10 Contemporary Realistic Fiction Books

Contemporary Realistic Fiction Stories

Hello, avid readers and seekers of stories that mirror the complexities of real life! We go on a journey through the world of contemporary realistic fiction, a genre that holds a mirror up to the modern world, reflecting its joys, struggles, and the intricate dance of human relationships. These books offer us a chance to see our own lives and societies through the eyes of characters as real as our neighbors, friends, or even ourselves.

Whether you’re looking for stories that resonate with today’s social issues, tales of personal growth, or narratives that capture the subtleties of everyday life, there’s a wealth of experiences waiting to be discovered. So, grab your favorite cup of coffee, and let’s dive into the world of contemporary realistic fiction, where the stories are as diverse and rich as the world around us.

10 Contemporary Realistic Fiction Books

Contemporary realistic fiction addresses social issues and challenges prevalent in society, such as poverty, racism, sexism, LGBTQ+ rights, and immigration. Through storytelling, these books raise awareness, provoke thought, and spark important conversations about pressing social issues.

Here are ten such books for you. Whether it’s joy, sorrow, love, heartbreak, or hope, they resonate with readers emotionally, allowing them to connect deeply with the characters and their journeys. Let’s read!

NameKey FocusTropes
Normal People by Sally Rooney by A intimate exploration of the complex relationship between two from different backgrounds, navigating love, friendship, and personal growth through their formative years.Complex romantic relationships, social class dynamics, coming-of-age, mental health, miscommunication, intimacy and vulnerability, power imbalance, college life, evolving identity, Irish setting.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NgThe intricately weaves themes of motherhood, identity, and the clash of class and culture in a meticulously planned suburb, culminating in a dramatic exploration of the secrets and choices that define families.Suburban drama, secrets and lies, mother-daughter relationships, ethical dilemmas, racial and class tensions, adoption and custody battle, artist’s life, teenage angst, moral ambiguity, community dynamics.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia OwensA coming-of-age story with a murder mystery, set against the backdrop of the North Carolina marshes, highlighting the resilience of the isolated protagonist, Kya Clark, and her deep connection with nature.Nature and isolation, coming-of-age, murder mystery, social outcast, romance and betrayal, survival and self-sufficiency, environmentalism, courtroom drama, prejudice and judgment, poetic justice.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail HoneymanA journey of self-discovery and healing from past traumas, as experienced by the socially awkward but deeply endearing protagonist, Eleanor.Loneliness, social awkwardness, trauma and recovery, quirky protagonist, unexpected friendship, dark past, personal growth, humor amidst hardship, resilience, mental health awareness.
An American Marriage by Tayari JonesA profound exploration of love, loyalty, and injustice, focusing on a young African American couple torn apart by a wrongful conviction and its impact on their relationship and dreams.Wrongful imprisonment, racial injustice, love triangle, marriage and fidelity, personal growth under strain, letters as narrative devices, societal expectations, resilience and struggle, the American Dream questioned, family dynamics.
The Nightingale by Kristin HannahA gripping tale of two sisters in Nazi-occupied France, showcasing their bravery, resilience, and sacrifice as they face the dangers of war and resist the occupiers in their own ways.World War II backdrop, sisterly bond, resistance movements, survival against odds, women in war, family secrets, love and loss, personal transformation, moral dilemmas, the cost of war.
Educated by Tara WestoverA compelling memoir about the author’s journey from growing up in a strict and abusive household in rural Idaho with no formal education to earning a PhD from Cambridge University, exploring themes of family loyalty, personal growth, and the power of education.Survivalist family, quest for education, self-taught learning, estrangement and reconciliation, physical and emotional abuse, identity crisis, religious extremism, resilience and self-discovery, academic achievement against all odds, the conflict between family ties and personal growth.
The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasA powerful and moving narrative about a teenage girl who witnesses the police shooting of her unarmed friend, exploring themes of racial injustice, community, identity, and activism.Police brutality, racial injustice, activism and protest, coming-of-age, community solidarity, family dynamics, code-switching, systemic racism, personal growth and empowerment, the impact of violence.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik BackmanA heartwarming tale of a curmudgeonly old man whose life changes when a lively young family moves in next door, challenging his solitary existence and outlook on life.Grumpy yet endearing protagonist, unlikely friendships, grief and loss, community and belonging, flashbacks to reveal backstory, acts of kindness, humor amidst sadness, themes of suicide and depression, transformation through relationships, the impact of love and companionship.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins ReidAn enthralling journey through the glamorous and tumultuous life of a fictional Hollywood icon, revealing the complexities of love, ambition, and the sacrifices made for fame.Old Hollywood glamour, bisexuality and LGBTQ+ themes, complex female protagonist, marriages as strategic moves, exploration of racial identity, scandal and secrecy, journalistic investigation, love and loss, power dynamics in relationships, the cost of fame.
Contemporary Realistic Fiction Books List

1. Normal People by Sally Rooney

“Normal People” is a deeply moving exploration of the complex relationship between two young, Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron. They face the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Set in Ireland, the novel tracks their intertwined lives, from their high school days in a small town in the west of Ireland to their years at Trinity College Dublin. Rooney’s novel stands out for its astute examination of class, love, and the subtle dynamics that define human connections.

Normal People by Sally Rooney
Normal People by Sally Rooney


Marianne Sheridan: Marianne is intelligent, introspective, and comes from a wealthy but emotionally abusive family. She struggles with self-esteem issues and finds it difficult to form close relationships outside of her connection with Connell.

Connell Waldron: Connell is popular, kind, and the son of Marianne’s family’s cleaner. Despite his social ease, he grapples with his insecurities, particularly regarding his background and place in the world as he moves through college.

Themes: The novel shows the intricacies of social class and its impact on personal identity. Their differing social backgrounds deeply affect Marianne and Connell’s relationship, highlighting how class influences opportunities, relationships, and self-perception.

Rooney skillfully portrays the complexities of young love, emphasizing how lack of communication and misunderstandings profoundly affect relationships. The connection between Marianne and Connell is intense and genuine, yet it is thwarted by their inability to express their feelings openly. The narrative addresses issues of mental health, including depression and anxiety, as well as the impact of emotional and physical abuse. Both protagonists struggle with their mental health, shaped by their past experiences and current circumstances.

This realistic fiction was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018 and won the Costa Book Awards in the Novel category. It resonates with readers for its relatable characters, emotional depth, and Rooney’s ability to capture the essence of human relationships. It has also been adapted into a successful television series, further amplifying its impact and bringing Marianne and Connell’s story to a broader audience.

2. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng is a meticulously crafted novel that shows the complexities of suburban life, motherhood, adolescence, and the profound impact of secrets and identity. Set in the 1990s in the planned community of Shaker Heights, Ohio—a place that prides itself on order and conformity—the narrative unravels the intertwined lives of the Richardson family and Mia Warren and her daughter, Pearl, who disrupt the fabric of this orderly community.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng


The Richardson Family: Comprising of Elena Richardson, a journalist who embodies the community’s values, her husband Bill, and their four children: Lexie, Trip, Moody, and Izzy. Each family member plays a pivotal role in the unfolding drama, especially Izzy, the youngest, often at odds with Shaker Heights’ conformist nature.

Mia Warren: An enigmatic artist and single mother with a nomadic past, Mia moves to Shaker Heights with her daughter, Pearl, seeking stability. Her mysterious past and unconventional lifestyle set the stage for conflict and intrigue.

Pearl Warren: Mia’s intelligent and curious daughter who becomes closely entangled with the Richardson children, craving the stability and normalcy they represent.


Motherhood and Family Dynamics: The novel explores various facets of motherhood through different characters and their relationships with their children. The custody battle over May Ling Chow/Mirabelle McCullough becomes a central conflict, raising questions about what makes a “good” mother and the role of race and class in those judgments.

Identity and Secrets: Ng adeptly examines how secrets and past experiences shape the characters’ identities and decisions. Mia’s hidden past and the Richardson children’s struggles with their identities underscore the theme of personal discovery.

Race and Class: The book addresses issues of race, privilege, and socioeconomic status, mainly through the custody battle of a Chinese-American baby and the Warrens’ experiences in Shaker Heights. Ng challenges readers to consider how race and class intersect in American society.

Celeste Ng’s prose is elegant and evocative, capturing the minutiae of suburban life with precision and depth. The narrative structure expertly weaves together multiple storylines, gradually revealing the characters’ backstories and the secrets they hold. Ng’s attention to detail and character development invites us into the inner lives of her characters, making “Little Fires Everywhere” both intimate and universal.

This realistic contemporary fiction novel not only became a bestseller but also sparked discussions about motherhood, ethics, and the illusion of perfection in suburban America. It was awarded the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction in 2017 and has been adapted into a popular Hulu miniseries, bringing Ng’s intricate narrative to an even wider audience. This novel is a must-read for those who appreciate stories challenging perceptions and engaging with deep societal issues.

3. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

“Where the Crawdads Sing” is a captivating blend of a coming-of-age tale, murder mystery, and a deep exploration of nature’s beauty and isolation. Published in 2018, the novel quickly rose to immense popularity and resonated with us for its lyrical prose, intricate plot, and the unforgettable character of Kya Clark. Set against the backdrop of the North Carolina marshes, the novel spans from the 1950s to the 1970s, offering a profound look into a girl who grows up isolated from society but deeply connected to the natural world around her.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens


Kya Clark: Known to the townspeople as the “Marsh Girl,” Kya was abandoned by her family at a young age and grew up in the marshes of North Carolina. Resourceful and resilient, Kya’s life is intertwined with the natural world, which provides her with the means to survive and life’s lessons.

Tate Walker: A kind-hearted boy who becomes one of Kya’s first and most significant connections. Tate teaches Kya to read and write and shares a deep appreciation for nature with her.

Chase Andrews: A famous young man from the town who becomes romantically involved with Kya, leading to a complex and tumultuous relationship that plays a central role in the unfolding mystery.

Themes: The novel deeply explores themes of loneliness, abandonment, and the human need for connection, both to other people and to the natural world. Owens, a wildlife scientist, intricately details the marsh’s ecosystem, drawing parallels between the natural order and the societal structures that attempt to reject or control Kya.

Owens’s writing is lyrical and rich with descriptions of the marshland’s flora and fauna, creating a vivid and immersive setting that becomes a character in its own right. The narrative structure interweaves two timelines: Kya’s life story and the investigation into the death of Chase Andrews, which keeps the reader engaged with both the emotional depth of Kya’s journey and the suspense of the murder mystery.

This contemporary book has sparked discussions on human nature, environmental conservation, and society’s biases against those on its fringes. It has also been adapted into a film, further expanding its reach and impact.

4. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

“Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” is a profound and touching novel that covers themes of loneliness, trauma, and the transformative power of human connection. Published in 2017, this debut novel quickly garnered acclaim for its unique protagonist, dark humor, and emotionally resonant storytelling. Through the life of Eleanor Oliphant, a socially awkward woman who struggles with deep-seated emotional scars, Honeyman explores the importance of kindness and the unexpected ways people can change one another’s lives for the better.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman


Eleanor Oliphant: The protagonist, Eleanor, is a 30-year-old woman who leads a solitary life marked by routine and devoid of close personal relationships. Her awkward social skills and blunt manner hide a painful past and a longing for connection.

Raymond Gibbons: A co-worker of Eleanor’s, Raymond’s kindness and persistence slowly penetrate Eleanor’s carefully constructed defenses. He becomes a catalyst for Eleanor’s journey toward healing and self-discovery.

Themes: The novel vividly portrays the impact of loneliness on the human psyche, showcasing Eleanor’s isolation from society and her gradual realization of the desire for connection. Honeyman delicately handles the theme of trauma, revealing the roots of Eleanor’s emotional and psychological issues. The novel suggests that healing is possible through understanding, acceptance, and the support of others.

The Power of Kindness: A central message of the book is the transformative effect of small acts of kindness. Eleanor’s interactions with Raymond and other characters demonstrate how compassion can break down walls and change lives.

Gail Honeyman’s writing is sharp, witty, and deeply empathetic. She skillfully balances moments of dark humor with profound insights into loneliness and the human condition. The first-person narrative allows us intimate access to Eleanor’s thoughts and experiences, making her journey from isolation to self-acceptance both compelling and relatable.

The book won the Costa First Novel Award and was nominated for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as part of its path to becoming a bestseller. Readers and critics alike have praised the novel for its memorable characters, emotional depth, and Honeyman’s ability to address heavy themes with a light touch. The author has sparked conversations about mental health, the stigma of loneliness, and the societal importance of empathy and kindness.

Moreover, this contemporary fiction is set to be adapted into a film, promising to bring Eleanor’s story to an even wider audience and further its impact as a touching reminder of the power of human connection in overcoming the darkest of pasts, making it a deeply affecting and hopeful read.

5. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

“An American Marriage” is a poignant and deeply moving novel that explores themes of love, loyalty, racial injustice, and the personal and societal impacts of incarceration. Published in 2018, the book quickly garnered awards, including winning the Women’s Prize for Fiction and being selected for Oprah’s Book Club, significantly boosting its visibility and impact.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Plot Overview: The novel centers around Celestial and Roy, a young African-American couple who embody the American Dream. Celestial is an emerging artist, and Roy is a business executive. Their lives are upended when Roy is wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to twelve years in prison. The narrative unfolds through letters exchanged between the couple during Roy’s incarceration and through first-person narrative sections from Celestial, Roy, and their friend Andre, who becomes an integral part of their story.


Celestial Davenport: An artist who struggles with her obligations to her husband and her sense of identity and autonomy.

Roy Othaniel Hamilton: A successful business executive whose life is shattered by his wrongful conviction, showcasing his resilience and complexities in facing his changed reality.

Andre Tucker: A childhood friend of Celestial’s and, later, a significant figure in her life during Roy’s absence. His perspective adds depth to the exploration of loyalty and love.

Themes: The novel addresses African Americans’ systemic injustices, mainly focusing on the impact of wrongful incarceration on individuals and families. Jones focuses on the meaning of marriage, questioning the limits of loyalty and the challenges posed by external forces, such as Roy’s imprisonment. The story examines how love evolves, especially when confronted with unforeseen challenges, and how anyone grows within and outside the confines of relationships.

This novel stands out for its ability to weave a deeply personal story with broader societal issues, making it a significant and impactful work in contemporary fiction.

6. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

“The Nightingale” is a powerful and emotionally charged realistic fiction novel set against the backdrop of World War II in occupied France. Published in 2015, the novel has since captivated readers worldwide with its depiction of resilience, sacrifice, and the often-overlooked role of women during the war. Through the lives of two sisters, Vianne Mauriac and Isabelle Rossignol, Hannah explores themes of love, war, survival, and the incredible strength of the human spirit.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Plot Overview: The narrative unfolds through the contrasting experiences of the Mauriac and Rossignol sisters, who each respond to the horrors of war in their unique ways. The elder sister, Vianne, must face the challenges of survival and moral compromise when a German officer requisitions her home. At the same time, Isabelle, impulsive and rebellious, joins the French Resistance, risking her life to fight against Nazi occupation.


Vianne Mauriac: A teacher and mother whose primary concern is her daughter’s safety and home in the face of occupation. Her journey is one of quiet resilience, enduring loss, and the subtle forms of resistance that ensure survival.

Isabelle Rossignol (code-named “The Nightingale”): A young, fiery spirit driven by a passion for freedom and justice. She became a key figure in the Resistance, leading downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees into neutral Spain.

Antoine Mauriac: Vianne’s husband, who is captured and sent to a POW camp, symbolizing the personal costs of war.

Captain Wolfgang Beck: The German officer billeted in Vianne’s home, representing the complex human emotions and moral dilemmas faced by individuals on both sides of the conflict.

Themes: The novel shines a light on the significant, yet unacknowledged, contributions of women during wartime, from the home front to the Resistance. It portrays the various forms of overt and covert resistance, showcasing the courage and ingenuity of individuals fighting for freedom and survival. The story examines the bonds of family and love and the sacrifices made to protect those we hold dear.

Kristin Hannah’s writing is evocative and richly detailed, transporting readers to wartime France with vivid descriptions of the period’s landscapes, emotions, and turmoil. Her narrative seamlessly blends historical facts with deeply personal stories, creating a compelling and immersive reading experience.

“The Nightingale” has received numerous accolades, including the Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction, and has been published in over 45 languages. The novel has also been optioned for a film adaptation, highlighting its broad appeal and impact.

7. Educated by Tara Westover

“Educated” is a riveting, inspirational, realistic fiction memoir that chronicles the author’s journey from growing up in a strict and survivalist family in rural Idaho to earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. Published in 2018, Westover’s debut has garnered widespread fame for its honest and profound exploration of the pursuit of knowledge, self-discovery, and the transformative power of education.

Educated by Tara Westover
Educated by Tara Westover

Themes: Central to Westover’s narrative is the theme of education, not just in the academic sense but also in learning about the wider world and oneself. Her story highlights how education is a path to freedom and self-realization, allowing individuals to question their upbringing and form their identities.

The memoir coves deep into the complexities of family loyalty, especially within a dysfunctional and abusive household. Westover’s struggle to reconcile her love for her family with her need for personal growth and safety is a poignant aspect of her journey. It sheds light on the scars of such experiences and the courage required to confront and overcome them.

Writing: Westover’s prose is clear, compelling, and reflective, conveying complex emotions and thoughts with simplicity and power. Her ability to analyze and articulate the impact of her upbringing on her psyche and life choices adds a layer of depth to the narrative, making it not just a story of survival but also one of profound introspection and intellectual awakening.

Award: “Educated” has been featured on countless “best of the year” lists, including The New York Times Book Review, TIME, and The Economist, among others. It was a finalist for several prestigious awards, such as the LA Times Book Prize and the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. The memoir has resonated with readers and critics alike for its gripping tale of resilience, the pursuit of knowledge against all odds, and its exploration of the complex relationships within a family.

8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“The Hate U Give” is an impactful young adult novel that shows themes of racism, police brutality, and activism. Published in 2017, the book quickly garnered widespread acclaim for its unflinching portrayal of these issues through the eyes of a teenage girl. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Thomas’s debut novel offers a powerful narrative that resonates with readers and stimulates essential conversations about race, justice, and equality in contemporary America.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Plot Overview: The story follows Starr Carter, a 16-year-old African American girl who faces life between two worlds: the poor, mostly black neighborhood where she lives and the affluent, predominantly white prep school she attends.

Starr’s life is irrevocably changed when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer during a traffic stop. As the only witness to the incident, Starr is thrust into the national spotlight, grappling with her grief and the pressure to seek justice for Khalil while trying to find her voice and stand up for what’s right.


Starr Carter: The protagonist, whose first-person narrative provides a poignant and authentic perspective on the complexities of racial identity and activism.

Khalil Harris: Starr’s childhood best friend, whose death becomes a national symbol of police violence against unarmed black individuals.

Maverick Carter: Starr’s father is a former gang member who now owns a grocery store in their neighborhood and serves as a moral compass for Starr, emphasizing the importance of activism and community support.

Lisa Carter: Starr’s mother, a nurse who strives to provide a safe and stable environment for her family while supporting Starr through her trauma.

Themes: At its core, the novel addresses the systemic racism and violence black communities face in the United States, using Starr’s tragedy to highlight broader societal issues. Starr’s struggle to reconcile her identities in her predominantly black neighborhood and her mostly white prep school encapsulates the challenges of facing different cultural and social worlds.

Thomas emphasizes the importance of speaking out against injustice and the role of youth in driving social change, encouraging us to use our voices to challenge the status quo. The narrative is engaging and fast-paced, blending moments of tenderness, humor, and tragedy to create a multifaceted portrayal of Starr’s life and the impact of Khalil’s death on her community.

The book was also adapted into a successful feature film in 2018, extending its reach and impact. It has been praised for contributing to race and social justice discussions, serving as an essential educational tool and a catalyst for dialogue among readers of all ages.

Through Starr Carter’s journey, Angie Thomas offers a hopeful message about the power of individual and collective voices to effect change, making it an essential read for anyone looking to understand and engage with the critical social issues of our time.

9. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

“A Man Called Ove” is a contemporary, heartwarming,d realistic fiction novel that covers grief, loneliness, community, and the unexpected friendships that change our lives. First published in 2012 in Sweden and later translated into English, this novel quickly became a global sensation, touching readers’ hearts with its blend of humor, warmth, and depth.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Plot Overview: The story centers around Ove, a curmudgeonly widower who has given up on life following the loss of his beloved wife, Sonja. His days are spent enforcing block association rules that only he cares about, and visiting Sonja’s grave.

Ove’s plans to join his wife in the afterlife are constantly interrupted by his neighbors, who, despite his gruff exterior, come to him for help and gradually involve him in the community’s life. These interactions reveal Ove’s backstory, showcasing the events that shaped him into the man he is.


Ove: The protagonist, famous for his strict principles, short temper, and deep sense of integrity. Beneath his grumpy exterior lies a story of profound love, loss, and loneliness.

Parvaneh: A pregnant mother and Ove’s new neighbor, whose family becomes an unexpected source of disruption and, ultimately, connection for Ove.

Sonja: Ove’s late wife, whose memories and love continue to influence Ove’s actions and outlook on life. She is depicted through flashbacks, highlighting the contrast between Ove’s past happiness and his present grief.

Themes: The novel explores how the loss of a loved one profoundly affects a person, leading to isolation and despair but also showing the potential for healing through new relationships. Backman highlights the importance of community in overcoming loneliness and adversity. Initially seen as nuisances by Ove, the neighbors gradually become his unlikely support network.

The novel has been translated into numerous languages, becoming an international bestseller. Also, it inspired a successful Swedish film adaptation in 2015, and a Hollywood adaptation is in the works, further testament to its universal appeal and the resonant themes it explores.

10. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” is an enthralling and emotionally rich novel that delves deep into the glitzy yet grim world of Old Hollywood. Published in 2017, this book quickly captivated readers and critics alike, becoming a beloved tale of ambition, love, and the complexities of living in the spotlight. Through the fictional life story of Evelyn Hugo, a reclusive aging movie star, Reid explores themes of identity, sexuality, and the high cost of fame.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Plot Overview: The narrative unfolds as Monique Grant, a relatively unknown magazine reporter, is unexpectedly chosen by Evelyn Hugo to write her biography. As Evelyn recounts her life story, from her rise to stardom in the 1950s to her decision to leave Hollywood, she reveals the truths behind her glamorous and scandalous life, including the stories of her seven husbands and the great love of her life. The book weaves the past and present, gradually uncovering the connection between Evelyn and Monique, leading to a revelation that changes Monique’s life.


Evelyn Hugo: The protagonist, whose life story is a compelling exploration of ambition, love, and the sacrifices made for fame. Her character is complex, fiercely independent, and unapologetically flawed.

Monique Grant: The journalist chosen to write Evelyn’s biography. Monique’s personal growth and revelations parallel the unveiling of Evelyn’s story, adding depth to the narrative.

Celia St. James: Evelyn’s greatest love, whose relationship with Evelyn is central to the novel, showcasing the challenges of their secret romance in an era of Hollywood that demanded conformity.

Themes: Reid portrays Hollywood’s golden age with a critical eye, highlighting the industry’s beauty and allure while not shying away from its darker aspects, including the manipulation, sexism, and homophobia prevalent at the time. The novel explores public and private identity concepts, especially regarding sexuality and ethnic background. Evelyn’s Cuban heritage and her bisexuality are significant aspects of her character, reflecting broader themes of acceptance and the search for authenticity.

The story is a testament to the enduring power of love in all its forms and the sacrifices individuals are willing to make for it. Evelyn’s relationships, especially with Celia, illuminate the complexities of love and desire.

Taylor Jenkins Reid employs a captivating and fluid narrative style, mixing interview transcripts, newspaper articles, and traditional prose to tell Evelyn’s story. This approach, along with Reid’s rich character development and vivid setting descriptions, immerses readers in the world of Old Hollywood, making the novel both a page-turner and a poignant exploration of its themes.

The book has sparked discussions on the representation of LGBTQ+ relationships in literature and the impact of societal norms on personal freedom. It has also cemented Taylor Jenkins Reid’s status as a talented storyteller capable of weaving intricate tales that resonate with a wide audience.

Through the unforgettable character of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid offers us a story of breathtaking intimacy and scope, making it a must-read for anyone fascinated by the intersections of love, identity, and fame.

5 Contemporary Realistic Fiction Picture Books

  1. “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

This award-winning picture book follows a young boy named CJ and his grandmother as they take a bus ride across town. Along the journey, CJ’s grandmother helps him see the beauty and wonder in their everyday surroundings and the diverse people they meet along the way. The story celebrates urban life, gratitude, and the joy of helping others, all presented through vibrant illustrations and engaging dialogue.

  1. “The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi

Unhei, a young girl from Korea, worries that her new classmates in America won’t be able to pronounce her name. As she contemplates choosing a new name, her classmates become fascinated with learning the story behind her real name and its meaning. Complemented by colorful and expressive illustrations, this touching story explores themes of cultural identity, acceptance, and the importance of embracing one’s heritage.

  1. “Julian Is a Mermaid” by Jessica Love

This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Julian, a boy who dreams of becoming a mermaid. After seeing women dressed as mermaids on the subway, Julian uses his imagination and creativity to transform himself into one, fearing what his abuela thinks. The story is a tender exploration of self-expression, acceptance, and unconditional love, presented through stunning watercolor illustrations that capture Julian’s imaginative journey.

  1. “The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

This powerful book addresses the feelings of being an outsider and the courage it takes to share your story with others. Through the experiences of several children who feel different for various reasons, Woodson’s lyrical text and López’s vibrant illustrations encourage readers to embrace their uniqueness and find connections with those around them. It’s a celebration of diversity and the beauty of finding common ground.

  1. “A Bike Like Sergio’s” by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

When Ruben, who longs for a bike like his friend Sergio’s, finds a hundred-dollar bill, he faces a moral dilemma. This story explores themes of honesty, integrity, and empathy as Ruben grapples with deciding what to do with the money. Boelts crafts a thought-provoking narrative encouraging young readers to consider what they would do in Ruben’s place. At the same time, Jones’s expressive illustrations bring the characters and their emotions to life.

5 Contemporary Realistic Fiction Books For Kindergarten

  1. “The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

This beautiful book speaks directly to the feeling of being an outsider and the bravery required to share your story. Through its lyrical text and vibrant illustrations, kindergarteners are encouraged to embrace their differences and discover the joy of meeting others who are just as unique. It’s a powerful story about finding the courage to connect, even when you feel alone in a new environment.

  1. “Lola at the Library” by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Lola loves Tuesdays because that’s the day she visits the local library with her mother. This book celebrates the love of reading and the special bond between parents and children during shared activities. Through Lola’s excitement, young readers will see the library as a magical place full of stories to explore, fostering an early love for books and reading.

  1. “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

This award-winning picture book follows CJ and his grandmother as they take a bus journey through their city. Along the way, CJ learns to see beauty and wonder in the world around him despite their differences in perspective. The story is a heartwarming reminder of the importance of gratitude and finding joy in everyday moments, making it perfect for kindergarteners learning about the world.

  1. “A Chair for My Mother” by Vera B. Williams

After their home is destroyed in a fire, Rosa, her mother, and her grandmother save their coins to buy a big, comfortable chair that they can all enjoy. This classic story of resilience, saving, and family support beautifully illustrates and conveys messages about the value of hard work and the importance of community in overcoming adversity.

  1. “Waiting for the Biblioburro” by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra

Inspired by a true story, this book introduces children to Ana, who lives in a remote village in Colombia with limited book access. Ana is overjoyed when a librarian arrives on a donkey, bringing a traveling library. The story highlights the power of books to open up new worlds and the importance of education, even in the most challenging circumstances. It’s a beautiful way to introduce children to different cultures and the universal love of reading.

5 Contemporary Realistic Fiction Books For Middle School

  1. “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio

This novel follows August Pullman, a boy born with facial differences that have prevented him from attending a mainstream school—until now. Starting fifth grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid, but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. “Wonder” is a moving and powerful exploration of kindness, friendship, and the importance of accepting others and oneself. It’s an ideal read for middle schoolers learning about empathy and diversity.

  1. “Out of My Mind” by Sharon M. Draper

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory and is the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently, her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again. Being stuck inside her head made Melody go out of her mind until she discovered something that would allow her to speak for the first time. At last, Melody has a voice…but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

  1. “The Thing About Jellyfish” by Ali Benjamin

After her best friend drowns, Suzy Swanson becomes convinced that the true cause of the tragedy is a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory. This novel beautifully tackles grief, the search for understanding, and how we cope with things beyond our control. It’s a poignant story for middle schoolers dealing with loss or the complexities of growing up.

  1. “Fish in a Tree” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Whenever she lands in a new school, she can hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions. However, her newest teacher, Mr. Daniels, sees the bright, creative kid underneath the troublemaker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself, and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. Ally feels free to be herself as her confidence grows and the world opens up with possibilities.

  1. “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw has been running ever since his father pointed a gun at him and his mom—and they ran away to a new life. Ghost has a natural talent for running, which catches the attention of a local track coach. As part of an elite middle school track team, Ghost struggles to stay on track, literally and metaphorically, haunted by his past and the challenges of his present life. This story is the first in a series that explores themes of trauma, redemption, and the power of sport to bring change.

5 Contemporary Realistic Fiction Books For Young Adults

  1. “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this powerful novel follows Starr Carter, a teenager who faces life between her predominantly black neighborhood and her mostly white prep school. After witnessing the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend by a police officer, Starr finds herself at the center of a national controversy. Angie Thomas crafts a compelling story about racism, justice, and activism, urging readers to raise their voices against injustice.

  1. “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell

Set in the 1980s, this novel captures the story of two misfit teenagers, Eleanor and Park, who bond over comic books and mixtapes. As their relationship deepens, they confront the challenges of first love amid chaotic family dynamics and social pressures. Rowell’s touching portrayal of young love, identity, and the power of connection has made “Eleanor & Park” a beloved read among young adults.

  1. “All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven

This poignant novel explores the relationship between Finch, fascinated by death, and Violet, who lives for the future following her sister’s death. Together, they discover the beauty in their world and the healing power of love. Niven addresses mental health issues with sensitivity and honesty, creating a moving narrative about hope, grief, and the importance of understanding one’s worth.

  1. “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli

Simon Spier is a not-so-openly gay high school junior who prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But his secret risks being thrust into the spotlight when an email falls into the wrong hands. Now Simon is being blackmailed, and to keep his sexuality under wraps, he has to step out of his comfort zone before he’s outed against his will. Albertalli’s novel is a heartwarming and humorous look at identity, friendship, and the journey to self-acceptance.

  1. “Darius the Great Is Not Okay” by Adib Khorram

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi and knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, which will change his life. Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things will be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder.

Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.

5 Contemporary Realistic Fiction Romance Novels

  1. “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes

This novel introduces readers to Louisa Clark and Will Traynor, two individuals from vastly different worlds. Louisa, an ordinary girl leading a decidedly unexciting life, takes a job caring for Will, a former high-flyer now wheelchair-bound after an accident. What starts as a professional relationship evolves deeper, challenging both characters’ perceptions of love and our choices. “Me Before You” is a poignant exploration of love, loss, and the question of what it means to live truly.

  1. “The Light We Lost” by Jill Santopolo

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that forever changes their lives. What begins as a college romance becomes a complex relationship that spans years and continents as both pursue their dreams and navigate the challenges of adulthood. Santopolo’s novel is a deeply moving story about the enduring power of first love, the ideals that shape us, and the sacrifices we make for the path not taken.

  1. “One Day in December” by Josie Silver

Laurie doesn’t believe in love at first sight until she locks eyes with a man through a misted-up bus window. Though they don’t meet, Laurie spends a year searching for him, only to find him introduced as her best friend’s new boyfriend. Spanning ten years, Silver’s novel is a captivating tale of missed connections, the possibility of fate, and the life-altering impact of loving someone not destined for you.

  1. “The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang

Stella Lane thinks mathematics is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases—a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old. Believing she needs lessons on how to be good at sex, she hires escort Michael Phan, a scenario that leads to unexpected discoveries about love, intimacy, and personal acceptance. Hoang’s novel is a heartwarming, sexy story that challenges societal norms and expectations.

  1. “Normal People” by Sally Rooney

Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other at school, but when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between them. A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world, while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Rooney’s novel brilliantly faces the complexities of modern love and friendship, exploring how two people can profoundly impact each other’s lives.

Through these stories, we’ve navigated the highs and lows of the human experience, finding pieces of ourselves in the characters and their journeys. It’s been a pleasure to explore these narratives with you, shining a light on books that not only entertain but also challenge and inspire us to reflect on our lives and society.

I hope this exploration has sparked your curiosity and added a few titles to your ever-growing reading list. The power of contemporary realistic fiction lies in its ability to connect us to the world and each other, one page at a time. Until our next literary adventure, keep turning those pages and discovering the stories that speak to the reality of our times. Happy reading, and may your bookshelves always be filled with stories that enlighten and move you.

Read More:

5 Contemporary Romance Books Like My Life Next Door

7 Realistic Racism Books Like Dear Martin

7 Realistic Romance Books Like Love And Gelato

5 Children Realistic Fiction Books Like Restart

5 Realistic Fiction Books Like Fish In A Tree

Pauline Jackson

I like to talk about popular books. My book review inspires you to read and save time. Also, I summarize the book and give you the best lessons or ideas that can change your life. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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