Monday, May 14, 2012
We're changing it up a little bit this week and have invited someone from the other side of the book world to share her picks for our "So You Want to Read YA?" series.
So You Wanna Read YA Do Ya?
I came to YA through my job. When I was a chronological teen we had few books: Flowers in the Attic (gack), Sidney Sheldon (urp), Scruples (BRILLIANT!!!!!). Hah! None of these are YA books, though the combined maturity level of all the characters in all these books does not exceed that of a four-year-old, much less an actual teen. The point is, there was not a lot out there. Also I was a strange child with unhealthy fixations on Nixon, Canadian Mounties, and acquiring the power to achieve total clothes closet security.
So I understand, you're interested, but you don't have a history with YA. Also you might feel a bit shy of being seen with a dreaded "teen book." But YA is one of the most interesting places to explore psychology, morality, sexuality, spirituality. A good YA novel, whatever its window dressing, really gets at those moments when individuals begin to become fully realized autonomous beings. Since this is truly a ginomongous topic, there are so many paths to explore. A good YA novel does this bravely, passionately, and truthfully. Here are a few and, believe me, I had a very, VERY hard time narrowing it down. That's how rich this field is now.
Diana Wynne Jones. Holy Toast with Marmelade this woman, such an amazing writer, over so many titles. There might be a few "less good" ones, but I defy you to find a bad one. Not gonna happen. One of my favorites is Conrad's Fate. Is Conrad a person or a tool? Does he have a choice or a program?
Nancy Farmer. One of the single most fascinating women on the planet. A dinner at a Portuguese restaurant in Toronto lives in my memory. Also she uses the word "cathouse" in casual conversation. Try The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm. Holy Canoli.
For my final pick, Darren Shan. Yes, Darren Shan. If you think his books are only about grossing you out, you are not paying attention. Loyalty, Revenge, Family, The State, Sacrifice, Forgiveness, Faith, Honor, Courage, Cowardice. This is what Darren Shan is writing about. Teens reading his books are thinking about these issues while someone's head gets lopped off, but they're thinking about them nonetheless. If you don't want to commit to one of his series, I strongly encourage you to read The Thin Executioner. I hated Huckleberry Finn in high school, so tiresome, but I loved The Thin Executioner, which is a mediation on Twain.
I could go on and on and on and few on's after that. Sherman Alexie, Paolo Bacigalupi, Libba Bray, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, David McGinnis Gill, M.T. Anderson (author of the single best book of existentialism ever), Laurie Halse Anderson, A.S. King (truly a boss lady), Barry Lyga, Holly Black (oh my GOD, so good), Laini Taylor, Michael Lawrence, Catherine Fisher, Walter Dean Myers (bow down to the man).
You get the idea. I am almost metaphysically certain I will never read Johnathan Franzen and I have no regrets for I have these voices, these stories, to flat out smack me in the gob.
Dammit! I forgot the Antipodeans: Garth Nix, Karen Healey, Margo Lanagan, Marcus Zusak...