This is Feature Shelf, a series that provides book recommendations based on theme or title suggestions. While I was writing last week’s shelf, I thought about Danny from Mexican Whiteboy and how he’s struggling to figure out who he is and where he fits, and decided that’d make a great topic for a shelf. So this is Feature Shelf #40: The Identity Edition. My name is Eli, I’m also called the (book) supplier. Thanks for watching.
So today I have five book on a shelf about teenagers and figuring out who they are. There are a lot of novels that deal with this topic, so I picked five novels that dealt with as much diversity as I could.
First on the shelf is Red Glass by Laura Resau. Sophie describes herself as an amoeba. She doesn’t really fit anywhere. Red Glass is Sophie’s journey to find herself. As she’s doing that, she plays foster sister to a little boy named Pedro who is the only member of his family to survive crossing the border from Mexico into the United States. Through a large-ish cast of characters — Sophie’s parents, her great aunt who is a Bosnian refugee, her great aunt’s boyfriend and his son Angel, who has a journey of his own to go on. The journey in Red Glass is not only metaphorical; the crew travel into Mexico and Guatemala so Pedro can decide if he wants to stay in the US or return home with his extended family.
Second on our shelf is Noughts and Crosses, the first in a trilogy by Malorie Blackman. This one deals with identity in power structures. In the world of Noughts and Crosses, power is set up differently from our real world. White noughts are seen as second class citizens and the black crosses hold all the power. Things are tense. Of course, there’s a love story amidst all the racial tension. Callum is a nought and Sephy is a cross. They fall in love. But when Sephy and her mother are almost hurt in a terrorist bombing planned by a group Callum’s family is tied to, both their love and their lives are on the line.
Third on our identity shelf is Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark. Freakboy is a novel in verse from the perspective of three teens who are all dealing with their identity in some way. But really, I felt like the story was mostly about Brendan, a wrestler, gamer and loving boyfriend. Brendan’s struggle is with his gender identity. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes he feels like he’s in the wrong body. He pulls away from his girlfriend as he’s trying to figure things out, and he befriends Angel, who works at an outreach center and has demons of her own. Great read for anyone who is trying to imagine themselves or others complexly.
The fourth book on our shelf this week is Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson. No one ever really paid attention to Tyler Miller. He was captain average. That is, until he got caught doing graffiti on the school and was sentenced to community service, which involved manual labor. Now that he’s buff, people are paying attention, including a girl that he’s been crushing on, one who just happens to be the sister of a guy who really doesn’t like him, and the daughter of his father’s boss. Tyler and his father have some issues, too, issues that lead Tyler to question both where he fits in the grand scheme of things and what it means to be a man.
Last on our shelf this week, and I can’t believe I haven’t put it in any of my shelves yet, is Butter by Erin Jade Lange. This one is a challenge to keep on my shelf, it’s so good. Butter deals with identity, body image, and friendship – what it means to be popular. Butter is another teen who feels like he doesn’t fit anywhere. He’s a musician, but he doesn’t fit with the band kids, and he’s not really athletic, so he doesn’t fit with the jocks. He says that he also doesn’t fit into airline seats. The only thing that fits is food. Surrounding the issue of food, he makes a dangerous decision and decides to broadcast it on the internet. Now people are paying attention to him and supporting him through this decision. I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling you the decision he made or the outcome of that decision, but you should check it out. It’s a tough but awesome read.
So, five books dealing with identity: Red Glass, Borderline, Freakboy, Twisted and Butter. If you’ve read those and are looking for even more books about identity and identity crises, check out the show notes. I put a link to a great post from the New York Public Library’s blog with a list of 20 books dealing with identity.
For more Feature Shelf, visit thebooksupplier.com/featureshelf. You can request your own Feature Shelf there, or by hitting me up through Facebook or Twitter.
I’m going to leave you there now, dear readers. Thanks for watching Feature Shelf #40: The Identity Edition. As always, I’m the (book) supplier wishing you happy reading. Don’t forget to be awesome.