But you don’t have to take my word for it:
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
The Set-Up: Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard--falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around. Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.
My Thoughts: This book is BRUTAL. The story is probably about as close to noir as YA gets. Regina is a despicable character, as she reveals through flashbacks that she was a willing member of the Fearsome Fivesome. You won’t want to like her, yet she’s still likeable enough that you’ll find yourself overlooking her past behaviors. There is so much tension in this book that reading it gave me a stomach ache, and I still get a little queasy thinking about the book today. Amazing book, and once you won’t want to miss.
Sweet, Hereafter by Angela Johnson
The Set-Up: Shoogy left home with all her jeans still in the washer because she couldn’t think of a reason to stay. She’s not sure where she belongs, until she meets Curtis. Curtis knows for certain where he does not want to be and that’s to be back in the army. He is happy to be in Ohio, where it is quiet and he can spend time with Shoogy. But when Curtis gets orders to return to Iraq, will belonging with each other be enough to keep Shoogy and Curtis together?
My Thoughts: This book is short and bittersweet, and although it’s part of an interrelated trilogy (Heaven and The First Part Last), it’s such a gorgeous book that it stands on its own. It’s a tiny book, but so impactful that you’ll want to go back and reread it once you’re done.
North of Beautiful By Justina Chen Headley
The Set-Up: As he continued to stare, I wanted to point to my cheek and remind him, But you were the one who wanted this, remember? You're the one who asked-and I repeat-Why not fix your face?
It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.
She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?
My Thoughts: This is one of those books that, like Some Girls Are, physically hurt to read. Terra’s such an insecure character that she makes you ache to comfort her. Her father is loathsome, and her mother is on the pathetic side. But through it all, it’s Terra’s pain you feel, her sense of insecurity, her fragility. Still, there’s a strength to her that will pull you through the story.
All right, it's your turn!! What must contemporaries have I missed? Leave your suggestions in the comments.