Increasing Awareness of Youth “in the Margins” |YA Underground

By Sabrina Carnesi on October 24, 2016  Leave a Comment

More and more youth are displaying critical disconnections from literature due to the lack of available texts that reflect their lived experiences. Books that are self-published or produced by small independent publishers offer a growing opportunity for diverse character representation.

For marginalized youth who sometimes walk a path of isolation, books that reflect their lived experience help to validate their existence and show others that the “world is not made of one single story,” as author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says. For nonmarginalized youth, diverse titles offer the opportunity to see the world as their peers experience it and the language to take part in dialogue for better mutual understanding.

Incarceration, homelessness, mental illness, LGBTQ-related issues, emotional and physical abuse, lack of parental figures, teen pregnancy, and gang violence are just a few of the many experiences many young people navigate while trying to maintain hope of survival. The following titles can shed light on some of these circumstances and provide content to interest both the reluctant and the voracious reader.


Donna M. Zadunajsky’s Help Me! is a novella of raw and daring dialogue that intimately addresses multiple challenges. Over the course of a few months, 13-year-old Mick Conners deals with the backlash of his mother’s infidelity, which resulted in his parents’ divorce and the birth of half siblings he rarely sees. He also deals with the suicide of his best friend, who felt helpless after enduring daily bullying, which Mike, too, experiences. Mick deals with these jolting issues with coping devises that include cutting and, eventually, Russian roulette. If this fictionalized account comes across as riveting and authentic, it’s because the story is based on a real-life account. For youth who face depression and bullying and feel that they have no way out, this book encourages them to talk about it rather than hide or bury their feelings. This powerful title can be read in a short time frame and features a subject that is capable of generating rich dialogue among readers. For those on the outside looking in, this volume gives cues that serve as flags and warning signals. The first installment of a series by the same name, this title provides online resources on suicide and self-injury prevention as well as the author’s own gmail account as an outlet for those who simply need someone to talk to. “I don’t know all the answers, but I do know that we need to do something about it,” Zadunajsky writes.

the-missingMelanie Florence’s The Missing takes a serious look at how authorities have chosen to ignore the disappearance of indigenous girls in the Canadian province of Winnipeg, where a large number of girls have gone missing and then turned up dead, yet their cases are not always followed up with investigations. To continue this article, please go to the School Library Journal by clicking the link below:

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