Five coming-of-age novels where class and love collide



Normal People has been adapted for the BBC. It follows the love story of Connell and Marianne as they navigate love, class and the tricky journey into adulthood.
BBC/Element Pictures/Hulu

Kelly Beestone, University of Nottingham

Young Adult Fiction (YA) picks apart first experiences, good and bad. They are often stories about the psychological and moral growth of a protagonist, which balance romance with social issues such as gender, race and class. Although marketed to an older audience, Sally Rooney’s 2018 novel Normal People shares many of the tropes of great YA fiction. A coming-of-age story, its lead characters, Marianne and Connell, navigate love and class while developing a better understanding of who they are and want to be.

The fact that such a popular book targeted at an adult audience shares many similarities with YA is not surprising. For over a decade now, YA fiction has enjoyed a growing readership. Although it is aimed at teens, the books have proven popular with adults too. According to a survey by Bowker Market Research in 2012, 55% of YA book purchases were made by adults, and 78% of those adults said the books were for themselves.

With Normal People having just been adapted for television, people have once again been won over by Rooney’s quiet but powerful story of love and pain. Search for the book and you are sure to be presented with the question “What should I read after Normal People?”. So for those lusting for more, here are five YA books to fill the hole left by Connell and Marianne.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

One of the most famous books on this list, The Hate U Give was lauded for its no-holds-barred approach to some of America’s most contentious issues, including the weaponising of racial stereotypes and the killing of unarmed Black people by police. The book’s protagonist Starr is from the poor black neighbourhood of Garden Heights. She’s forced to witness the police shooting of her childhood friend, Khalil. While demanding justice, Starr attends a mainly white private school where to fit in and avoid stereotypes, she changes almost everything about herself – her style of clothing, her language, and her connection to Khalil. She also dates a white boy who doesn’t understand why Starr feels alienated at the school. Thomas explores their relationship with an expert touch, examining the nature of poverty and class privilege that is often intertwined with race.

American Royals by Katharine McGee


Penguin

A funny “what if” novel where George Washington became the first King of America after the Revolution. It follows three royal children: Bea, Jefferson, and Samantha, as they navigate romance in the public eye and their feelings for partners who are considered unworthy because of their working-class backgrounds. McGee states that her fiction is heavily inspired by British royalty. The book does an excellent job of analysing the pressures of fame and the responsibility of monarchy through the lenses of class and gender. American Royals examines the detrimental effect of social scrutiny of the rich and famous and in many ways echoes the criticism levelled at the British paparazzi in the wake of Princess Diana’s death.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It may seem odd to refer to Pride and Prejudice as YA but, like Normal People, it does share many of the same tropes of the coming-of-age story. It is about a young woman navigating the path between girlhood in the family home to adulthood through marriage.

Austen’s prose is witty and tongue in cheek, offering glimpses into the aristocratic society of Regency England. A book ahead of its time, Pride and Prejudice is outrageously funny in its critique of gender and class. Elizabeth breaks the mould of feminine conformity as an intelligent woman who is unafraid to speak her mind. Austen is careful and meticulous in her attempts to distinguish the term “gentleman” from the term “aristocrat”. In doing so she reveals that the two are not indistinguishable – the men in her fiction are often aristocratic, but their class status does not excuse their problematic actions.

The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera


Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers;

Like The Hate U Give, Rivera’s coming-of-age novel puts the relationship between race and class under a microscope. Margot struggles with reconciling her conservative Puerto Rican upbringing with the lives of excess and indulgence of her friends from her mostly white prep school. After she’s caught stealing her father’s credit card to impress her friends, Margot is forced to serve time in the family’s grocery store in the Bronx. There, she meets Moises, an ex-drug dealer fighting against gentrification and the eviction of local Latinx citizens to make way for luxury apartment blocks. It’s an engaging story that does not hold back on its criticisms of stereotypes and depictions of poverty caused by societal racism.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

For something different but in the same spirit, this is a fantasy tale of unlikely lovers – sensible Blue who comes from relative poverty and Gansey, the king of the local elite boy’s school, Aglionby Academy. While Blue holds down an after-school job and makes her own clothes, Gansey is rich and well connected.

Gansey blunders his way through talks about money and privilege, and regularly upsets his friends with his ignorance and his belief he can buy his way through life. He throws money at situations and people expecting it to solve problems, including bribing the school to not expel a troubled friend. Through Blue and Gansey, Stiefvater utilises the popular YA trope of star-crossed love. A trope that is based on class divides and magic that can be traced back to canonical texts such as Dante’s The Divine Comedy and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.The Conversation

Kelly Beestone, Assistant Researcher, University of Nottingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How I wrote and published a book about the economics of coronavirus in a month



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Joshua Gans, University of Toronto

Just out.
MIT Press First Reads

I just published a book, Economics in the Age of COVID-19.

It was written over the last month or so, peer-reviewed, edited and released by MIT Press.

This is the thoroughly-2020 story of how it happened.

Like many academics who entered our present period of isolation in mid-March, I was not at all concerned about my job and how to continue doing it.

To be sure, I would have to deal with purely online interactions with some 300 plus students but fortunately I twigged to the value of virtual lectures a few years ago.

Of course I would have to cancel all travel and conferences for the foreseeable future, but in some ways that thought was liberating.

And I would have to deal with motivating a teenager to learn at home, and with two annoyed college students who had been forced to return home.

Obsession

For the first week I got nothing done, despite being free to do anything.

I couldn’t help but obsess over what was happening in the world.

At first it was frustration at the slow pace of government action as I constantly refreshed scant data on rising infections.

Then it was panic that those actions wouldn’t be enough.

The economic changes were unprecedented. The stock market gyrated and convulsed in tune with fear and other motives that none of us could understand.




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What was clear was that if I was home, then so were most other people.

That would leave stores empty, factories shut, and services unnecessary. The vast majority of businesses rely on cash flow to keep things operating, and the cash was most definitely going to stop flowing.

While there were public health pandemic playbooks that were being followed with varying degrees of adherence, there was no economic playbook for this.

Playbook

No one had, to my knowledge, written a paper on how to shut down an economy and then simply restart it again at some unspecified time.

In my mind, the analogy was that we would have to pause things.

We happily shut down most economies each Christmas and no one screams “depression.” The easiest way to do this was to just delay bill payments without consequence.

I could think of ways to do it: loan guarantees, wage subsidies, straight out cash, moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.

I started to write up my thoughts as if that were original and insightful. And then I saw all of my economics colleagues doing the same thing.




Read more:
How economies can survive a period of ‘suspended animation’ to deal with coronavirus


Everyone had simultaneously come to the same conclusion. A new playbook was being invented at the same time, all over the world.

Trillions of dollars were being spent, but it was clear to me that non-economists were somewhat dumbfounded.

Hadn’t economists warned for years against the perils of deficits? Would our children be paying for this? And what was the plan? How long was this going to last and how sure were we that we could just get things back to normal?

We economists had some answers to these questions, but not all of them.

Sharing

Like public health officials who needed to explain in far more detail what was going on with COVID-19, economists needed to explain what they were thinking when they were taking such unusual and exceptional steps.

A week into my isolation, I decided I would write a book.

It would cover all of the economic issues, conundrums and controversies that were emerging. It would put what we knew together with what we did not know and try to help people process what was happening.

It would help me get a handle it as well.

I have written popular economics books before, but never as quickly.

My plan was to write 10 chapters – one a day – and then publish. In terms of that last step, I could self-publish, but, given the speed at which I was working, I couldn’t be confident I wouldn’t miss things. It had to be peer-reviewed.




Read more:
Open letter from 265 Australian economists: don’t sacrifice health for ‘the economy’


Most academic publishers work slowly but I contacted MIT Press and asked if they could do things differently. They came through in ways that I did not anticipate.

As it turns out MIT Press had recently collaborated with the MIT Media Lab on a platform called PubPub. It is built to allow public comment and review. The plan was for me to write the book and after an editorial review, post the entire thing to PubPub for open review by members of the public.

It was posted on April 7, just 19 days after I first had the idea to write a book.

There were only 8 chapters, but they were longer than I had anticipated – 30,000 words in all. You can see that version here.

Feedback

Then MIT Press sent it out to peer reviewers whom they pushed to return comments within a week.

In the meantime, I kept writing. Things were evolving quickly. More critically, economic research was flooding in as economists from all over the world diverted their energies from what they had been doing to researching different aspects of the crisis.

In the end, my guess is that 80% of the citations in the book were from two months in one year – March and April, 2020!

Finally, I had to incorporate a wealth of comments from open and peer review. The former (public comments) were actually more detailed and useful than the latter (peer comments), which raises issues for the future.

In the end, on April 22 (one week ahead of schedule), the electronic version of my book was published globally.

It was 40,000 words long and hopefully would remain relevant for a few months. It’s for sale here.

Do I recommend undertaking this type of challenge?

Next book

Overall, I am pleased there is something out there for people to read and digest.

But personally, it was more gruelling than I had anticipated. That wasn’t because of the intensity of the work, but because of its subject matter.

My other books were positive and optimistic. This one was, for the most part, depressing. The first words were “everything is awful”, and it didn’t get better.

My editor called the first version of the ending bleak. There were days in which I was overwhelmed by my own words and had to retire to a couch until I could pick myself up again.

Thankfully, despite my own feelings, most of those who have read the book have come away concerned and informed, rather than lost and hopeless. That’s something.




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The journey isn’t over. MIT Press will publish the usual version of the book in November. I will update it continually for a month or so before then.

There is still so much we do not know. We are learning more about COVID-19 and producing lots of studies, but I think the actual flow of knowledge has been disappointingly slow.

That’ll be the theme of the followup.The Conversation

Joshua Gans, Professor of Strategic Management, University of Toronto

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.