Discussion: Why Read Contemporaries?

What is important about contemporaries that other genres don’t normally offer? I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately, and I figured it was about time I did a post on it!

This week at school, I decided to ask around a bit about people’s favorite book genres. Almost every I asked responded with the fantasy genre, which I thought was interesting. Especially at this age (I’m 12), The majority of people’s favorite kind of books are either fantasy or action & adventure. The Maze Runner. Harry Potter. Percy Jackson. These are just a few examples of the books most people in my grade are reading. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with these genres, and I thought all three (okay, 2, with the exception of the Maze Runner) were incredible novels. There are dozens of fantasy or action & adventure novels I’ve completely fallen in love with. As much as I enjoy the fast-paced plot and epic world-building of a lot of books from these genres, I know my heart will always belong to contemporary fiction.

For me, my most enjoyable reads generally fall into 2 categories:

  • The beautifully-written, moving, heavy ones that usually leave a long-lasting effect on me. They might not be the most fun to read, but I really appreciate them because of the messages and important lessons they teach. Examples of this are A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.
  • The light, fluffy, romantic ones that leave you with a ridiculous smile on your face. An instant mood-booster, as well as a great comfort read when you need one. Examples of this are Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.

As you can see, both these categories fall into the same genre: contemporary. Being a mood-reader, choosing my next read isn’t too hard; if I want a darker and more meaningful novel, I pick the first category, while if I need a mood-booster, I pick the second category.

Just in case I haven’t yet convinced you to read more contemporaries, I compiled a list to show all the reasons why I love this genre:

 Contemporary Has Lots of Variety and Diversity

Lately YA has been getting a lot better at featuring diverse sets of characters, whether it’s by ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. There is also a huge amount of diversity between the books themselves. Sure, nowhere near all of them have original ideas, but my favorite contemporary novels are all unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

Contemporary Deals With Real-Life Situations

Contemporary is the only genre (unless you’re a mermaid or dragon or something that I just don’t know about) that takes real-life situations and highlights ways of solving this problem. In my experience, this can be extremely inspiring and enlightening, especially if I or someone I know is going through a similar situation or problem that the protagonist in the book is going through.

Contemporary Often Has Long-Lasting Effects

In my experience, contemporaries are normally the kind of books that affect me the most. Of course, there are non-contemporary books I’ve read that were really moving and affected me greatly, most recently Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson and Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, which are both fabulous books. However, I do know that many people shy away from this genre for that very reason – the tears. Though I completely understand this, I do encourage you to give them a shot, even if it’s just once. It might be painful to read, but trust me, the effect is worth it.

Contemporary Can Act As an Instant Mood-Booster

Despite some of the things I’ve said earlier in this post, contemporary isn’t all about the darker, more meaningful books. In fact, it’s far from it. Some of my all-time favorite books are the ones that leave you with a ridiculous grin on your face and a new addition to your book boyfriend list.

                 Contemporary is Enlightening and Important to Read

I know that many other kinds of books can enlighten you about important issues and really make you think, but I think realistic fiction and nonfiction are the best genres for this. That’s why I think “issue books” are so important – they give you a chance to learn about and raise awareness for topics you may have never considered before. I mean, who has time for focusing on issues like sexuality or mental illnesses when you’re busy saving the world or slaying dragons?

Now! On to the recommendations!

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite contemporary novels I would recommend to anyone:

  • Anna and the French Kiss trilogy by Stephanie Perkins- This is one of the most adorable, hilarious, quirkiest books I’ve ever read, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone. If you want a laugh-out-loud, mood-boosting, romantic books that will make you swoon, Anna is a definite must-read!
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness- I would recommend anything by Patrick Ness, but this one is probably my favorite. Don’t be fooled by the few number of pages, though- A Monster Calls is a huge tear-jerker, and the deeper meaning and emotion behind this book is incredible.
  • Looking For Alaska by John Green- Though nowhere near as popular as TFIOS is, Looking For Alaska is by far my favorite of John Green’s books. I got way more emotionally attached to the characters in this book than in Green’s other books, and I feel like it holds way more deeper meaning.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli- This is another adorable romance that I would recommend to anyone! The story is centered on Simon, our gay main character, and the online relationship that he forms with his friend (or perhaps a more-than-friend) “Blue.” I absolutely fell in love with the quirky characters and swoon-worthy romance, and I didn’t want it too end.
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven- If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, this probably comes as no surprise to you- All the Bright Places is probably my all-time favorite book. Period. If you want to read a beautiful, heart-wrenching, romantic book that will stick with you long after you read it, this book is the one for you.
  • Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira- I read this book years ago, so I barely remember anything about it, but I do remember this being the first book I ever really cried at. And it wasn’t just crying, either; it was full-on sobbing. Many of my favorite quotes come from this book, and it’s one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read.

I know many of you are contemporary fans, so let’s talk! Even if you aren’t in love with this genre, I’d still love to hear your thoughts!

  •  Why do you think contemporary appeals to people, and are you a fan of it?

  • What is your favorite genre, and why?

  • What are some of your favorite contemporary novels?


6 thoughts on “Discussion: Why Read Contemporaries?

  1. I actually don’t often read Contemporary- Overprotective Mom Alert and she is under the impression that I can’t read ANY of them! But I bought My True Love Gave To Me today and have cried at 3 out of 4 of the stories so far! Maybe I’m into something! I wish my friends were reading all of those kind of books- they don’t read at all! (Mental note- MAKE BOOK-LOVING FRIENDS) Great post! X

    Liked by 1 person

  2. YES YES YES. I agree with everything you said here. So many people call out YA contemporary for being “shallow” or “fluffy” (I mean, people say that about all YA, but I feel like contemporary gets the worst of it), but it’s really one of the most important, impactful genres. It’s more likely to include diverse representation, deal with real issues teens face, etc. And as for the lighter ones, those are important too! Fun and happiness are both important, and many YA contemporaries do an amazing job of evoking both. This was a great discussion post – hopefully it will convince a contemporary skeptic to give the genre a try.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As much fantasy as I have been reading lately (mostly Sarah J. Maas), I adore contemporaries! At first, I always thought they were just cutesy little stories, but now I have found the great ones and how much substance they can have, and just how glorious in general they are! AHH! *fangirling shrieks*


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