Tuesday 26 July 2011

Top Ten Books Tackling Tough Issues

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

This is a list of books tackling ten issues. I've actually cheated and put in two books for each of the first nine issues, just because there were so many I wanted to use!

Anorexia – Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig - Hautzig has written a huge amount of books but nearly all of them are retellings of fairytales or series books for younger readers. However, her two novels are absolutely outstanding. This, the second, deals with anorexia, based on her own experiences at the time she was writing it. Despite being rather less than 200 pages long, it packs an incredibly powerful punch, it’s beautifully written, and is incredibly sympathetic. Also see Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Grief – The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson – Left behind after her sister Bailey dies, seventeen year old Lennie is forced to reassess her life without her. Truly beautiful and one of the very few books ever to make me cry. Also see Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson.

The Holocaust – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – In lesser hands, a tale of the Holocaust narrated by Death himself would have been horrifically inappropriate. Zusak’s narrator is perfect, though – compassionate, caring, and truly unique. A wonderful book. See also The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

Homosexuality – Hey Dollface by Deborah Hautzig – I have no idea why Hautzig has only written two novels. The story of the developing relationship between two girls who are friends, but start to think they may become something more, is captivating and the way things move seems to ring completely true. Like Second Star to the Right, it’s a tiny book which is far more thought-provoking than you’d imagine possible for its length. See also Sugar Rush by Julie Burchill.

Mental Illness – A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma
– A strong case for being the most powerful book I’ve ever read. Suzuma’s story of musical prodigy Flynn is completely gripping, incredibly hard-hitting, and avoids anything remotely approaching easy answers. Also see Bang Bang You’re Dead by Narinder Dhami

Racism – To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. One of the all-time classics. The character of Atticus is a wonderful one, as is that of Tom Robinson, the poor black man who is accused of raping a white trash girl. Lee’s storyline is shocking but completely convincing. See also Generation Dead by Daniel Waters (if you squint a tiny bit.)

Suicide – The Pact by Jodi Picoult – Picoult seems to write books which should be standard ‘issue of the month’ stuff but do it so well that they stand out and make the reader question their views on difficult topics. This is perhaps her best. See also Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Terminal illness – Before I Die by Jenny Downham – Another of the few that have made me cry, with Tessa’s letter to her family towards the end just having me in floods of tears. Wonderfully well written. See also The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Robert Cormier.

War – Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I’ve never worked out whether I really like Mockingjay or not. As an ending to the Hunger Games trilogy, I go up and down on whether I think it really works. What can’t be denied, though, is it’s an immensely powerful and thought-provoking conclusion. See also Koh Tabu by Ann Kelley.

And finally. Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons – I can’t really summarise the difficult issue it tackles without a major spoiler. Suffice to say this is by far the greatest graphic novel ever written and is one of the most layered books I’ve ever read, in any genre.


  1. Oh, I looooooooovvvvvveee "The Book Thief." I'm so glad you included it. I keep seeing it pop up on people's list, and now I'm thinking I should have made room for it on mine.

    If you're interested, you can check out what I did included here: http://wanderinginthestacks.blogspot.com/2011/07/top-ten-tuesday.html

  2. Wow. I am so glad that I found your blog. Your list is very thoughtful. I am so impressed with the depth of your suggestions. I am a new follower!!!!!

    I hope that you find some gems on my blog also


  3. Maybe I have an issue with Suicide because I thought of those 2 and included 13 Reasons but didn't enjoy either.

    I'm intrigued for A Note of Madness

    My Top Ten