With Eric Devine’s post on male violence and aggression, I could think of no better sort of list to write than one featuring contemporary realistic YA books that are male-centered and feature high adrenaline and, in most cases, violence of some kind. These books are gritty and intense.
All descriptions come from WorldCat, and most of these titles were published in the last 5-7 years. I’d love to have more titles to add to this list, so if you can think of any, feel free to offer them in the comments.
Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan: Steven “Crash” Crashinsky relates his sordid ten-year relationship with David “Burn” Burnett, the boy he stopped from taking their high school hostage at gunpoint.
Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen: High school sophomore Danny excels at gymnastics but is bullied, like the rest of the gymnasts, by members of the football team, until an emotionally and physically scarred new student joins the football team and forms an unlikely friendship with Danny.
Press Play by Eric Devine: While making a documentary to get himself into film school, Greg accidentally captures footage of brutal and bloody hazing by the lacrosse team, and he must decide whether to release the film or keep the secret.
Blade: Playing Dead by Tim Bowler: A fourteen-year-old British street person with extraordinary powers of observation and self-control must face murderous thugs connected with a past he has tried to forget, when his skills with a knife earned him the nickname, Blade.
Violence 101 by Denis Wright: In a New Zealand reformatory, Hamish Graham, an extremely intelligent fourteen-year-old who believes in the compulsory study of violence, learns that it is not always the answer.
Freeze Frame by Heidi Ayarbe: Fifteen-year-old Kyle believes he does not deserve to live after accidentally shooting and killing his best friend.
Dirt Road Home by Watt Key: At Hellenweiler, a reformatory for second-offenders, fourteen-year-old Hal Mitchell will soon be free if he can avoid the gang violence of his fellow inmates, but the real enemy may lie elsewhere.
Efrain’s Secret by Sofia Quintero: Ambitious high school senior and honor student Efrain Rodriguez makes some questionable choices in pursuit of his dream to escape the South Bronx and attend an Ivy League college.
If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser: Growing up in the inner-city projects, DeShawn is reluctantly forced into the gang world by circumstances beyond his control.
Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft: Seventeen year-old dirt-bike-riding daredevil Arlo Santiago catches the eye of the U.S. military with his first-place ranking on a video game featuring drone warfare, and must reconcile the work they want him to do with the emotional scars he has suffered following a violent death in his family.
Unlocked by Ryan G. Van Cleave: While trying to impress a beautiful, unattainable classmate, fourteen-year-old Andy discovers that a fellow social outcast may be planning an act of school violence.
When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds: Ali lives in Bed-Stuy, a Brooklyn neighborhood known for guns and drugs, but he and his sister, Jazz, and their neighbors, Needles and Noodles, stay out of trouble until they go to the wrong party, where one gets badly hurt and another leaves with a target on his back.
Blank Confession by Pete Hautman: A new and enigmatic student named Shayne appears at high school one day, befriends the smallest boy in the school, and takes on a notorious drug dealer before turning himself in to the police for killing someone.
Bystander by James Preller: Thirteen-year-old Eric discovers there are consequences to not standing by and watching as the bully at his new school hurts people, but although school officials are aware of the problem, Eric may be the one with a solution.
Run The Game by Jason Myers: A cocaine-addicted teenaged guitarist in a rock band falls dangerously in love with a fourteen-year-old prostitute.
Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden: Irreverent, foul-mouthed, seventeen-year-old Cricket Cherpin, living under the watchful eye of Mother Mary at a Catholic boys’ home in Maine, has such bleak prospects he is considering suicide when Wynona Bidaban steps into his world.
Diary of a Witness by Catherine Ryan Hyde: Ernie, an overweight high school student and long-time target of bullies, relies on his best friend Will to watch his back until Will, overwhelmed by problems at home and guilt over his brother’s death, seeks a final solution.
Period 8 by Chris Crutcher: Paul “the Bomb” Baum tells the truth. No matter what. It was something he learned at Sunday School. But telling the truth can cause problems, and not minor ones. And as Paulie discovers, finding the truth can be even more problematic. Period 8 is supposed to be that one period in high school where the truth can shine, a safe haven. Only what Paulie and Hannah (his ex-girlfriend, unfortunately) and his otherclassmates don’t know is that the ultimate bully, the ultimate liar, is in their midst. Just about everyone else who stops by the safe haven of the P-8 room daily are deceived. And when a classmate goes missing, all hell breaks loose.
Break by Hannah Moskowitz: To relieve the pressures of caring for a brother with life-threatening food allergies, another who is a fussy baby, and parents who are at odds with one other, seventeen-year-old Jonah sets out to break every bone in his body in hopes of becoming stronger.
Cracked by K. M. Walton: When Bull Mastrick and Victor Konig wind up in the same psychiatric ward at age sixteen, each recalls and relates in group therapy the bullying relationship they have had since kindergarten, but also facts about themselves and their families that reveal they have much in common.