Red Pony is a coming-of-age tale told by one of the most famous authors of the twentieth century. Occupying the hardscrabble world typical of all Steinbeck's works, the book depicts young Jody Tifflin growing up poor on a ranch in the California valleys. During the course of this short novel comprising four vignettes, Jody learns of love and disappointment and how the two often intertwine.
'A novelist who is also a true poet.' (The Sunday Times)
With a strong musical under-pinning, this is the story of a son, Buddy, who is at odds with his aging-rocker father. The two must forge a closer relationship when Buddy's mother suddenly walks out. A complex tale that explores the concepts of belonging, loyalty and morality, Nigel Hinton's Buddy shows a teenage boy growing up through the prism of his relationship with his father.
'Hinton is clever at mixing spookiness with gentle satire.' (The Independent on Sunday)
Based on a Mexican folk tale and reminiscnet of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, The Pearl tells the tragic story of a pearl-diver's greatest quarry. In need of funds to help pay for the treatment of his ailing son, pearl-diver Kino thinks himself lucky to discover an enormous, highly-valuable pearl; as he soon realises however, avarice makes mankind extremely dangerous.
Z for Zachariah is arguably the original dystopian teen novel, written by Newbery Award-winning author Robert C. O'Brien. Sixteen year old Ann Burden has been surviving alone in a sinister, post-nuclear-apocalypse world. When she sees a plume of smoke in the distance, her loneliness is over; and a new kind of terror begins. Ann is a remarkable and fierce young female protagonist who is sure to impress readers of The Hunger Games.
This suspenseful thriller alternates between the point of view of seventeen-year-old Link who lives on the streets and that of a serial killer who targets homeless teens. Winner of the 1994 Carnegie Medal, Stone Cold is much more than a cautionary tale to all young, would-be runaways; it is an empathetic exploration of why children end up sleeping rough in the first place. It is also a pitch-black crime novel complete with a chilling murderer.