Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Young adult book review round-up

Enough talk of books about Andean plane wrecks, Soviet nuclear disasters, and Templar knights. It's time for a quick review of a few Young Adult books I've read recently.

I've discussed this topic before (and I'm happy to discuss it again), but my opinions have recently been clarified: there are three types of YA books out there. First, there's the cool kids, books like the City of Bones series, or A Great and Terrible Beauty. Sure, they're technically "young adult," but they're mature beyond their years and sometimes they smoke and drink a little, at least figuratively if not literally.

Then there are the nerd books, like Hattie Big Sky or The Girl Who Could Fly. These are simple, sweet, endearing books that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside.

The final category are the books that can kind of hang out with everyone. Books like the Harry Potter series, or maybe the Aragon books (I can't say for sure because I haven't read that series, but they strike me as being ubiquitous so I'm making an educated guess). They're hip enough to belong to the cool crowd, but they are widely appealing and generally inoffensive.

All of these books have merit. What you will personally like, however, just depends on your taste.


According to my analysis described above, Hattie Big Sky is a nerd book, and I love her for it. This is YA fiction the way I remember it best: a young kid rising to overcome a tough situation, good family values, a strong sense of place and time, and of course, a backdrop of war (preferably with Germans). I heard about this book from Lark and I wanted to help spread the word that the type of book I loved when I was actually a young adult (Jacob Have I Loved, Johnny Tremain, Stepping on the Cracks, etc.) is alive and well.

If you read enough books like City of Bones, though, you tend to forget that.

I've read two out of the three books in this series (which definitely belongs to the cool kid category) and I have mixed feelings about them. I think my reservations would largely disappear if these books weren't classified as Young Adult. I most likely would not let my young teenager read them. On the other hand, they are compelling books that are perfectly appropriate for the right audience. I've read two of them so far, and I am planning to read the third. Make of that what you will.


Back in the nerdy category is Victoria Forester's The Girl Who Could Fly. Stephenie Meyer said it best when she described this book as being a cross between X-Men and Little House on the Prairie. That sounded really odd until I read the book. She's right; it is. And it works beautifully.

Is anyone else reading any good YA books lately? Do you agree with my cool kid/nerd/everyman classification?

6 comments:

Aimee said...

I love that you posted on YA books, because I have never outgrown them! I read a book called "Princess Academy" by Shannon Hale (whom you have blogged about if I am not mistaken). At the moment I have "the Goose Girl" by her, as well as "The Same Stuff as Stars" by Katherine Paterson borrowed from the library. I love "Jacob Have I Loved" and Katherine Paterson in general. Have you ever read "The Great Gilly Hopkins?" A few other amazing books are "Homecoming" "Dicey's Song" and "Jackaroo" by Cynthia Voigt. One of my all time favorite is "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" By Avi, I have read it time and time again.

Shannan said...

I lived at the library as a kid and now as an adult. And I like that you posted about this because I have found that I really like YA books. I sometimes feel guilty about reading them because I "shouldn't be in that section" of the library, but some just stick. I liked the Golden Compass series which is considered YA - I didn't find them contraversial like everyone else did - they were just a good take on fantasy.
Natalie Babbitt was one of my favorite (Search for Delicious) as well as Katherine Paterson which you mentioned already. Loved Lois Lowry and I've been meaning to read The Giver for years (as it was published after I left school), but haven't gotten around to it. Maybe when my sons have it assigned to them.

Bridget said...

Aimee, The Princess Academy is one of my all-time favorites, YA genre aside. I recall having read everything Katherine Paterson ever wrote when I was a child, but I should go back and give some of them another go. Charlotte Doyle is another one of my favorites. I love the YA books that you can just read over and over and over again and it doesn't even matter. As long as we're all gushing nerdily, I'll add The Egypt Game, Calico Captive, and anything by Roald Dahl to my list of favorites.

Shannan, those are some of my favorite authors as well. I loved Tuck Everlasting and also Number the Stars - actually, Lois Lowry has quite a few of my favorites now that I look at a list of what she's written.

Who says we don't "belong" in the YA section? Obviously there are quite a few of us grown-ups reading in that category.

Bridget said...

You know, Charlotte Doyle brings up one of my main damages with YA lit these days. So back when we were kids, you had books like Charlotte Doyle. A serious book with a thrilling story, and certainly some dark elements, but all in good, clean fun.

These days, you have books like Bloody Jack which takes essentially the same premise as CD but gives it an ugly, creepy twist involving pedophilia as well as barely-teens having sex. Those issues may have their place in serious literature for thoughtful kids, but they don't belong in a book about a light-hearted adventure on the high seas.

Who's with me?

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Those elements don't belong in any YA lit, and I don't care to read them in any adult lit either.

Anonymous said...

Though...it's not as if the music geared toward teens is any better. I was sitting with a group of 12 year old's today who were singing a bawdy song--and exclaiming, "I LOOOVE this song. I listen to it EVERY single DAY!" Right. Wait till you're married and catch your spouse doing those things with another person. We'll see if you LOOOVE it then.

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