2013 is my year for reading Young Adult literature, and so far, so good. I may have cheated a little and read a few in late 2012, but I was eager to get started. Here’s what I’ve read so far:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I figured if I was going to start anywhere, I might as well see what the big fuss was about with John Green. I’m a fan of him and his brother, Hank, and their various YouTube channels (though, if I’m being honest, I have to say I like John’s videos better), so I figured why not give his books a try? I pretty much automatically went with “The Fault in Out Stars,” since it’s his latest and most famous work. The book was good, and Green writes teenage girls pretty well. I like that he treated her as a person rather than just a “girl character”. Considering I’ve heard all of his protagonists have thus far been male, and all of their love interests manic pixie dream girl types, I was delighted to find how much I liked Hazel.
Overall, I found it a sweet, sad and enjoyable book, though I noticed a lot of John Green’s characters sound just like John Green. A lot of the time, I read their dialogue in his voice. Thank God Hazel never really said “And then I took off my bra.” I also didn’t cry, but it might have more to do with the fact that I’m a heartless bastard then anything.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
I’d been wanting to read this since I heard about it, as I first saw it at Books Inc. being recommend with the phrase “Blade Runner meets Sailor Moon”. And if you know me at all, I love anything and everything that has to do with Sailor Moon.
The book itself was an EXTREMELY fun read. I love the characters, the fast pace, the funny dialogue and the world Meyer built in New Beijing. Cinder herself was smart and resourceful, and I love that in a YA heroine. I also love the trope subversion of “the girl does not think she’s beautiful until someone else (usually a guy) points it out”. Cinder is (SPOILERS) Lunar, so she is able to use a glamour to make herself look differently, which is something she didn’t know until a scientist told her. Anyway, it amuses me.
I was really impressed by this book, and also downloaded the shorts stories “Glitches” and “The Queens Army” from iBooks. I had no idea it was such a trend to write short stories to tie series books together, but apparently it’s then norm in YA books these days. The second book in the series, “Scarlet” is out now, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
Enclave by Ann Aguire
I found this book a little duller than the other two on this list so far, but I really liked the world in which it was set. In fact, the two short stories that accompany this book “Foundation” and “Endurance,” the first being about the how the underground enclaves came to be, and the second about the main character’s best friends and their escape from their enclave, were a lot more interesting to me. Post-apocalyptic stories are some of my favorites, and I always love to read about different versions of how people will think the world may “end”. I was just sad to find the characters that live within the world kind of boring. My favorite parts were definitely before they left the enclave, and everything after that seemed kind of slow and meh. Also, the character of Stalker especially bothers me, since he and the main character, Deuce, have a dubious relationship. Considering his original plan for her was (trigger warning: rape – highlight to read) most likely a gang rape, I am not happy that he joined the “hero’s party,” as I tend to call it.
I will give the second book a try, but I am not in love with the main cast. It’s a little disappointing since I liked the short stories so much. I hope the characters receive more development in the later books and become more interesting and likable.
What the Dog Said by Randi Reisfeld
I was surprised to see Randi Reisfeld’s name on the cover of this book, as I recognized it from the novelizations of the television show “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” I used to read when I was a kid. It’s interesting to see she’s doing original writing and now, and was also responsible for the book series T*Witches (along with H.B. Gilmour, to whom “What the Dog Said” is dedicated), which I remember being turned into a Disney Channel movie starring Tia and Tamara Mowry from “Sister, Sister”. I’m having flashbacks to the 90s, guys.
“What the Dog Said” is a cute book about a girl who starts hearing her sister’s dog talk. I thought the summary sounded a little like a Disney Channel movie, as it seemed like it would appeal to a younger audience than YA readers, but what do I know about them? Though I thought the narrative dragged in place, I liked Grace, enjoyed her story and even related to her. She’s depressed due to her father’s death, and when she gets stuck with training the service dog her sister brings home, it was encouraging to watch her pull herself out of her muck and learn to feel better again. And I may also have a soft spot for goofy dogs.
Overall, a cute book, and though it might be a little on the young side for me, it was a good story with a good message. I hope it encourages a couple of kids who read it to think about training a service dog, or to at least adopt one from a shelter if they can.
I was very surprised by Ruby Red. First, whoever wrote the jacket description should be fired. It does not reflect the good, solid writing contained within, nor does it do it justice. The book is well-written, funny and charming, which is exactly how I like my YA novels. If you have to spend an entire book (or three) in someone’s head, they had better be entertaining. The other thing that surprised me about the novel was that I actually cared about the main couple, which is not something I tend to do with YA books. Often the romance seems forced or unimportant to the overall plot, but Gwen and Gideon’s relationship seemed very natural, and the author didn’t leave you wondering about it. She tells you within the first half of the first novel they’re a thing, and, unusually for me, I wanted to find out how it happened! Time travel is tricksy that way. Not to mention, the time travel aspect thus far well done, too. It’s not easy keeping track of complicated timey-wimey rules, but Gier manages it. I’m just hoping the next installments shed some light on the mysteries and don’t leave too much unsolved, but suffice to say I will definitely be reading them.
And that’s all so far! I’ve got a few more on my current list, including the second books in the “Cinder” and “Ruby Red” series. I’m currently reading “This Dark Endeavor” by Kenneth Oppel, about the twin brothers Frankenstein, and I also have “The Eleventh Place” by Jeff Hirsh and “Invisible World” by Suzanne Weyn waiting – courtesy of my mother-in-law who teaches seventh grade English and knows about all the good YA books. (I actually read everything on this list except “Cinder” and “The Fault in Our Stars” on her recommendation!)
Does anyone else see a trend here, by the way? Every YA book I’ve read so far has been narrated by teenage girls. And it’s kind of great. A lot of YA books I read in the past and disliked (“The Perks of being a Wallflower” by Stephan Chobsky, “Hairstyles of the Damned” by Joe Meno, “Playing with Matches” by Brian Katcher, “Miss Peregine’s Homes for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs, etc.) all had male narrators. I’m not saying men/male narrators automatically make for bad YA books (I didn’t like the way “The Hunger Games” was written, and Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother” is one of my favorite YA books), but I think I was just reading the wrong stuff. How sad that it put me off the genre so long!
How about you guys? Read any good YA lately? Have anything to recommend? I’m all ears!