Teen Angst: “My Burden Is So Deep”: Enduring Emo


ABDEL-FATTAH, Randa. Ten Things I Hate About Me. Orchard. 2009.RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-05055-5. Gr 7 Up-Australian Jamilah is Muslim, her family Lebanese. Deep concerns about not fitting in cause her to call herself Jamie, bleach her hair blonde, wear blue contact lenses, and ignore racist remarks, until she figures out how to be herself without shame or embarrassment in this perceptive and witty narrative. Audiobook available from Bolinda.

ALEXANDER, Jill S. The Sweetheart of Prosper County. Feiwel & Friends. 2009. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-312-54856-8. Gr 8 Up-In West Texas, 15-year-old Austin Gray is tired of a tormenting bully, her mom still lamenting her dad’s death six years ago, her best friend not quite connecting to her world, and feeling “less than.” With feisty determination she stops being sorry for herself and reinvents her life. Audiobook available from Recorded Books.

ANDERSON, Laurie Halse. Wintergirls. Viking. 2009. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01110-0. Gr 8 Up-Former best friends Lia and Cassie, both 18, are victims of eating disorders that take Cassie’s life and leave Lia with incredible guilt because she didn’t answer Cassie’s 33 phone calls on the night of her death. This journey of pain and heart-wrenching angst can be a rich source of discussion for mature teens. Audiobook available from Brilliance Audio.

BORRIS, Albert. Crash into Me. Simon Pulse. 2009. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-7435-2. Gr 9 Up-Four teenagers make a pact to road-trip across the country, visiting the sites of celebrity suicides until they get to Death Valley, where they will take their own lives. But, as the trip progresses, they must ultimately decide if life is worth living despite the pain.

BROWN, Jennifer. Hate List. Little, Brown. 2009. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-316-04144-7. Gr 8 Up-At the end of junior year, Valerie’s boyfriend Nick uses the “hate list” they created together to target classmates during his carefully planned school shooting, then commits suicide and leaves Valerie wounded physically and emotionally as she is blamed for a crime of which she is innocent—or is she?

CHALTAS, Thalia. Because I Am Furniture. Viking. 2009. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-670-06298-0. Gr 7 Up-In this poignant and disquieting verse novel, Anke, the youngest of three teen siblings, secretly “feels like furniture” because their father ignores her while physically and sexually abusing her brother and sister. Making the volleyball team gives her the confidence and strength finally to speak up.

CONNOR, Leslie. Waiting for Normal. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. 2008. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-089088-9; PLB $16.89. ISBN 978-0-06-089089-6. Gr 5-8-All Addie wants is to live with her beloved half sisters in a happy home, but after her mother and stepfather divorce, she winds up living with emotionally damaged, often absent Mommers in an old trailer. Left to fend for herself, the resilient 12-year-old seeks friendship, consolation through music, and solutions to her learning disability. Audiobook available from Recorded Books.

EDMOND, Stephen. Happyface. Little, Brown. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-316-04100-3. Gr 7-10-Writing in a “diary” with realistic drawings and doodles, high school sophomore Happyface details a terrible tragedy that lands him in a new school where he becomes the class clown—until the worry and fear that his inner dork will emerge causes the inevitable blowup.

GREEN, John & David Levithan. Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Dutton. 2010. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-525-42158-0. Gr 9 Up-Will Grayson’s best friend, Tiny Cooper, bigger than life and seeking his dream boy, has countless, short-lived romantic relationships until another teen (coincidentally named Will Grayson) captures Tiny’s heart. Concurrent relationships connect, intersect, and evolve as Tiny produces an autobiographical high school musical that conveys the meaning of life. Audiobook available from Brilliance Audio.

HOBAN, Julia. Willow. Dial. 2009. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3356-5. Gr 8 Up-After Willow’s parents die in a car crash on a rainy night when Willow was driving, she blocks the pain of her loss and the taunts of her peers by cutting herself, and only through the help of a sensitive boy who sees her plight can she begin the journey back to wholeness. Audiobook available from Listening Library.

JONES, Patrick. Chasing Tail Lights. Walker. 2007. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8027-9628-8. Gr 9 Up-In this gritty and disturbing novel, Christy longs for a normal life where the pain of her father’s death, her brother’s terrible sexual abuse, and the urban decay of Flint, MI, can be put behind her.

LEVITHAN, David. The Realm of Possibility. Knopf. 2004. Tr $15.95. ISBN 978-0-375-82845-4; PLB $17.99. ISBN 978-0-375-92845-1. Gr 9 Up-Twenty teenagers from many sexual, racial, economic, and emotional backgrounds pour out their hearts through intertwining poetic stories. Whether it be the girl who pines for her straight girlfriend or the gospel singer who wants to deflect bullies, feelings are expressed loud and clear.

LIBERTY, Anita. The Center of the Universe: Yep, That Would Be ME. Simon Pulse. 2008. pap $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-5789-8. Gr 10 Up-The trials and tribulations of adolescence, such as wishing to be cool, dreading the SATs, and seeking a first sexual encounter, are brought to life in this quirky and on-target look at how “being a teenager sucks.” Based on the author’s own teen poems and diary entries.

MACKLER, Carolyn. Tangled. HarperTeen. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-173104-4. Gr 8 Up-In a story that begs discussion, Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen find their insecure lives fatefully intertwined after they meet on a Caribbean vacation. Upon returning home, they inadvertently help one another to overcome doubts, find understanding and respect, learn to communicate, and build self-esteem.

MALDONADO, Torrey. Secret Saturdays. Putnam. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25158-0. Gr 5-8-Twelve-year-old Justin, growing up in a dangerous New York City housing project, is puzzled when his friend Sean becomes a bully, hangs out with tougher kids, and disappears for secret trips with his mom on Saturdays; he also worries that he appears gay because he cares so much.

MITCHELL, Todd. The Secret to Lying. Candlewick. 2010. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4084-2. Gr 9 Up-Fifteen-year-old ho-hum James reinvents himself when he is accepted to a boarding school for the gifted. He dyes his newly spiked hair purple, wears grungy clothes, tells lies about his past, and pulls crazy pranks—until his terrible dreams of demons and his longing for real romance catch up with him.

MYRACLE, Lauren. Peace, Love and Baby Ducks. Dutton. 2009. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-47743-3. Gr 8 Up-Fifteen-year-old Carly returns home to her affluent family after a summer spent volunteering in Tennessee with a new-found hippie-esque perspective on life, but she becomes insecure and jealous over her younger sister Anna’s sudden voluptuousness and attractiveness to boys (especially the one Carly likes), threatening their sisterly bond. Audiobook available from Brilliance Audio.

QUICK, Matthew. Sorta Like a Rock Star. Little, Brown. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-316-04352-6. Gr 8 Up-Amber Appleton—homeless, quirky, queen of optimism, and “holy teenager of God”—secretly lives on a school bus with her mother and beloved dog. When Amber loses her mother, the upbeat teen is tossed into the depths of despair but ultimately pulls herself up from depression and negativism. Audiobook available from Listening Library.

SHEINMEL, Courtney. My So-Called Family. S & S. 2008. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-5785-0. Gr 5-8-Even though Leah has a happy family with her mother, stepfather, and half brother, she is preoccupied with knowing about her biological father, an anonymous sperm donor. In a perceptive first-person narrative, the 13-year-old uncovers secret information and discovers previously unknown siblings with whom she develops new and comforting relationships.

SONNENBLICK, Jordan. After Ever After. Scholastic. 2010. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-439-83706-4. Gr 6-9-Eighth-grader Jeffrey has the normal things on his mind at graduation—girls, friends, parents, high school—plus the worry that the leukemia he had when he was younger might return. His sense of humor shines through as he navigates concerns about the lingering physical and intellectual effects of his cancer treatments in this sensitive, realistic discussion starter.

TAYLOR, Brooke. Undone. Walker. 2008. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8027-9763-6. Gr 9 Up-Formerly nerdy Serena patterns her life after her brazen, rebellious, complicated best friend’s, but then Kori dies. Now Serena must try to fill in the blanks about Kori’s undone wishes—revealed through an incomplete class assignment—by unraveling her friend’s deepest secrets and learning to stand tall on her own. Audiobook available from Recorded Books.

WILSON, Jacqueline. Kiss. Roaring Brook. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-242-0. Gr 6-9-Fourteen-year-old Sylvie has been best friends with Carl for years and assumes they will eventually get married. But when Carl doesn’t want to kiss her, she can’t even imagine that the reason is because he is gay. Audiobook available from BBC Audiobooks America.

Graphic Novels

BENJAMIN. Orange. Tokyopop. 2009. pap. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-4278-1463-0. Gr 10 Up-The amazing full-color artwork is as captivating and startling as this story of a teenage girl who is so full of negativity and hopelessness that she decides to kill herself by jumping off a roof, until a mysterious man appears and sacrifices himself in her place.

FAIRFIELD, Lesley. Tyranny. Tundra. 2009. pap. $10.95. ISBN 978-0-88776-903-0. Gr 7 Up-When Tyranny, the personification of adolescent Anna’s personal demon, demands that Anna resort to anorexic and bulimic behavior, Anna finds herself in a life-and-death struggle for self-esteem and survival. A compelling, understandable look at teen eating disorders and the incredible misery that accompanies them.

NOVGORODOFF, Danica. Refresh, Refresh. First Second. 2009. pap. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-522-3. Gr 10 Up-In a sad, powerful story that can trigger discussion, Josh, Cody, and Gordon all cope with anxiety, engage in risky behaviors, beat each other up as practice for self-defense against bullies, and regularly refresh their computer emails, awaiting word from their deeply missed fathers fighting in Iraq.

POWELL, Nate. Swallow Me Whole. Top Shelf. 2008. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-60309-033-9. Gr 10 Up-Two step-siblings experience normal teen anxiety but also suffer from mental illness in this complex, tragic, and intense pen-and-ink graphic novel. Ruth is an obsessive-compulsive with schizophrenic tendencies while Perry fights a persistent hallucination that compels him to draw.

SMALL, David. Stitches: A Memoir. Norton. 2009. Tr $23.95. ISBN 978-0-393-06857-3. Gr 10 Up-An award-winning children’s book illustrator chronicles his traumatic life from age six to adulthood, during which time an operation to remove cancer caused him permanent loss of voice, he endured cruel and callous parents, and he learned to rise above these and other obstacles in his path.

TAMAKI, Mariko. Skim. illus. by Jillian Tamaki. Groundwood. 2008. Tr $15.95. ISBN 978-0-88899-753-1. Gr 10 Up-Kimberly Keiko Cameron, nicknamed Skim, is a mixed-race teenage girl who experiments with Wicca to find life’s meaning, yearns for romance, and consoles classmate Katie after her boyfriend commits suicide. The high school atmosphere comes alive through effective black-and-white artwork.


AMBLARD, Odile. Privacy, Please!: Gaining Independence from Your Parents. Abrams/ Amulet. 2009. pap. $10.95. ISBN 978-0-8109-8357-1. Gr 6-10-This reassuring guide will show young teens that it is normal to want independence from parents while realigning boundaries and responsibilities during adolescence. Having a stable support system and parental trust can help to ease angst.

BENSON, Peter L., Judy Galbraith, & Pamela Espeland. What Teens Need to Succeed: Proven, Practical Ways to Shape Your Own Future. Free Spirit. 1998. pap. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-57542-027-1. Gr 6 Up-Written for teens but informative for librarians and others who work with youth, this now-classic, practical, accessible anti-angst resource includes more than 1200 ideas for building the nonprofit Search Institute®’s 40 Developmental Assets at home, at school, and in the community.

BUSCEMI, Karen. Split in Two: Keeping It Together When Your Parents Live Apart. Orange Avenue Publishing. 2009. pap. $14.95. ISBN 978-0-9800732-1-8. Gr 6 Up-One of the most anxiety-ridden and frustrating situations for teens is dealing with parental divorce. The supportive advice here encourages them to make the best of difficult circumstances by keeping travel between homes, communication with parents, and personal organization in check.

DESETTA, Al, ed. The Courage to Be Yourself: True Stories by Teens About Cliques, Conflicts, and Overcoming Peer Pressure. Free Spirit. 2005. pap. $13.95. ISBN 978-1-57542-185-8. Gr 8 Up-These stories by teens from varying racial, cultural, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds explain how they dealt with cliques, friendships, bullying, and peer pressure. The honest and heartfelt narratives provide ample food for thought through which fellow teens might take comfort.

HAFIZ, Dilara, Yasmine Hafiz & Imran Hafiz. The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook. S & S . 2009. pap. $11.95. ISBN 978-0-9792531-2-6. Gr 7 Up-Written by two Arizona Muslim teens and their mother, this upbeat, practical book is valuable for both Muslim and non-Muslim youth who want to understand Muslim faith in the world, religious tolerance, and how to live a positive, uplifting life in our often-confusing contemporary society.

PIQUEMAL, Michel & Melissa Daly. When Life Stinks: How to Deal with Your Bad Moods, Blues, and Depression. Abrams. 2004. pap. $9.95. ISBN 978-0-8109-4932-4. Gr 6-10-With stylish color drawings and a teen-friendly format, five chapters are divided into one- to two-page segments of information and advice that help teens sort out typical emotional and physical growth, developmental patterns, feelings, issues, and frustrations.

RUNYON, Brent. The Burn Journals. Knopf. 2004. Tr $17.95, ISBN 978-0-375-82621-4; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-92621-1. Gr 8 Up-In a memoir that reads like a novel, Runyon recounts the day at age 14 when his anxiety and fear became too much to bear, causing him to set himself on fire. The story of his rescue and subsequent physical and emotional rehabilitation makes a provocative and riveting read. Audiobook available from Recorded Books.

SOTO, Gary. Partly Cloudy: Poems of Love and Longing. Harcourt. 2009. Tr $16.ISBN 978-0-15-206301-6. Gr 6-9-What could be more angsty than the yearning love poems of young teens? First kisses, jealousy, rejection, heartfelt love—these are the themes brought to life in poems realistically relayed in the voices of both boys and girls.

VIZZINI, Ned. Teen Angst? Naaah…A Quasi-Autobiography. Laurel Leaf. 2002. pap. $12.95. ISBN 978-1-57542-084-4. Gr 8 Up-Teens will relate to Vizzini’s humorous, truthful, and perceptive autobiographical collection of articles that he wrote about the ups and downs of life during his teen years in New York, with the added flair of amusing, black-and-white cartoon drawings.

Diane P. Tuccillo is Teen Services Librarian, Poudre River Public Library District, Fort Collins, Colorado.


For Adults

America's Promise Alliance. americaspromise.org. America's Promise Alliance. (Accessed 8/18/10). The Alliance, a partnership of corporations, nonprofits, and advocacy groups, works toward improving the lives of youth and especially focuses on dropout prevention and work life preparation.

National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth. www.ncfy.com. National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, Family and Youth Services Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Plenty of information can be found here, including resources on runaway and homeless youth, mentoring children of prisoners, preventing family violence, and sexual-abstinence education.

National Youth Development Information Center. nydic.org/nydic/index.html. National Collaboration for Youth. (Accessed 8/18/10). This valuable website provides information on funding, programming, research, policy, and job and training opportunities; covers current news about the youth development field; and has a sizable online library.

Search Institute. www.search-institute.org. Search Institute. (Accessed 8/18/10). The Search Institute® supports educators, librarians, and others who connect with youth by promoting 40 Developmental Assets, principles that support positive adolescent growth and behavior. The site provides extensive downloadable resources, offers free pertinent newsletter subscriptions, and has an accessible online library of videos, webcasts, and podcasts.

For Teens

Go Ask Alice. www.goaskalice.columbia.edu. Health Promotion Program at Columbia University. (Accessed 8/18/10). Gr 9 Up-This "Q&A Internet resource" is staffed by Columbia University professionals with "advanced degrees in public health, health education, medicine, and counseling." Topics include alcohol and drugs, fitness and nutrition, emotional and general health, sexuality, and relationships.

National Youth Advocacy Coalition. nyacyouth.org. National Youth Advocacy Coalition. (Accessed 8/18/10). Gr 8 Up-Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) young people as well as youth workers who support, engage, and empower them can find help and guidance at this website to fight discrimination, promote physical and emotional health, instill resilience, and foster social justice.

TeensHealth from Nemours. teenshealth.org/teen. Nemours Foundation. (Accessed 8/18/10). Gr 6 Up-Teens will find topics covering mind and body issues, school and college, dealing with bullies and violence, driving, sexual health, food and nutrition, and sports in a user-friendly, relatable format that also offers expert question answer advice and reassurance.

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