Finding Friends: Relationships, Alienation, and a Sense of Belonging
Peers and friends are also important to young adults and can play an influential role in many young peoples’ choice of dress, mannerisms, and behaviors. Naturally, young adult fiction can portray that relationship. In Who the Man (Lynch, 2002), Earl has little control over his own life and resorts to fighting. In contrast, Nick learns that he can control his life and relationships the way he controls a basketball game in Night Hoops (Deuker, 2000), and Ben finds he has to challenge his best friend to a wrestling match in Wrestling Sturbridge (Wallace, 1996). In Nikki Grimes’ Bronx Masquerade (2001), as high school students read the poems that they have written, they reveal their secret fears and their real selves to their classmates. Peer pressure is a focus in The Battle of Jericho (Draper, 2003), while changing friendships play an important part in The New Rules of High School (Nelson, 2003). Other books that present glimpses of adolescent relationships are The Girls (Koss, 2000), Rain Catchers (Thesman, 1991), Snail Mail No More (Danziger & Martin, 2000), Three Clams and an Oyster (Powell, 2002), and How I Changed My Life (Strasser, 1995).
In an attempt to belong, some teens are searching for their cultural identity while others are only trying to fit in with the majority culture. That is what Tara Mehtas is trying to do in A Group of One (Gilmore, 2001) until her grandmother arrives from India. Also from India, Dimple, in Born Confused (Desai Hidier, 2002), is an ABCD, American Born Confused Desi, who is too American for her immigrant Indian parents and too Indian for her American friends. Young Ju in An Na’s Step from Heaven (2001) must balance her Korean heritage with her new life in America and her cruel father’s demands. Contemporary American Indians and their search for cultural identity are found in a number of books including The Window (Dorris, 1997), The Heart of a Chief (Bruchac, 1998), and Who Will Tell My Brother? (Carvell, 2002). Other books that include a search for cultural identity are Breakaway (Yee, 1997), Beacon Hill Boys (Mochizuki, 2002), and Cuba 15 (Osa, 2003). Connecting Adolescents and Their Literature 4-3 looks at one technique to use when examining the cultural conflict found in some contemporary realistic fiction.
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