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  • November 2009
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The Psychological Thrill of Realistic Fiction

I was extremely blessed to grow up in an information-rich and censorship-free household. As a teen, I read a lot of edgy, arguably better-for-adults titles—nothing was off-limits to me. Some of my favorite authors were Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, and Salman Rushdie. I devoured anything about the beat generation, particularly writings on my favorite, William Burroughs.

I did this because teen books always seemed so lame when I actually was a teenager—cheesy romances, beach reads, goody-two-shoes sci-fi and fantasy—with the notable exception of books by Robert Cormier. His books were fierce and complicated, filled with the moral nuances of life and an unflinching look at the way people experience them.

Robert Cormier once said in an interview that a driving force in his writing was his awareness that “innocence doesn’t provide immunity from evil.” If you are a lover of the perfect mix of realistic fiction and psychological thriller, check out these books:

13-year-old Paul discovers that he has an amazing gift: the ability to become invisible, the ability to fade. Would you read someone else’s diary if you had the chance? Listen to what your loved ones say about you behind closed doors? What terrible things will Paul discover as he invisibly snoops on others?

18-year-old Francis returns from WWII missing half his face. What kind of person would throw himself onto a grenade? And what will happen to that kind of person when he survives?

Eric, a juvenile to the criminal justice system, has just been released from jail after killing his mother and stepfather. He is also suspected of the murder of several young girls. What happens when handsome Eric meets desperate Lori? Can her love save him, or will Lori become just another one of Eric’s girls?

What happens when a nobody goes up against the most powerful guys in school? How much will it take to turn Jerry the victim into Jerry the abuser? How much does it take for you to become the person you hate?

Sara Dora, CLP-Hazelwood

One Response

  1. add another title to this list that fits into it as snugly as a … well, never mind.

    Let Slip the Dogs of Love (Suburban Legends of the Living and the Dead), by Eugene Kachmarsky, explores precisely what you speak of, emotional suspense in the form of psychological thrillers, for teens and YA.

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