There’s something extra compelling about real-life stories – and they do say that truth is often stranger than fiction. So we’re giving a big thumbs up to the YA memoir that’s been hitting our shelves lately, which tackles important social issues like coming out and fighting for the right to an education at the same time as telling a cracking story. Here are some of our favourites:
Breakthrough by Jack Andraka ($24.99)
When Jack Andraka was 13, he had all kinds of problems – not only was he a school misfit, but a close family friend was dying of cancer. But instead of feeling miserable, he put his passion for science to good use and devised a better cancer detection method. By the time he was 15, he’d come up with an early-detection test for pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers – it has the potential to be more than 400 times more effective than the medical standard. His book is an inspiring tale of overcoming depression, bullying and homophobia and having the perseverance to follow your heart.
How to be Happy by David Burton ($19.99)
When playwright and theatre director David Burton started high school, it seemed like nothing was going his way: he was desperate for a girlfriend, but his first date went horribly wrong; he was tormented by bullies; he suffered from depression and anxiety. When he discovered drama class, he thought he’d found a solution – but was his ‘Crazy Dave’ persona just a bandaid? Honest, hilarious and heartbreaking, this is a must-read story of adolescent agony that will resonate with teens and adult alike.
Body Lengths by Leisel Jones ($29.99)
One of the world’s greatest breaststrokers, Queensland’s Leisel Jones won two silver medals at the Sydney Olympics, when she was just 15; she won gold at Athens and Beijing and became the first Australian swimmer to compete at four Olympics in London in 2012. But behind the glory is the story of a normal Aussie girl who found herself thrust into the media spotlight at a very young age, battling depression and body image issues in the full glare of the public eye. This is an insightful and candid memoir from one of Australia’s most accomplished athletes.
Binge by Tyler Oakley ($35.99)
Tyler Oakley loves oversharing, and the world loves his oversharing right back – he started making YouTube videos at 18, and quickly amassed a huge following of fans. Now a pop culture phenomenon and prominent advocate for LGBTQI rights, Tyler has brought his trademark cutting wit and brutal honesty to the page instead of the screen, sharing all kinds of uproarious personal mishaps in this funny and touching collection of essays.
Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen ($16.99)
As a middle schooler in a small Texas town, Maya Van Wagenen never felt like she really fit in. So when she discovered a 1950s popularity guide that her dad picked up in a thrift shop – Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide – she decided to put it to the test. For one school year, she followed the book’s advice on everything from grooming to hostessing and recorded her experiences in a journal. The result is this book – a wonderfully frank and witty account of one girl’s unusual attempt to find her place in the world.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick ($17.99)
In 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot at point-blank range for daring to defend her right to attend school. Malala had already made herself a Taliban target in her home country of Pakistan for defending girls’ education. She wasn’t expected to survive her shooting, but made a miraculous recovery and has gone on to become an international symbol of hope and the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. This is a fascinating, inspiring and important story of courage and self-belief.