Archive of ‘Contemporary realistic fiction’ category

The value of contemporary realistic fiction for young adults



What is contemporary realistic fiction?

Contemporary realistic fiction is a type of literature that is about people, their lives and circumstances.  This genre of stories explores societal values, ethics and morals through the thoughts, feelings and actions of characters tested by life events.  Race, class, violence, sex, relationships, drugs suicide and gender are some of the topics that may be examined in contemporary realistic fiction (Charles Sturt University, 2014a, para. 1).

Why is it important to include contemporary realistic fiction in a library collection for young adults?

Adolescence is a time of physical, intellectual, psychological and social development (Steinberg, 2014, para. 1).  During this time, young adults begin to examine their identities, relationships with family and peers and their personal value systems (Bushan and McNerney, 2014, para. 8).  A library collection that caters for adolescents would rightly include contemporary realistic fiction because of its potential to:

  • allow the reader to vicariously experience challenging, sometimes dangerous situations, in a non-threatening fictional arena (Bushan and McNerney, 2014, para. 7)
  • give an insight into how adolescent characters try to make sense of what is happening around them, take responsibility for their own actions and become active agents in their own lives (Michaels, 2004, p. 52);
  • examine societal and individual situations from a variety of perspectives (Bushan and McNerney, 2014, para. 7) including ones that differ from the didactic advice of parents and teachers (Claasz, 2014, p.52);
  • meet the teenage desire to explore their world by reading about life experiences that are threatening, bizarre, frightening and disturbing rather than ordinary (Nimon, 1998, p. 21);
  • explore diverse topics and subsequent perspectives, thus providing the impetus to cultivate empathy:  an essential21st century social skill (Claasz, 2014, p.52);
  • enjoy the pleasure of finding a mirror for oneself (Noodleman and Reimer as cited in Charles Sturt University, 2014b, para. 12).

This list is expected to grow as my research continues into this genre and its value to a library collection for young adults.  The view expressed by Cart provides a useful concluding statement when considering the value of contemporary realistic fiction:

“the most compelling argument one can offer for writing fiction about even the most unpleasant realities of teens’ lives … [is] life, even at its darkest, can hold the promise of hope and positive change – especially when we read about it with open minds and hearts, with intellectual attention and emotional empathy” (2011, p. 135).



Bushan, J. H., & McNerney, S. (2004). Moral choices: Building a bridge between YA literature and life. The Alan Review, 32(1). Retrieved December 12, 2014, from

Cart, M. (2011). Young adult literature: From romance to realism. Chicago: American Library Association.

Charles Sturt University (CSU). (2014a). Diversity in children’s literature, ETL402 Literature Across the Curriculum. Retrieved December, 2014.

Charles Sturt University (CSU). (2014b). The value of literature to children, ETL402 Literature Across the Curriculum. Retrieved December, 2014.

Claasz, A. (2014). Contemporary realistic fiction for young adults. Access (10300155),28(2), 50-57.

Michaels, W. (2004). The realistic turn: Trends in recent Australian young adult fiction [online]. Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, 14(1), 49-59. Retrieved December 14, 2014.

Nimon, M. (1998). Finding the acceptable boundaries: The challenge in young adult literature. Orana, 34(2), 18. Retrieved December 14, 2014, from

Steinberg, L. (2014). Adolescent. In World Book Student. Retrieved from