Monday, August 20, 2012
I love settings in books. A book that has an okay plot and okay characters can be made stronger for me as a reader with a memorable setting. I've done book lists with settings by country, but I noticed an interesting trend this year, and that's island settings. These are both real islands and fictional, and for me, that kind of setting is interesting as it installs both realistic and artificial barriers to character and plot development.
In developing this YA book list, I've left off classics, including Anne of Green Gables, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Lord of the Flies, and others in that tradition (and arguably, these might not technically be considered YA titles anyway). I've tried to limit to YA titles, too, as I'm aware of a few strong middle grade candidates (like Gordon Korman's entire "Island" series, though you'll see I did include one or two middle grade titles with good YA appeal). My interest is in more recent offerings, and I am interested in island settings in any genre. I know I'm going to miss a few, so feel free to drop in any other suggestions in the comments. The bulk of these books are available now, but I've noted the instances where they are not published just yet.
All descriptions come from WorldCat.
Abarat by Clive Barker: Candy Quackenbush of Chickentown, Minnesota, one day finds herself on the edge of a foreign world that is populated by strange creatures, and her life is forever changed.
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko: A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards' families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island's other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.
Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan (September): On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings--and to catch their wives. The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.
A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper: On her sixteenth birthday in 1936, Sophia begins a diary of life in her island country off the coast of Spain, where she is among the last descendants of an impoverished royal family trying to hold their nation together on the eve of the second World War.
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian (September): Three teenaged girls living on Jar Island band together to enact revenge on the people that have hurt them.
Lost Girls by Ann Kelly: In 1974, fourteen-year-old Bonnie, eight other Amelia Earhart Cadets aged nine to seventeen, and their irresponsible young leader are stranded on a forbidden island off the coast of Thailand on the brink of a deadly storm and must fight to survive.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: After a family tragedy, Jacob feels compelled to explore an abandoned orphanage on an island off the coast of Wales, discovering disturbing facts about the children who were kept there.
The Forsaken by Lisa M Stasse: After the formation of the United Northern Alliance--a merger of Canada, the United States, and Mexico into one nation--sixteen-year-old Alenna is sent to an desolate prison island for teenagers believed to be predisposed to violence.
Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Childs: When her mother suddenly decides to marry a near-stranger, Phoebe, whose passion is running, soon finds herself living on a remote Greek island, completing her senior year at an ancient high school where the students and teachers are all descended from gods or goddesses.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: Nineteen-year-old returning champion Sean Kendrick competes against Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to ride in the annual Scorpio Races, both trying to keep hold of their dangerous water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman: Born in the eighth year of Enclosure, ten-year-old Honor lives in a highly regulated colony with her defiant parents, but when they have an illegal second child and are taken away, it is up to Honor and her friend Helix, another "Unpredictable," to uncover a terrible secret about their Island and the Corporation that runs everything.
Island's End by Padma Venkatraman: A young girl trains to be the new spiritual leader of her remote Andaman Island tribe, while facing increasing threats from the modern world.
The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier: The adventures of two teenaged cousins who live in a place called The Floating Islands, one of whom is studying to become a mage and the other one of the legendary island flyers.
Ten by Gretchen McNeil (September): Ten teens head to a house party at a remote island mansion off the Washington coast . . . only for them to picked off by a killer one by one.
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe: Sixteen-year-old old Kaelyn challenges her fears, finds a second chance at love, and fights to keep her family and friends safe as a deadly new virus devastates her island community.
Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook: When seventeen-year-old Isobel's mother marries a man she just met and they move to his gothic mansion on an island, strange occurrences cause Isobel to fear that she is losing her sanity as her artist father did.
Blackwood by Gwenda Bond (September): On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.
Of course, there are these two, too, which would make nice read alikes to each other beyond simply their island setting:
The Turning by Francine Prose (October): A teen boy becomes the babysitter for two very peculiar children on a haunted island in this modern retelling of The Turn of the Screw.
Tighter by Adele Griffin: Based on Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw," tells the story of Jamie Atkinson's summer spent as a nanny in a small Rhode Island beach town, where she begins to fear that the estate may be haunted, especially after she learns of two deaths that occurred there the previous summer.