For those of you who know me, you’ll know that YA contemporary is my favourite genre. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love fantasy and sci-fi, but my preferred genre is (and always has been) contemporary. So today, I’m going to give you a couple of reasons why I love to read contemporaries, and hopefully inspire some of you fantasy-readers to pick up some more books that are set in our own world. I have a list of contemporary recommendations at the end of this post 🙂
With the We Need Diverse Books campaign, there has been a recent boom in the number of diverse books released in the contemporary genre (see my co-blogger, Aila’s post for some extra reading on diversity). What I appreciate most about contemporary is the amazing diversity there is in the genre. Contemporary books now regularly feature POC, mentally ill, or LGBTQ+ characters and it’s becoming easier and easier for readers to find characters that represent who they are. There’s nothing more devastating than reading a book and finding that there isn’t any aspect of the main character that you can relate to. The diversity in contemporary fiction has really addressed that problem, making it easier for us to read about a variety of different cultures and values.
One For Every Occasion
I am a mood reader but no matter what my mood is, I can always find a contemporary to suit it. There is such variety in contemporary that there’s really one for every occasion. When I’m in a reading slump, I can pick up one of the many light, fluffy contemporaries that are out there. If I’m feeling sad about the state of my relationship status, I can pick up about first love. When I’m in the mood for something a little bit more dark and serious, there’s a whole selection of those too. There are also a great list of books that focus on family dynamics. And if you’re a teenager who’s feeling a little bit unsure of who you are, there are a range of coming-of-age stories that you might be able to relate to. If you’re looking for variety, you won’t be let down by the contemporary genre!
Real Life Situations
Although the main character might not be battling an evil villain using a super unique superpower, I appreciate that contemporary books are about real life situations that we encounter in the real world. I enjoy reading about things that could potentially happen to me, or situations that I can relate to. Let’s be real, I’m never going to marry the Prince of a kingdom, but I might meet a cute boy who helps me fix my broken down car and goes to the cinema with me. I think it is this realness that makes contemporary the genre that gives me the most intense feels. I rarely cry when I read fantasy books, but contemporaries have the power to make me tear up from happiness and sadness.
I also appreciate that characters in contemporary novels need to use their own strength to overcome adversity. There are rarely deus ex machina devices that help them get out of their troubles. They can’t just unlock a hidden ability that will help them vanquish their depression or their father’s new family. Contemporary characters go through immense character growth to overcome their fears and problems. So even though these characters may not have the badassery or toughness that Celaena Sardothien possesses, they have a different kind of strength that actually inspires me to become a stronger person.
Even though contemporaries don’t involve an imaginative world with magical creatures, they still take me on an adventure. I’ve only lived my own life, with my own narrow set of experiences. So despite being set in the world that we currently live in, contemporary books still allow me to experience something that I’ve never experienced before. They can still take me to countries that I’ve never travelled to before, or give me siblings that I’ve never had the pleasure of knowing. Contemporaries are by no means ordinary or mundane!
Standalones vs Series
Most contemporary novels are standalones, with the exception of some duologies. There’s no need to commit to the characters long term, and you also don’t need to spend money on more than one book. Contemporaries are resolved by the end of the book, which means no cliffhangers, and you don’t need to wait in anticipation for the next book. Standalone novels also have the advantage of being easy to reread. If I was in a bad mood and wanted to read a light, happy contemporary that I know I’ll enjoy, I can easily pick one from my shelf to reread. Nobody has time to reread a whole series when there are so many new books out there to read! (I do plan to reread my favourite series/trilogies at some point though).
YA Contemporary Recommendations
Here are 15 of my favourite YA contemporary novels that I’ve read this year:
- I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson (LGBTQ+, romance, family)
- My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick (romance, family)
- Just One Day by Gayle Forman (romance, coming-of-age, family)
- Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (LGBTQ+, romance)
- Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (romance, family)
- My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga (depression, suicide, romance)
- Every Day by David Levithan (LGBTQ+, romance, magical realism)
- Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (romance)
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (LGBTQ+, coming-of-age)
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (LGBTQ+, family)
- Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider (romance, physical illness)
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (romance, coming-of-age, family)
- To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (romance, family)
- Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson (romance, coming-of-age)
- The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand (depression, suicide, family)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the YA contemporary genre. What you do like or dislike about it? If you’re a contemporary reader like I am, why do you continue to read contemporaries? If you’re not a contemporary reader, what stops you from reading the genre?