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:
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.
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with the promise that it wouldn’t seem outdated once she got into it.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.
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
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.