Broke-Ass Book List: Youth Gone Wild
Feeding your mind by reading is a Broke-Ass lifestyle essential. What other activity gets you so much for so little cost (i.e., free). I’m an avid reader, my hope is to share some of my best reads with you.
Look, I admit I don’t love being around children or “tweens”. Or most teenagers for that matter. So why would I want to read books about them? Thanks to literary juggernauts like the Twilight Series and The Hunger Games, Young Adult is really hot right now. I suppose there is something to be said about reading a book with a child or teen as the central character. If you are not yet convinced that Young Adult is worth your time (but seriously, if you haven’t read The Hunger Games, what are you waiting for?) here’s a list of some of my favorite “adult” books written from a child/teen’s perspective. It takes a great talent to write in the voice of a youth character that will appeal to adults.
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
Lee is a scholarship student at an exclusive and wealthy boarding school. Prep follows Lee during her four years dealing with the social dynamics of the close-knit environment and her ever-present feelings of isolation and frustration. Sittenfeld is a genius at creating a character’s voice and motivations. The main character is not a complainer or a victim, she’s just someone dealing with always feeling like an outsider in her environment. Lee is smart, observant and perceptive, but just doesn’t possess the self-actualization she needs.
Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne
This novel is probably in my top ten of all time. Forget Holden Caulfield; the main character, Nick Twisp, is fourteen going on thirty five. His ongoing snarky commentary about his dysfunctional family his peers who are light years behind him in intelligence makes for one of the best character voices I’ve read. He also creates a French alter-ego that gives him the confidence to deal with the idiocracy around him.
After he meets the love of his life and his intellectual equal, Sheeni Saunders, he schemes and manipulates anyone and any situation that he can to be with her. Hilarity ensues, including running from the law and various disguises.
A film adaptation starring Michael Cera was released in 2009, but the filmmakers completely missed the mark on the casting and story. Skip the movie and read the book. If you have seen the movie, the book is very different and more enjoyable.
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
How can one even start to describe a Bret Easton Ellis novel? Ellis books rarely have a cohesive plot or protagonist yet remains compelling. In Less Than Zero, Clay returns home on break from college to Los Angeles and reunites with his ex-girlfriend and ex-drug dealer. Rich, spoiled, disallusioned teenagers wonder in and out of parties and expensive lunch dates, engage in self-destructive behaviors, take lots of drugs, and generally make you feel empty inside. However, when viewed as a whole, the book is like a work of art that represents the hopelessness of a spoiled, disallusioned society. Less Than Zero also had a film adaptation- it barely resembles the source material, except for the title and main character names.
The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory
Intrigue! Seduction! Betrayal! The Other Boyelyn Girl is a melodrama set in the court of King Henry IV, sort of a historical Melrose Place. It’s a guilty pleasure read, and impossible to put down. There’s also the disturbing aspects of being a young girl in the era: Mary and Anne Boleyn’s father essentially pimps them out to the King at age thirteen in order for the Boleyn family to gain power in the royal court. The Boleyn sisters spend their teenage years dealing with keeping the King’s favor, competing with other mistresses and trying to survive the social strata of the Royal Court. Again, the movie adaptation was horrible, and of course they couldn’t cast thirteen year olds in the role and focused on the romantic relationships, whereas the book focuses on seduction as manipulation.
Lamb by Christopher Moore
The story of the New Testament and Jesus’ rise to “fame” is a story we’ve all heard. Lamb answers the question: what was Jesus like as a teenager? The novel tells the tale of Jesus’ teen years through the lens of his trusty sidekick, Biff. Biff, as a character, has all the angst, sarcasm, and goofiness as a modern teenager with much more wit. Despite being a light-hearted story (well, except for the eventual Crucifixion) Moore actually did a lot of research and major aspects of the New Testament are cleverly weaved into the story.
Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
Madison Spencer, the awkward, sardonic, daughter of movie stars finds herself in the Underworld after her death at thirteen years old. In this case, Hell is a firey prison with a landscape of oceans of human waste and demons ready to tear people apart, where its inhabitants are doomed to an eternity of making telemarketing calls to the living during their dinner time.
How can I even begin to express my love for Chuck Palahnuik and the way he creates the worlds in his novels? In Damned, Hell is both terrifying and hilarious. Maddie talks to Satan in the same way that Margaret talks to God in the classic Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret?. Damned can also be described as Daria Morgendorfer Goes to Hell.