As you probably know from following me that I generally prefer to read fantasy and sci-fi novels. But time and time again I need to let my brain take a break from new worlds, wondrous magic and battles of epic proportion. That’s when I turn to the contemporary genre in all it’s glorious real life story-telling.
I won’t just read any contemporary though. There are certain specifications that I look for from the synopsis, and other reader’s reviews. I thought it would be a fun idea and list what it is I look for before I pick up a YA contemporary!
Let me start off by saying this is a big one for me. I can’t just pick up a contemporary about just anyone. I need to connect with a character on a human level. I am a 20 something gay boy who lives in Canada, likes to read, eat, and binge tv. A character doesn’t have to exactly hit everything on the list, but at least one or two.
You can get so much more from a book when you can connect with the character. Some of my favorite contemporaries are about gay boys, or characters that have a fascination with reading. It is easier to sympathize with a character when you too have gone through a similar situation.
I am all for a cute romance in a contemporary. I want to see a character open up their heart, mind and soul to another human being. There is just something so endearing to me to read about characters in love.
On that note, I need a realistic relationship though. Trials and tribulations are all apart of life and the growth of relationships. Not every relationship has problems, but there will always be a defining moment for romance to evolve.
I won’t be totally bummed if romance doesn’t play a lead role in a contemporary novel I choose to read, but it is still nice to have.
I feel like with contemporaries it is beneficial to push the boundaries at times. I am more likely than not to pick up a book about taboo topics. What do I mean by taboo topics? Well let me give you some examples of contemporary books that talk about taboo topics:
- The Hate U Give (Black Lives Matter/Police abusing their power)
- The Art of Starving (Male eating disorders)
- More Happy Than Not (Extreme measures to change who you are)
- What to Say Next (Character with Autism)
- At the Edge of the Universe (Sexual assault against a minor)
These are just some of the few that I loved to pieces. Young readers should be learning about these topics and being able to find themselves in a story. The topics the stories like the ones I listed above are so important and need to be talked about more.
I don’t go into a contemporary with the mindset of a fantasy. Fantasy and sci-fi novels are expansive with world building and informative writing. What I want from a contemporary is straight forward, streamline writing. I don’t want to have to think to hard about what is happening. The topics should be real life.
I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be intellectual or evoke thought and conversation. What I am trying to say is that I love contemporaries that flow with easy to read writing. I don’t want to have to put much effort into getting through a chapter.
Major Character Growth/Realizations
In my opinion a contemporary is all about the characters rather than the over all plot. Don’t get me wrong, I love plot driven books just as much as I love character driven ones. It’s just I love when characters are put through the ringer and come out on the other side having grown and learned something.
A good contemporary will have characters do a total 180. Not to say that we should lose the personality and core values of them, but they should come out of the book a new and improved human being so to speak.
I don’t need all these boxes checked but I do look for a majority from this criteria. So if you have read any contemporaries recently that you think fit in to any of these then please do recommend them to me. I’m always looking for amazing books to add to my TBR!
Until next time,