Posts Tagged ‘young adult lit’
The Hunger Games had been on my list of “to reads” for awhile, and this summer my mom mailed me her box set of the trilogy. She teaches junior high English (heaven is not reward enough for this career), and her students had torn through the three books so quickly she could hardly keep track of who had which one. It took me about fifty pages, but I was absolutely hooked and stayed up reading WHILE THE BABY SLEPT as I could not put these books down. There is no higher praise from a new mom than to willingly give up sleep, and I gave it up in not just minutes but hours for Katniss and Peeta.
Not so much for Gale.
I won’t spend time recapping the story of kids being forced to duel to the death, but I will say these books are as dark as they sound, which has apparently caused some controversy. Oh, to have such time on my hands! I found myself agreeing with a column on NPR, “Seeing Teenagers As We Wish They Were: The Debate over YA Fiction,” as Linda Holmes notes, “… I’m more intrigued by the aspirational nature of the quaint but sad idea that teenagers, if you don’t give them The Hunger Games, can be effectively surrounded by images of joy and beauty.”
Word. I remember a bit too vividly for my own comfort what it is like to be a teenager, and there were not pillows made of cotton candy.
Holmes says: “Honestly, the kids who are reading the scary YA fiction — the dark stuff, the creepy stuff, the adventurous and weird and dirty stuff — are the same kids who, if YA fiction weren’t dark and creepy sometimes, would just read dark and creepy books for adults.”
It’s so true- and I would argue that perhaps more important than what any teenager reads is the fact that they’re reading. On a selfish note, however, I’m just glad there’s a young adult series out there in which one of the main characters is not repeatedly described as “glistening.”
In case anyone was wondering, there’s absolutely no way Bella Swan would survive The Hunger Games.
It was rainy over the weekend and perfect time to curl up and reread A Wrinkle in Time. Madeleine L’Engle came across my radar again when one of my friends posted a quote, and suddenly I remembered how much I loved her books as a child.
Several thoughts: first, I remembered this book being longer. Maybe I was remembering the series as a whole instead? Or perhaps I’ve just gotten used to books with lengthy descriptive passages. Secondly, I was intrigued to find that I also didn’t remember as much overt talk of God, and then I started thinking of this series, the Narnia series, and His Dark Materials trilogy- and to some extent, Harry Potter- as its own sub-genre of young adult literature.
In some ways, A Wrinkle in Time wasn’t as amazing as I remembered. It’s underdeveloped in some ways- including half of the main family- and the themes lack even a hit of subtlety. Still, there was something comforting about opening this book to the first page and settling in to a world where smart kids encounter magical creatures and a giant evil brain. After all, every now and then, it’s nice to think that while you might be an outcast in one dimension, you could kick some ass in another (non-internet) one.
Now if only I could find a tesseract.
I read The Graveyard Book over the long weekend while I visited Sonika, and I’m telling you, this is a testament to how awesome Neil Gaiman is because we packed our days and I was exhausted every night.
The Graveyard Book won the Newberry Award last year, which is an award for young adult books. Although Gaiman hadn’t heard of the award when his agent called to give him the news, it still puts his book in fairly good company if you’re into young adult books at all- or were ever a kid.
The book opens with the murders of an entire family, except for the toddler son, who crawls out the open door and into the graveyard across the street. The ghosts decide to protect the child, and name him Nobody Owens. As he grows up, he moves back and forth between the living and the dead, and eventually comes face to face with his would-be murderer. The dialogue is wonderful, as are the histories of the ghosts and Nobody’s guardians.
As someone who reads the graphic novels on occasion, I also really enjoyed the illustrations by Dave McKean, who rocks my socks off.
All in all, a great book, as I promptly came home and recommended it to my mom, and decided I might just have to own a copy for myself.
After reading Kat’s review, I had to read The Book Thief. (This happens to me fairly regularly – she reads something awesome and then I’ve got to get into it.) I have a bit of an academic fetish with the Holocaust and a definite fascination with Death, so it was remarkable that I hadn’t already read a book transpiring during WWII that was narrated by death.
The only other YA lit about WWII that I’ve read, or indeed know about, is Number the Stars, which this book resembled in just about no way whatsoever. Number the Stars is a much more linear narrative sticking to the lives of the characters involved. The narration of The Book Thief by an outside force, specifically by Death, allows Zusak to create a more magical atmosphere in such a dark subject. I felt that this book’s closest peers were the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman; books classified as YA lit because their protagonists were children and their language was readily accessible, but with intense plots and sophisticated messages.
Unlike Kat, this book did not make me weep, though that was only due to the amount of foreshadowing of the ending that filled the last third of the book. It did break my heart into a thousand tiny little pieces though. I can’t fault Zusak for not trying, I’m just not a crier at books. Movies, yes, but there’s only one book in the history of books that has ever made me cry. Oh yes, The Time-Traveler’s Wife had me crying like a baby for HOURS. My husband at the time was asleep when I finished reading at at 2AM one Icelandic winter’s night and I had to wake him up and ask him to hold me while I wept.
So, no weeping for me, but definitely a heavy feeling in my soul. In a good way.