Both of these books feature contemporary stories in which the protagonists all come from some really tough homes. Their families have hindered them, harmed them, and basically made their lives hell at some points. And now, they face a lot of difficult decisions on their roads ahead. Also, I liked them both a lot, so I fully recommend both if you are looking for gritter YA contemporaries! 

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan, Brian Conaghan
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on June 13th 2017
Pages: 320
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

From two acclaimed authors comes an emotional story told in verse about friendship, love, and overcoming unbeatable odds.

Authors Brian Conaghan and Sarah Crossan have joined forces to tell the story of Nicu and Jess, two troubled teens whose paths cross in the unlikeliest of places.

Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess's home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship grows into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and hopeful futures. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?For fans of Una LaMarche’s Like No Other, this illuminating story told in dual points of view through vibrant verse will stay with readers long after they've turned the last page.

This book hurt my soul. It is a quick read, but hot damn, it packs a punch. It only took me about 45 minutes to read the book (as it is written in verse), but I still managed to care quite deeply about the characters by the end.

Nicu and Jess are pretty much opposites in nearly every sense of the word. Nicu has come to England from Romania, and is the most precious pumpkin I have ever read about basically. He is just genuine and a good person. He also is wildly unpopular because sometimes people are real assholes. They tease him based on his culture, and it was both appalling and heartbreakingly realistic. Jess is… well, you won’t start calling her “precious” anytime soon. She has a truly awful family life, with an abusive stepfather and a mother who lets him behave that way. So while I didn’t always like Jess, I absolutely felt for her, and it was kind of easy to understand why she acted as she did.

There was definite character growth, even through such a short time. Jess and Nicu become friends, and as unlikely a pair as I thought they were in the beginning, they were really good for each other. Throughout the book, they have to make some really tough decisions and deal with a lot of hardships.

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Bottom Line: Unquestionably beautiful writing and heart-wrenching circumstances make this quick but lovely book one not to miss.

Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin
Published by Flatiron Books on June 27th 2017
Pages: 368
Format:ARC, eARC
Source:ALAMW, Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

In the tradition of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, a big-hearted journey of furious friendship, crazy love, and unexpected hope after a teen's decision to end an unwanted pregnancy

“Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.

As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.

This powerfully immersive and format-crushing debut follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.

First, I must say, the topic of abortion is one that is woefully unspoken about in most books. I love that the author and publisher took such a heavy, important topic and channeled it into a really responsible, well-thought out novel. Lest we get into some kind of political/religious debate, no one enjoys talking about this sort of thing, but unintended pregnancies are a real part of people’s lives. And I feel like young people especially have so few places to turn (in most cases, anyway) in the event that this happens to them. I can’t imagine the havoc this kind of decision would wreak on a young woman’s life, so I absolutely applaud this book for handling the subject so respectfully, and so honestly.

I loved that the author didn’t make this exclusively about Genesis’s decision, though. She portrayed Genesis as a well-rounded and thoughtful young woman with a lot of promise. But she also shows the difficulty of Gen’s life, her family, her boyfriend (who you’ll probably want to punch, just saying). And of course, the aftermath of her life changing decision to end her pregnancy. Genesis was confident of her choice, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t still have a huge impact, and I loved how honest that felt.

We get glimpses into how Genesis got to the point she is at, how her relationship evolved, how her home life was, as the story goes on. These are told as a play script, which was fun- and made it really easy to decipher what parts were flashback and which were present time, and I appreciated that.

Bottom Line: This is a lovely story, woven by both past and present situations, that not only shines a light on the effects of a young woman’s decision, but how her life continues and how she grows after the decision.

Do you enjoy gritter books? I confess, I like my contemporary with a side of tears. What is the last great, gritty contemporary book you’ve read?

Posted June 19, 2017 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Dual, Review / 12 Comments

12 responses to “Dual Review: Frightful Families

  1. I’ve read a few gritty contemporaries lately, it’s a genre I seem to be warming too. We Come Apart looks great, and in spite of the fact that it’s written in verse (which might give me pause), it’s good to know that this book was so affecting.

    Aftercare Instructions though definitely looks like one I might want to read, in spite of the heavy subject matter. Glad to hear that one was so good, given the sensitive topic.

    Great reviews Shannon!

  2. Oh I did read the first one! I didn’t really connect to it or like it like you did though…MY BAD AND I AM SAD AT MYSELF. ? I did think Nicu was super precious though. Someone protect him pls. ?

  3. I totally agree with you about Aftercare Instructions! It handled the subject matter at hand so well, but I also loved that it wasn’t just a story about abortion, you know? I really enjoyed the way it was told with the play scenes and stuff, too. I haven’t heard much about We Come Apart, but I’m always looking for more novels written in verse! Great reviews, Shannon. 🙂

  4. Yes! By the end of We Come Apart, I swear, I felt like my gut had been punched a hundred times over. I was like, THAT’S IT?!!?!?!?!? NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! I even met Sarah Crossan and asked her about the ending in person, like I know it’s what was meant to happen, but still! My heart! Great review! And I haven’t heard of Aftercare Instructions, but it definitely sounds like an interesting and important read. Added to the TBR! Thanks!

    Cass @ Words on Paper

  5. I just R&R’d Aftercare Instructions myself, and YES to all that you said. So glad that you liked it. I truly adored it, even though the theatre cutouts occasionally annoyed me. Verse usually irritates me, but I’ve always been SO fascinated in reading something by Sarah Crossan, and I always click the spoilery tag, so I’m definitely interested in the idea of that unhappy ending. Great reviews!!! 😀

  6. I think it’s important to read grittier books because sometimes that is someone’s reality, and I am all for awareness over ignorance. But you’re right – sometimes it hurts. Especially when its about family — it reminds me that I have been blessed with such a supportive and kind family.

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