So what are these books I’ve been ordering?
Actually, I’ve had a little reading feast of Young Adult books lately. I’ve always, always loved these books – when I was young adult a hundred years ago, and when I was a high school English teacher, and now that I’m (oh, deep breath) a senior citizen, I STILL love them.
They’re so fresh, so experimental, so touching.
Young readers are highly receptive to writers who play around with story possibilities as much as they play around with words. I love the way they often play with the way the words are combined in a sentence as well as the way they look on a page. (The Book Thief is a prime example)
They also don’t shy away from darkness. I’m talking serious noir, actually. (At the conference we were told that turbulent teenagers love books that echo the maelstrom inside them.) But these YA books balance serious topics like death or near death (a popular theme) with lightness, optimism and damn good writing.
So what have I been reading?
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I can’t remember where I stumbled across this suggestion, but it was somewhere on the web and someone was raving about this debut novel. I took it with me to read on the plane on the way to our recent conference. I’m not a speed reader, so I didn’t finish it on the plane, and I was surprised to find myself wanting to sneak away from the conference and back to my room to read a little more…
The premise has echoes of Groundhog Day. A girl in a fatal car accident gets to relive her last day till she gets it right. the blurb says:
They say to live every day as if it’s your last – but you never actually think it’s going to be. You always think you’ll have more time.
That’s what I thought. But I was wrong.
The thing is, you don’t get to know when it happens. You don’t remember to tell your family that you love them or – in my case – remember to say goodbye to them at all.
What if, like me, you could live your last day over again? Could you make it perfect? If your whole life flashed before your eyes, would you have any regrets? Are there things you’d want to change?
The Book Thief. Oh, wow! This book might not have quite the same fast-paced, compelling, page turning quality, but it’s wonderful! Truly, a great literary achievement.. Marcus Zusak, the Australian author, is a brilliant wordsmith (fabulous playfulness) and his book completely deserved its New York Times #1 bestselling status. The scope and the depth of his story are staggering and his characters are totally lovable. Even, amazingly its narrator… Death.
A quote: p 87
When the book closed, they shared a sideways glance. Papa spoke: ‘We made it, huh?’
Liesel, half-wrapped in blanket, studied the black book in her hand and its silver lettering. She nodded, dry-mouthed and early-morning hungry. It was one of those moments of perfect tiredness, of having conquered not only the work at hand, but the night who had blocked the way.
Papa stretched with his fists closed and his eyes grinding shut, and it was a morning that didn’t dare to be rainy. They each stood and walked to the kitchen, and through the fog and the frost of the window, they were able to see the pink bars of light on the snowy roofs of Himmel Street’s rooftops.
‘’Look at the colours,’ Papa said. It’s hard not to like a man, who not only notices colours, but speaks them.
If I Stay… by Gayle Forman, another NYT bestseller book, not unlike Before I Fall in that there’s another tragic accident, and more death, and yet totally different in delivery. Lovely, lovely writing and depth. I was so absorbed by the characters in this story -- and I think they were great roles models actually, so I'd highly recommend this book for any young person to read. And having lived with a musician daughter, I loved Mia (the cellist) and all the music and musos in this story.
I’m looking forward to the sequel. Where She Went.
I'd love to hear if you have any recommendations -- what's been your favourite recent read?