Throughout the Young Adult world, a common theme is overcoming the struggle of getting older and rationalizing the world. Often times, even the most heroic characters rely on their close friends for support and strength in adversity. The types of reliance run the gamut from affirmation of self-worth and purpose, overcoming tribulations, or perhaps even physical reliance in defeating an enemy or seeking freedom from an oppressor. Regardless of the type of reliance, friendships continue to be a central theme in many young adult driven media productions and publications. This thread examines a variety of positive influences that help teens and young adults cope with the challenges of life.
1.) Novel: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
“It was Sloan who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list. “
While this novel focuses both on friendship and the inevitable loss of friends, Morgan Matson explores growing up and coming out of your shell, dealing with loss, and finding ways to make the most of life. When Emily loses her outgoing, encouraging friend she is tasked with finding the strength to continue on a summer-long journey to break out of her insecurities and develop self-confidence. The novel provides solace to any young person who may have lost their support and were tasked with taking charge. Additionally, an underlying message in Matson’s novel in that the impact of other people can last a lifetime, even if the friendship does not.
Similar theme: Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
2.) Novel: Emma by Jane Austen
“I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.”
Jane Austen’s classic is about a self-reliant, self-assured, and self-important heroine whom overestimates her abilities and carelessly interferes with the love lives of others. Emma denies that love beyond that of the self is unnecessary and claims to be perfectly content with her life. As the novel unfolds, Emma continues to ignore the advice of her friends and unfortunate circumstances take place. The novel is an examination of the place of love in a young life and the importance of self-love and self-awareness. What Emma lacks is introspection, the ability to come to terms with one’s own weaknesses. This is ultimately the cause of many of her problems. Perhaps this serves as a warning, perhaps Austen merely intended to provide a strong female character who has human flaws. Regardless, Emma is an classic. Although this would be difficult read for some young readers, the novel is an essential piece in a young adult’s library.
Similar theme: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3.) Novel: Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”
One of the most iconic franchises in modern literature (and film) is J.K. Rowling’s 4,224 page saga about young wizards coming of age at a magical school. The novel’s are not only original in concept, they are grounded in a realism that is difficult to explain. Somehow, despite the magic, Harry and his friends are surprisingly relatable. The students of Hogwartz School for Witchcraft and Wizardry experience all of the same circumstances the modern young adult faces set to the backdrop of magical mishaps and a heroic story line. Perhaps one of the most essential elements of the entire series is the relationship of the main trio and how their unique talents bond them as a perfect team of heroism. Harry, Hermoine, and Ron are all unique in their talents (yes, even Ron) and they maintain to keep each other grounded. Hermoine is arguably the most superior of the three, but at times her ego must be checked to maintain order. Harry often finds himself lacking confidence or facing immeasurable odds, which is when Hermoine serves as the heroine. Ron is riddled with confidence issues and without Harry and Hermoine may have died in book one. Regardless, this is a saga of depending on your friends and growing together.
Similar theme: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green