Contemporary Realistic Fiction

Contemporary realistic fiction contains literary works that are believable and set in the modern world. These works of fiction are believable in nature and contain characters who could potentially be real people. When it comes to the story and plot of this type of fiction, the story that has been crafted, while it is made up and false, could potentially take place. Unlike modern fantasy, where magic and fantastical worlds can be found, contemporary realistic fiction is rooted in the realm of reality.

The key understanding of this genre overall, though, is the term fiction. Works that fall into this genre must still be the product of the author's imagination. The characters will not be representations of real individuals. Therefore, other genre types, like biography, have to bearing in the category of modern contemporary fiction. In addition to this, it is often considered that in order for a work to be "contemporary," it must be closely set and dated roughly after the year 1950 (though this is debatable). Works of fiction that are set before this time are generally considered historical fiction.

Finally, what makes this genre of literature so unique is that it allows its readers to easily identify with the characters and their experiences. Readers of this genre will often encounter realistic themes that they may have already experienced themselves or may one day experience. For example, some common themes in modern contemporary fiction are death and dying, family life, sexuality, discovering one's own identity, family life, amongst others. Because of these easily identifiable themes, readers are often able to connect with the characters in these works, learn from their experiences, and compare how they have handled the same experiences.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian*
Sherman Alexie
Publisher: Little Brown, 2007
ISBN: 978-0316013697
Grade: YA
Awards: National Book Award Winner

This work follows the adventures of Junior (Arnold) Spirit as he moves and tries to break the constraints of his Native American stigma. After advice from a teacher, he leaves his ill-funded reservation school in search for a better life in a neighboring all white school. What many readers believe would ensue--Arnold's discrimination from a white student body--quickly shifts into his struggle to deal with being ostracized by members of his own tribe. The Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a novel that will be equally enjoyed by younger audiences and older ones alike.

Janne Teller
Publisher: Atheneum Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-1416985792
Grades: 7-12
Awards: Batchelder Honor Book 2011, Printz Honor Book 2011, Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books starred 2010 

When Pierre Anthon decides that the meaning of life is nothing, he climbs in to a tree and decides to live out the rest of his life there. Pierre's denouncement of life's meaning infuriates his classmates and a small group of them set out to prove that life is much more than nothing. They vow to each give up a material item that means something to them and stack it on the "pile of something" in an abandoned saw mill. What ensues is a vengeful competition between the classmates to force each other to give up that which means most to them. However, is the "pile of something" enough to convince Pierre that life truly does have meaning? While geared towards a young audience, Nothing is a book that should be reserved for more mature readers. It contains many "adult" philosophical themes and some violence.

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream* 
Jenny Han; Illustrated by Julia Kuo
Publisher: Little Brown, 2011
ISBN:  978-0-316-07038-6
Grades: 3-6
Awards: Horn Book 3/1/11

One day Clara Lee wakes after having a dream that her Grandpa has been killed by the mustache man. When she reveals her fear of the dream to her grandfather, Clara discovers that in her Chinese culture dreams where people die are actually a sign of good luck. So Clara sets to counting all of the good things that happen to her throughout the day, and most importantly giving a speech for the Little Miss Apple Pie contest. The only thing holding her back is the belief that she isn't as American like her classmate ... who's family can be traced back for generations in her small town. With a little luck on her side and some encouragement from Grandpa, Clara Lee discovers that she may actually be more American than she thinks. This novel explores the challenges of being a minority in small town America and is appropriate for young readers who enjoy a little comedy and a heart-warming story.

Jaqueline Woodson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam Sons, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-399-23989-2 
Grades: 5-8
Awards: Horn Book Starred 2007, Newbery Honor 2008

Feathers tells the story of Frannie and her brother Sean, two young African Americans living in a world that, despite the end of segregation, is still keeping the white and black world apart. They live in a town that is divided by a highway that separates the white world from the black world. However, when a white boy starts to attend class at Frannie's school, students begin to speculate why he is there. Soon it is believe that this boy might be Jesus and he is nicknamed "Jesus Boy" by his classmates; some in the class even believe that he is Jesus. When Frannie starts to befriend him, she quickly learns that this boy may not be the traditional "savior" as everyone believes, but he does teach her that all one has in life is hope. Filled with a writing style that is terse, to the point, and almost poetic at times, Feathers will grab readers and stick with them even after the reader runs out of pages.

The Higher Power of Lucky*
Susan Patron
Publisher: Atheneum Books, 2006
ISBN: 978-1-41690-194-5 
Grades: 3-6
Awards: Horn Starred 

As she eavesdrops, Lucky enjoys hearing the stories about the higher powers that have saved many of the people attending 12-step programs. She soon discovers that she'll need a higher power of her own when her guardian, Bridgette, decides that she is going to move to France. Afraid of ending up in an orphanage and losing her friends, Lucky sets out to find her own higher power and leaves her small town of Hard Pan, California. Both humorous and heart-warming, this novel for the young will even entertain and move the old.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid*
Jeff Kiney
Publisher: Amulet, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-8109-9313-6 
Grades: 5-8
Awards: Horn Book 2007

The popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid has taken young audiences by storm. Greg Heffley is forced to cope with everyone's greatest fear--discovering how to stay cool in middle school. As the novel proves, this is no easy task, especially when you have a brother who taunts you, a friend who's dad screens your video games, and you have to protect yourself from bullies on Halloween. Drawing largely on experiences Kinney faced when he was growing up, this novel will make readers laugh and wonder exactly how one young boy can find himself amidst so much drama.The fist in a series, others include Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth.

Big Nate: In a Class by Himself*
Lincoln Peirce
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-194434-5 
Grades 3-6
Awards: Horn Book 2010 

After cracking open a fortune cookie, Nate learns that he will "surpass all others." The trick is finding out how he will do exactly that. In an attempt to find out, Nate decides to try speed eating with green beans,  make one of his teachers laugh, .... Each attempt at success places Nate in more and more trouble until he finally ends his day with several detentions. So, how is it that Nate will surpass all others? Readers will have to pick up a copy of this loveable character's misadventures to find out. Readers of all levels will really enjoy this book; however, it will especially appeal to those who are interested in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. 
Brendan Buckley’s World and Everything in It
Sundee Tucker Frazier
Publisher: Delacorte, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-385-73439-4
Grades: 3-6
Awards: John Steptoe Award 2008, Horn Book 2008

Brendan Buckley is a biracial child who has never really known his grandfather, since he disowned his mother due to her marriage to an African American man. His love of science and rock collecting prove to serve as a common bond between his grandfather and himself. The two continue to meet secretly until Brendan’s mother finds out. This selection will interest those who have a love for science and this love will lighten the author’s message about race for young readers.

The P.S. Bothers
Maribeth Boelts
Publisher: Harcourt, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-547-34249-8
Grades: 5-8
Awards/Reviews: Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books 2010, Kirkus Review 2010

Russel and Shawn are always picked on by others, so they come up with a simple plan: Let's buy a Rottweiler to protect us. The problem is that the two have no money. So, they set out on a poop-scooping adventure to earn money for their "protector." When they learn that the puppy they are about to buy is owned by a man who runs an illegal dog-fighting ring, the two boys are unsure of how to react. Readers of this work will receive less of a story about dogs and more of one about friendship and ethics.

 Boys without Names
Kashmira Sheth
Publisher: Balzar and Bray, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-185760-7
Grades: 5-8
Awards/Reviews: Horn Book 2010, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 2010

Gopal and his family are forced to leave their home in rural India because of a failed onion crop. They move to Mumbai to live with an uncle in hopes of finding a better life. However, shortly after arriving there, Gopal's father goes missing and Gopal ends up working in a sweat shop from which there appears to be no escape. Gopal begins to tell the boys he works with tales about his life and they, in turn, begin to share their own. When it comes time to escape, Gopal can't decide if he still wants to because his bond with the other boys has grown so strong.

 Out of My Mind
Sharon M. Draper
Publisher: Atheneum Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-41697-170-2
Grades: 5-8
Awards/Reviews: Kirkus Review Starred 2010, Horn Book 2010, School Library Journal Starred 2010

Melody was born with Cerebral Palsy and has never spoken a word by the age of ten. However, she's a genius trapped inside an uncontrollable body. Because of this her world is filled with insight and intellect, yet her she is unable to act on these due to her physical limitations. Throughout, she battles with schools that have too limited of resources to accommodate her needs. When she is placed in a regular classroom, she helps to take her class to the quiz team finals.

Kathryn Erskine
Publisher: Philomel Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-399-25264-8
Grades: 5-8
Awards/Reviews: National Book Award 2010, Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011, Notable Children’s Books 2011

Caitlyn, who suffers from Aspergers Disease, is forced to deal with her emotions after her brother is killed in a school shooting. Trying to understand these emotions and why it happened is not one of her strong suits and she must learn that, as her dad puts it, “Life is not like a movie.” The seriousness is broken up at times by the light-hearted Caitlyn’s voice.

Because of Mr. Terupt
Bob Byea
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-385-73882-8
Grades: 3-6
Awards/Reviews: Kirkus Review 2010, School Library Journal Starred 2010

Mr. Terupt is a teacher who challenges his students to think for themselves, question traditional conventions, and become better people. In this novel, seven fifth grade students recount how their lives have drastically been changed for the better because of Mr. Terupt. They discover their own flaws, come to grips with their home lives, and reconcile their roles in an accident that almost takes the life of their teacher. This novel will cause readers to ponder the power of forgiveness.

  Long Walk to Water
Linda Sue Park
Publisher: Clarion Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-547-25127-1
Grades 5-8
Awards/Reviews: Horn Book 2011, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 2010, School Library Journal Starred 2010

Based on a true story, this novel tells the story of eleven-year-old Salva who is separated from his family during the Sudanese Civil War in 1985. He is forced to walk with other refugees through the countries of Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya in search of a safe haven. Salva later returns to his home country to found a company called Water for Sudan, Inc.