Lists, Letters, and More: YA Books with Characters Who Write
The characters in these books write lists, letters, zines, diaries, poetry, even obituaries. As a teen who was obsessed with writing (those are just some of my teenage diaries in that picture over there), I always loved finding characters in books who wrote. What did I write as a teen? Lists, letters, zines, diaries, poetry… no obituaries. I edited the school newspaper and the literary magazine. Thanks to the world of zines (a world of mine you can read more about here, as well as my personal connection to Hard Love, my favorite YA book about zines, here), I had pen pals from all around the world and was never short on letters that needed replying to. I still love it when I find characters who focus on writing. I love a good epistolary novel, or getting to peek in a character’s diary.
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (2014)
When Laurel starts writing letters to dead people for a school assignment, she begins to spill about her sister’s mysterious death, her mother’s departure from the family, her new friends, and her first love.
Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowry (3/24/2015)
Through a series of lists, a narrator reveals how fifteen-year old Darren’s world was rocked by his parents’ divorce just as his brother, Nate, was leaving for college, and a year later when his father comes out as gay, then how he begins to deal with it all after a stolen weekend with Nate and his crush, Zoey.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (2014)
Sixteen-year-old Gabi Hernandez chronicles her senior year in high school as she copes with her friend Cindy’s pregnancy, friend Sebastian’s coming out, her father’s meth habit, her own cravings for food and cute boys, and especially, the poetry that helps forge her identity.
Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger (1999)
After starting to publish a zine in which he writes his secret feelings about his lonely life and his parents’ divorce, sixteen-year-old John meets an unusual girl and begins to develop a healthier personality.
Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian (2013)
Sex has always come without consequences for seventeen-year-old Evan. Until he hooks up with the wrong girl and finds himself in the wrong place at very much the wrong time. After an assault that leaves Evan scarred inside and out, he and his father retreat to the family cabin in rural Minnesota—which, ironically, turns out to be the one place where Evan can’t escape other people. Including himself. It may also offer him his best shot at making sense of his life again.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and illustrated by Maira Kalman (2011)
Sixteen-year-old Min Green writes a letter to Ed Slaterton in which she breaks up with him, documenting their relationship and how items in the accompanying box, from bottle caps to a cookbook, foretell the end.
The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty (2004)
Three female students from Ashbury High write to three male students from rival Brookfield High as part of a pen pal program, leading to romance, humiliation, revenge plots, and war between the schools.
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend (1982)
From teenage Adrian’s obsession with intellectuality after understanding “nearly every word” of a Malcolm Muggeridge broadcast to his anguished adoration of a lovely, mercurial schoolmate, from his view of his parents’ constantly creaking relationship to his heartfelt but hilarious attempts at cathartic verse, here is an outrageous triumph of deadpan and deadly accurate, satire.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2014)
Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
Famous Last Words by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski (2013)
During a summer internship as an obituary writer for her local northern New Jersey newspaper, sixteen-year-old Samantha D’Angelo makes some momentous realizations about politics, ethics, her family, romance, and most importantly–herself.
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (2010)
16-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on her favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. Dash, in a bad mood during the holidays, happens to be the first guy to pick up the notebook and rise to its challenges.
What follows is a whirlwind romance as Dash and Lily trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City. But can their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions, or will their scavenger hunt end in a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?
If you would like to recommend additional titles on this topic, please leave us a comment. We always look forward to hearing what books others value and recommend.
Filed under: Book Lists
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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