If you haven’t heard of this book before now, and you love YA books, drop everything you are doing and download it. John Green creates characters that today’s teenagers don’t just adore, they worship. And they should. Hazel, the protagonist with stage IV thyroid cancer is brutally aware that she has limited time left on Earth. Yet while others in her position might want many great things—including a cure—the only thing Hazel wants is not to break her parent’s hearts. And later, not to break Augustus’s. Not interested in leaving a legacy or finding fame—even if it’s only in social media—Hazel understands that who she is right now, at this very moment, is good enough. Hazel does what most of us can’t: she dares to be unimportant. Perhaps that’s the definition of a true hero.
4. Valerie from Rape Girl by Alina Klein.
This book could have been so many things: it could have been depressing, it could have been unconvincing, it could have been hard to read. But it wasn’t any of those things. It was great. Valerie’s story makes me mad and it will probably make you mad too. What Valerie suffers during the rape is horrid, but what she suffers afterwards is a longer version of horrid. Bullied, ignored, blamed, Valerie becomes a shell of her former self. Almost. But then there’s that courage and strength and inner power that peeks out for a tiny look. It takes an undefined faith in the human heart to rise above a horror that a fellow human being has caused, and not everyone can or maybe should do it. But Valerie does. This is the kind of story that chips away at taboo topics and unleashes forgiveness, even when that forgiveness may be undeserved.
5. Sebastian Ranes from Greyhound by Steffan Piper.
Sebastian Ranes’s mother no longer wants him—and he knows it. So begins this heartbreaking story of a young boy left at the bus station to travel solo across the country. His grandparents are waiting for him at the other end of the journey, but what happens in between is both sweet and sour, disturbing and amazing. Sebastian is well-aware that he’s been dumped by his mother forever, but rather than collapsing in grief, he dares to befriend ex-con Marcus who teaches him that holding onto the hurt will only destroy him. There are other people in this great big world to love and be loved by, Marcus explains, even if the one person that should love him just doesn’t.
I hope you will love these books as much as I do. As the great David Sedaris says, books can save a soul. I have a feeling these five characters already have.
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