“Fifteen-year-old Miles Tate can see the future. Living with his widowed mother and his older brother Emerson, he tries to keep this gift to himself—they are already outsiders as a poor family in a rich town. But when Emerson’s childhood frenemy Sadie Su returns to town after nearly killing a classmate at her third boarding school, Miles will do whatever it takes to make sure that the violence he sees in the future will not come to pass. A thrilling, haunting read.”
Stephanie Kuehn holds degrees in linguistics and sport psychology, as well as a doctorate in clinical psychology. Her debut young adult novel, CHARM & STRANGE, was the winner of the 2014 William C. Morris Debut YA Award, and her second novel for teens, COMPLICIT, was named to YALSA’s 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Stephanie was also awarded the 2015 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship for her forthcoming novel, THE PRAGMATIST, and her most recent book, DELICATE MONSTERS, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Stephanie lives in Northern California with her husband, their three children, and a joyful abundance of pets.
IT’S MENTAL ILLNESS AWARENESS WEEK. This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. We decided to put together a list of YA novels featuring a variety of mental illnesses, from depression to multiple personality disorder. While some of these books are “issue” books - focusing on the mental illness and the subsequent effects - some are books that just happen to feature characters with mental illness.
For obvious reasons, these books may be a trigger to those suffering from mental illnesses. If you feel depressed or feel an urge to self-harm, we encourage you to reach out to the people around you who care about you - or, if you don’t feel like that is an option, you can call 1-800-273-TALK (a 24-hour crisis hotline), 1-800-SUICIDE (a 24-hour suicide hotline), 1-800-334-HELP (a 24-hour self injury hotline) or contact any of these excellent resources.
When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.
Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.
Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.
But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.
“Audrey, 14, is on a long, slow upswing from disabling anxiety disorders that resulted from the vicious abuse of bullies at school. Under the guidance of thoughtful Dr. Sarah, Audrey begins to deal with her inability to make eye contact—or even to leave the house—by crafting videos of her quirky, near-farcical family, a nifty narrative device that especially shows off her "twitchy” mom. … An outstanding tragicomedy that gently explores mental illness, the lasting effects of bullying, and the power of friends and loving family to help in the healing.“ — Kirkus, starred review
"Kuehn’s lacerating third novel centers on three deeply damaged teenagers, the “delicate monsters” of the title. Sadie, the half-Chinese daughter of a well-to-do California vineyard owner, is a sadist who has returned home to Sonoma after her role in the near-death of a classmate at her most recent boarding school. … Kuehn (Complicit) once again proves herself a talented writer in a tough, punishing novel about the damages we inflict on others and the shaky defenses we build to mask trauma and guilt.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
Book Description: In this important graphic novel, two Aboriginal brothers — both gang members — surrounded by poverty and drug abuse, try to overcome centuries of historic trauma in very different ways to bring about positive change in their lives. Pete, a young Aboriginal man wrapped up in gang violence, lives with his younger brother, Joey, and his mother who is a heroin addict. After returning home one evening, Pete and his mother’s boyfriend, Dennis, get into a violent struggle, which sends Dennis to the morgue and Pete to jail. Initially maintaining his gang ties, a jail brawl forces Pete to realize the negative influence he has become on Joey and encourages him to begin a process of rehabilitation through a traditional Native healing circle. Powerful, courageous, and deeply moving, The Outside Circle is drawn from the author’s twenty years of work and research on healing and reconciliation of Aboriginal men who are gang-affiliated or incarcerated.
“Aspiring chefs and fans of the Food Network will appreciate learning about the incredible journey of celebrity chef Samuelsson from this new edition of his autobiography Yes, Chef (Random, 2012), adapted for a teen audience. Samuelsson’s perfectly imperfect life began in Ethiopia. An orphan whose parents died of tuberculosis, Samuelsson and his sister were adopted by a couple living in Sweden, where they thrived under the warmth and protection of their new parents. … This new edition is a delightful read, and Samuelsson effectively connects his love of food to his personal journey. He is a clear and thoughtful storyteller, conveying his frustration about how his race made him an outsider. His refusal to quit amid adversity is admirable.” — School Library Journal
I read these stories and knew I wasn’t alone in the questions I was contemplating and the doubt I was feeling. So when people today ask me why YA? Or what makes YA different? My answer is this: YA asks the questions. And it’s okay with not knowing the answers.
Being okay with not-knowing is a skill that gets lost with adulthood. This is a shame, I think, the stifling pressure us adults feel to always have the answers. But tapping into this experience of not-knowing is precisely what makes YA literature so special and raw and distinct.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As mental health advocacy is something near and dear Steph Kuehn’s heart, she has put together a great list of YA books that address mental illness as a main focus and/or influence, organized by diagnoses. Check it out and leave your suggestions in the comments!
Book Description: It’s prom season at Smith High School and love is in the air…for some people.
Melanie Morris knows she shouldn’t keep flirting with her best friend’s brother, Dylan Wellesley, even though the last thing she feels is “sisterly” around the cute soon-to-be freshman. But attending prom with somebody else might mean losing him for good…
Isobel Peters accepts the fact that she’s a huge geek, but she never expected renowned player, Spencer King, would want to get his hands on…her reputation. What begins as a bargain could turn into something real–or a Notable disaster!
Corey O’Neal is dating the boy of his dreams, rockstar Timothy Goff. But it isn’t easy to trade in anonymity for instant celebrity status, especially now that swarms of protesters want them both banned from prom. Dating Prince Charming in real life is a whole lot harder than it sounds in fairytales.
“Undoing the catastrophically altered present wrought in The Reluctant Assassin (2013) requires further immersion (not just figuratively) in Victorian London’s noxious stews for teenage, time-traveling special agent Chevron Savano. … Chevie is of Shawnee lineage. … A grand yarn told with a wink and kitted out with high stakes and broadly drawn characters for maximum fun.” — Kirkus
“Kuehn’s second novel, after her Morris Award–winning Charm & Strange, powerfully examines how mental illness can turn into family tragedy that ripples far and wide beyond a single event. The prose is as hallucinatory as the madness Jamie seeks to uncover in a novel that’s tense and ambiguous from start to finish.”— Publishers Weekly, starred review
Book Description: When she first moved to Japan, American Katie Green had no idea she would get caught in a battle between the Japanese mafia and the supernatural forces that have governed Japan for most of its history. Despite the danger, Katie is determined to stay put. She’s started to build a life in the city of Shizuoka, and she can’t imagine leaving behind her friends, her aunt and especially Tomohiro, the guy she’s fallen in love with.
But the decision to stay is not as simple as she thought. She’s flunking out of Japanese school and committing cultural faux pas wherever she goes. Tomohiro is also struggling—as a Kami, his connection to the ancient gods of Japan and his power to bring drawings to life have begun to spiral out of control.
When Tomo decides to stop drawing, the ink finds other ways to seep into his life—blackouts, threatening messages and the appearance of unexplained sketches. Unsure how to help Tomo, Katie turns to an unexpected source for help—Jun, her former friend and a Kami with an agenda of his own. But is Jun really the ally he claims to be? In order to save themselves, Katie and Tomohiro must unravel the truth about Tomo’s dark ancestry, as well as Katie’s, and confront one of the darkest gods in Japanese legend.
Such a brilliant book. Between Shades of Grey is essentially about the survivors of the Genocide of the Baltic people during the twentieth century. It follows teenager, Lina, and her family when they’re deported from Lithuania and forced to work in a camp. The premise is engrossing, and the writing is great, and the journey the characters take make for powerful reading.
2. Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Weird, frustrating and depressing. I don’t think this’ll be everyone’s cup of tea — it certainly wasn’t a typical YA novel. Initially, I thought the story was about one thing, but it turned out to be something entirely different - the mystery and ambiguity was done really well. Highly recommended.
3. Speechless by Hannah Harrington
This was nothing spectacular, but it still left an impression. I think that was mainly down to the fact that there was no ridiculous epic romance or lame angst — it just had normal, flawed, and somewhat idiotic teenage characters. A good read.
4. Every Day by David Levithan
Essentially a book about body switching, but with a unique twist. The premise, story, and romance were all interesting. And the main character, A, was an engaging and relatable narrator. Every Day was definitely a thought provoking and engrossing read.
Anything that you love or that you’re passionate about, read it. Study any type of storytelling, whether it’s film or TV, and try to deconstruct it. Try to figure out what works about those things. I never went to school to study writing, so that’s definitely not how I learned how to do it. It was just by imitating different things that I’ve seen and absorbed, and different media I’ve been exposed to over the years, and then writing and taking chances.
This morning it was announced that YA Highwayer Stephanie Kuehn’s debut novel, CHARM & STRANGE, has been named the 2014 Morris Award winner! The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, “honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.”
We are so thrilled for Steph, and proud of her, too. CHARM & STRANGE is a beautiful book and well deserving of any and all honors!