I read a lot of young adult fiction–a genre that lately has offered so many powerful and well-written books–and these are my latest two. Both are nonfiction, but both read more like fiction, and Shout is written in verse. The 57 Bus is a story from 2013 in which an agender, nonbinary senior is high school, Sasha, is riding an Oakland, CA public bus home from school when a 16-year-old lights their (Sasha goes by they/them) skirt on fire. Is it a hate crime and attempted murder? Does he boy deserve life in prison and trial as an adult? Or is it a terrible and stupid move by a peer-pressured unfocused high school sophomore who doesn’t really even understand homophobia but thinks a skirt is weird? This is a heartbreaking and also beautiful story of understanding and forgiveness. A really good read. It was originally a New York Times Magazine feature story before becoming a book. Here’s the magazine story.
Shout is a memoir about Laurie Halse Anderson’s writing of her very famous novel Speak, published 20 years ago, in which she created a 13-year-old character who does not speak after being raped at a high school party. In Shout, Anderson discloses that Speak was, in fact, written about her own rape at age 13 and the 20 years it took to come to terms with it. It’s a powerful memoir about sexual violence, its impact on girls and boys, men and women, and about the impact Anderson’s book has had on young adults, especially those who have suffered from sexual violence or harassment or any aspect of feeling disempowered. Here’s a NYT review of Shout.