YA Appreciation Month

Young Adult Appreciation Month – Guest Post: Angie on Reading Young Adult Books

For our Young Adult Appreciation Month, we invited a few bloggers to write a piece on reading and blogging about Young Adult books. Our first guest blogger is Angie from the amazing blog Angieville. As soon as we started organising the event , we just KNEW we would be inviting Angie as she is responsible for a lot of our YA reading with her wonderful recommendations and reviews. We are honoured to give the floor to Angie and her poignant and all-kinds-of-awesome post:

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I have a library. Let’s set aside the fact that it’s also the laundry room and the music room and focus on the fact that it has earned its name for two very good reasons:
1. It has a cozy rug, two cozy chairs, and all of my beautiful books in it.
2. At any given time 20-30 of those books are out on loan.
My library has a revolving door policy and there are four or five neighborhood girls who pass through on a regular basis, checking out stacks and returning and exchanging them for more. I love loaning out my books so these teenage girls can enjoy them. It’s a win-win situation because they get to fall into beautiful new worlds and I get to watch them do it and remember.
Two examples:
Not long ago I gave one of them The Outsiders with the promise that it wouldn’t seem outdated once she got into it. She returned not only having fallen in love but speaking a new language full of Greasers and Socs, Ponyboys and Cherries. And we talked about how S.E. Hinton wrote it when she was sixteen about the kids and the streets she knew. And I remembered with almost breathtaking clarity that there is no experience like reading The Outsiders when you are sixteen as well and comprehending just exactly what an awesome and serendipitous thing that is.
Another of my girls returned a few weeks ago clutching The Book Thief in her hands. I smiled expectantly. “And?” Her lip trembled. “I’m not okay, Angie.” And so we sat on the cozy rug and talked about Liesel and Rudy and that wonderful passage:
“He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world.
She was the book thief without the words.
Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.”
We talked about how fierce a story it is and how much we cried. And when at the end she smiled and said, “I need something happy now,” I gave her a hug, handed her my old copy of Beauty, and sent her on her way.
Every time one of my books comes and goes I think to myself, Where would I be without them? Young adult novels changed the world for me. They brought me my first hero (Aerin from The Hero and the Crown), my first crush (Nat from The Witch of Blackbird Pond), my first brush with legends and lore (The Dark is Rising sequence). I like to think I would still be a reader without them, but no matter how much you love to read there are times when Ulysses is just not going to change your life and Alanna: the First Adventure will. I love reading about young adults encountering life in all its messy chaos and complexity. I love reading about them coming up short against it, confronting it, wrestling it to the ground if needs be, and ultimately embracing it and moving forward.
Madeleine L’Engle once said,

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

That line has stuck in my head ever since I first read it as a kid. I remember feeling a little thrill that this author I’d never met understood and didn’t underestimate me. And it still pops into my head from time to time, particularly when I’m faced with tiresome, yet prevalent YA snobs. There are those who don’t read young adult literature because it’s not their cup of tea and that’s fine. Although I maintain that the designation “YA” is a bit of a horse of a different color when it comes to genres. YA can (and does) cover the whole gauntlet. You can walk into any bookstore, locate the YA section, and have at your fingertips historicals, paranormals, romances, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, contemporary, steampunk, poetry, fairy tales, myths, and biographies. You name it, it’s there. So saying you don’t read YA is essentially saying you don’t like to read stories in which the protagonist is a young adult because that is the only trait they all share. And that’s fine. Just so we’re clear on the reasons. Because there are also those who do not read young adult literature because they believe it’s “just for kids.” Because they believe that when you reach a certain age you naturally graduate to the “real” books. And that once you make that defining leap you will never go back. To do so would, in fact, be embarrassing. And, really, why would you? Why would you read or care about characters who haven’t yet made that transition.
Because you would be missing out.
Some of the smartest, wittiest, most sophisticated writers I’ve encountered write young adult novels. I read and blog about young adult literature because it always surprises me. It’s not constrained by conventions but can be anything at all. Anything you need or want it to be. There are no rules.
A Few Classics

A dystopian novel told through the eyes of fifteen-year-old Daisy who is transplanted from her native NYC to England. Written in beautiful, arresting prose.
The story of a girl who switches places with her twin brother and goes to court disguised as a boy to learn to be a knight. Ms. Pierce at her very best.
Vietnam war historical about a nurse named Rebecca who enlists in the Army only to return home unsure of where she fits in anymore. Finest kind.
The thief Eugenides can steal anything. But when he becomes caught between three countries on the brink of war, his abilities and loyalties are put to the ultimate test. I have a hunch you’re going to be hearing more about this one…
A Few Recent Favorites

Knotty and painful, this complicated Australia epic is absolutely gorgeous. Give it 100 pages and I guarantee you’ll hold your breath for the duration.
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
A mildly autistic boy reluctantly spends the summer working in the copyroom at his father’s law firm. His slowly developing friendship with his co-worker Jasmine is the highlight of this quiet, lovely book.
Janie can’t sleep. Every time she does she is sucked into other people’s dreams and sometimes they ask her for help. Told in third person present tense, McMann’s short, terse sentences pack a punch.
Perfectly predictable, perfectly addicting modern West Side Story. Could not put it down. All the way up to the perfectly sappy ending.
A Few to Look Forward To
The mind blowingly awesome prequel to Graceling. You can read my spoiler-free review here. Trust me, you do NOT want to miss this one. Cashore brings it. Due out October 5th.
Ms. Peterfreund’s YA debut. Virgin descendents of Alexander the Great train for battle against killer unicorns not of the rainbow or sparkly variety. Really, how can you not want to check that book out? Dut out August 25th.
A modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which the “Beast” is a young boy with hooks for hands. I am always up for a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales and I am just really in love with that cover. Due out September 7th.
Got a hankering for a little steampunk? Scott Westerfeld (of Uglies fame) has the first in a steampunk trilogy coming out October 6th. I have a good feeling about this one.
Last but SO not least, the fourth book in the Queen’s Thief series and easily my most anticipated book of the coming year. Turner’s books are eminently re-readable and I am literally vibrating with my need to get a hold of this one. Due out March 23rd.
Thanks for having me, Smugs! It’s a treat to be here and celebrate Young Adult Appreciation Month with you guys.
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29 Comments

  • Ana
    July 27, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Wonderful post Angie. Love the story about your library.

    Do you know, I just love when you use the word “fierce” – that is such a good word for books. πŸ˜€

  • Kati
    July 27, 2009 at 6:52 am

    Wow! Hi Angie! I don’t know how I’ve never encountered your blog before, but it’s going in my blog roll.

    I’m new to YA (thanks mostly to Ana), but I’ll tell you this, it isn’t the YA that grew up with. I love that there seem to be no boundaries whatsoever with YA fiction these days. There is nowhere that these authors aren’t willing to go. The imaginations involved just astound me.

    Thank you for the recommendations, I’m dutifully jotting all of them down. It’s been such fun to discover a new genre of books, and have so many unread treasures at my disposal!

  • Angie
    July 27, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Thanks for having me, Ana! I love it when books and characters are fierce. It particularly rocks when I encounter it in YA for some reason.

    Kati, hi! I know what you mean. YA has changed a ton and for the better, IMO. It really is experiencing an exciting explosion right now. I hope you find something in the recs you enjoy! What have been your favorite YAs so far?

  • Tiah
    July 27, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Wow, so many books to add to my list, thank you! I am loving your bookshelves! There is nothing better than bookshelves full of books.

  • Tiffany M.
    July 27, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I loved your post! I had a similar feeling when I finished The Book Thief. Since then, I have bought extra copies, given them away as gifts and sent out recommendations. Beauty is another awesome book, leaving me with that happy feeling of bliss rising up from my soul off my shoulders to sparkle about my face.

    Thank you for the recommendations. I haven’t heard of a few of those! πŸ™‚

  • KMont
    July 27, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Thank you for the wonderful reading suggestions. I looked at my shelf this past weekend, thought I had more YA titles in the pile than I did, tho. Seems I must add more!

    Leviathan looks good and I’m excited to read some steampunk. And I already know I have to get Megan Whalen Turner’s series.

    BTW your library is…amazing.

  • CupK8
    July 27, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I think I have to bookmark this entry so I can come back and add all these books to my TBR list – thanks for the recommendations. How cool to have your very own library in your house!

  • Lusty Reader
    July 27, 2009 at 10:32 am

    you had me at “I have a library.” what a dream come true! no matter what other machinery your books share a room with!

    and gosh, this is the SECOND mention of my hugest childhood literary crush in one week here on the Book Smugglers: Sir Alanna of Pirate’s Swoop, Trebond, and Olau.

    Both the books and Alanna herself kick Harry Potter’s butt. I literally do a little jig whenever someone mentions this Tamora Pierce oeuvre. It also kickstarted my obsession with heroines dressing as boys.

    Thanks for all the other recs too! Although Thea has already comandeered my TBR with her recent recs, I will be adding these too.

  • Kati
    July 27, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Angie – Well, I just finished Melissa Marr’s three Faery Court books on audio. I’ve got Wings and Hunger Games downloaded to listen to. But I keep hearing about the Megan Whalen Turner series, so I think I’ll need to buy those in print. Have you read Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series? I don’t know why, but the Thief series evokes Black Jewels to me.

  • Angie
    July 27, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Tiah, you bet! I got the shelves shortly after moving into our house. All of my books had been in storage for three years and getting them up on the shelves was what made it home.

    Tiffany, thanks! THE BOOK THIEF is just one of those special ones, isn’t it? A great one to give away to young adults and adults alike. And I just love your description of BEAUTY! Makes me happy to hear others respond the same way as I do. πŸ™‚

    KMont, there is always room for more YA. I’m excited for LEVIATHAN. What an awesome cover it’s got! I’m sitting here waiting for you to read MWT. Checks clock. *tick tock* πŸ˜‰

    CupK8, let me know what you read and how you like them! And I know how lucky I am to have those shelves. I may not deserve them, but the books do!

    Lusty Reader, lol. You’ll notice I chose the happily washer/dryer-free angle in that shot. One of these days I’m going to get some kind of screen or curtain so they’ll be out of sight when you’re in the room as well.

    Another Alanna fan! *fistbump* I discovered the Alanna books when I was about 12 and went absolutely WILD over them. She was my first girl masquerading as boy as well and that series is right at the top of my comfort read list.

    I am very familiar with how good Thea is at padding your TBR and have given up resisting. Enjoy!

    Kati, I am completely irrational when it comes to the MWT books, so remember that when I say BUY THEM NOW. lol. Ana will back me up on this. They’re complete keepers. I loved THE HUNGER GAMES and am reading the sequel right now. Man, that woman knows how to keep you in suspense. I get all anxious just thinking about it…

    I haven’t read the Black Jewel series but have heard good things. Think it’s about time I jump in. Thanks for the rec!

  • Mandi
    July 27, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Great post!! I have recently started reading a lot more YA and I am really enjoying it. Thanks to you and the booksmugglers rec – I just received The Thief!! I can’t wait to start it:)

  • Kathy
    July 27, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Ang,
    Once again, fantastic post! You really are a great writer, when are you going to write a YA book???? I love the picture of your bookshelves, so jealous!

    Kath

  • Kris
    July 27, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Fabulous post, Angie. I said to someone the other day that I think I’m reading more YA as I get older. LOL. The quality of the work out at the moment simply amazes me.

    Ah, The Song of the Lioness quartet. That brings back so many memories as does Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising, which remains on my shelves to this day.

    My wish list thanks you! And I hope you don’t mind but I’m totally stealing that quote by Madeleine L’Engle. πŸ˜€

  • Lucienne Diver
    July 27, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! For the longest time my first child was going to be named Nathaniel after Nat in The Witch of Blackbird Pond. So love him.

    My sister came to reading through S.E. Hinton.

  • Memory
    July 27, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    This is such a great post. I agree with everything you’ve said, and I LOVE the look of your library!

  • Samantha
    July 27, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Great post Angie! I agree with you about a lot of your choices and the rest will be added to my TBR pile. πŸ˜†
    Beautiful, beautiful library *wipes away drool*! Now I see what you meant in your other post about organizing them all, that would be so much fun!

  • Angie
    July 27, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Mandi, woo-hoo! I hope you enjoy it and I hope you have a copy of the sequel on hand. πŸ˜‰

    Kath, you are so sweet. And that’s a very good question. *ponders*

    Kris, isn’t that the truth? I think it’s gotten better as we’ve gotten older. Although there are plenty of hidden, older gems. I try to highlight some of them on Retro Fridays on my blog.

    I’m so glad you’re another THE DARK IS RISING fan! What a wonderfully written series. Will Stanton is part of the reason I named my son Will. *happy* Also, feel free to pass on that L’Engle quote. It’s a good’un.

    Lucienne, awesome! Even at a tender age I knew Nat was completely wonderful. lol. I’m so glad to hear that your sister found reading through Hinton. I blew through her entire list after reading THE OUTSIDERS. Something about her particular brand of disaffected teens really struck me. And THE OUTSIDERS at least has worn extremely well over the years.

    Memory, thank you so much! Sometimes I just sit in there and stare at the stacks. Yes, I am rather a big nerd.

    Samantha, excellent! Let’s get those TBRs tottering a little bit more. Yeah, if I want to do a complete re-organization of the shelves I have to plan the time in. But it’s lots of fun.

  • Lenore
    July 28, 2009 at 3:43 am

    We have some of the same favorites!

    And I love how you loan out so many of your books. I do too, though none to actual teens.

  • Christine
    July 28, 2009 at 9:19 am

    You have a wonderful way with words, Angie. Something so simple as writing about your love for reading and the way you share your love for reading–just moved me so much. Those teenage girls in your neighborhood who borrow from you are so lucky. Not just to have access to an amazing array of reading material, but also, if not mostly, for the fact that they have YOU to talk to about what they read. I want to be one of those girls. I’d even help you fold laundry while talking books. πŸ™‚

    My 14 year old read The Outsiders last fall and responded the same way as your young friend. She asked for her own copy of The Outsiders, the film on dvd, and other S.E. Hinton books for Christmas. Of course, she got them. She and her friends even made an Outsiders-inspired team for a school event and each girl made themselves t-shirts, each claiming a different characters’ name on the back. How great is that how swept away they were and how a piece of literature could

    I love this insight of yours: “… no matter how much you love to read there are times when Ulysses is just not going to change your life and Alanna: the First Adventure will.”

    And your Madeleine L’Engle quote is brilliant.

    I loved this post. Truly a beautifully written tribute to YA literature.

  • Christine
    July 28, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Oops. I wasn’t finished with that one thought.

    *How great is that how swept away they were and how a piece of literature could affect them so profoundly?

  • Angie
    July 28, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Lenore, it’s one of life’s pleasures, isn’t it?

    Christine, wow! Thank you so much. I would love for you to fold laundry and talk books with me. And I cannot believe how awesome your daughter and her friends are for making an Outsiders-inspired team at school! I’m having a difficult time coming up with something cooler than that. What was your daughter’s team name? πŸ™‚ I will definitely be passing that story on. And that is just how I felt when I read it. Swept away. I had never heard of the book before and found it on a used bookstore shelf in San Antonio, TX when I was 13. It was a perfect reading experience.

  • orannia
    July 28, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    WOW Angie! That is one amazing post (and an amazing library – you’ve inspired me to make building my library top of my list [when I can eventually buy a house] πŸ™‚ ) Having someone like you to talk books with when you’re a teenager must be amazing – I know I would have loved it!

    And I’ll so be visiting your blog, because I love YA and there are so many books I have yet to discover (MWT being a good example!)

  • Michelle M
    July 28, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Angie – that was one fabulous post. I am so glad to hear the kids in your neighborhood are taking advantage of all that amazing book knowledge in your head!! I’m competely envious of your library however (even if it is by your washing machine);).

  • Angie
    July 28, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Orannia, yay for someday libraries in oneday houses! And please drop by anytime. As Ana’s review of the series indicates, the MWT books are worthy of a bump up in the TBR. πŸ™‚

    Michelle, thank you! I confess I love that they feel comfortable (and want) to drop by and check out books. And you’re welcome in my library anytime.

  • Rebs
    July 29, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Love you’re views on YA reading. The song of the lioness series my all time favorite reads.

  • Angie
    July 29, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Rebs, thank you! And I completely agree. It’s a series for all time. πŸ™‚

  • Jennifer
    August 4, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Wow, I love your library. When I was house hunting, one of the absolute musts was a room for my books. So I bought a house with an oddly shaped spare room and it houses most of my books.

    I love that you have a lending policy and a group of teenagers who borrow your books. They are so lucky to have you!

  • Angie
    August 4, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Jennifer, thank you! And may I say it is not weird in the slightest you bought a house based on its ability to house your books. With all they give us, they deserve a little room of their own. πŸ™‚ I would love to see a picture.

  • Jennifer
    August 9, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Angie, I totally agree! I don’t know if this link will work or not, but here’s my Flickr set of pictures of my library. http://www.flickr.com/photos/25843842@N04/sets/72157608914237383/ The romance books are on a nicer shelf now that I still haven’t taken a picture of and I’m building two more tiny bookcases this week.

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