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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jumping on the YA Bandwagon

It’s January, and the holidays are over. While that makes me sad, I did get to spend some quality time with my family, snuck in a bit of writing, and did a lot of pleasure reading, which always feeds my soul. For some reason, lately I’ve been drawn to YA fiction. Maybe it’s because YA is trendy now (thanks in part to Stephenie Meyer), but I don’t think that’s the reason. I think the reason is that today’s YA fiction is so darn good! My favorites tend to be well-written, plot driven and thoughtful fiction that’s not just for teenagers.

I’ll begin with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which obviously needs no endorsement from me. But this is a book that truly lives up to its hype. Here are the ingredients that make me adore it and its sequel Catching Fire: a strong female heroine names Katniss, a thoroughly believable dystopian world, a fast-moving and thrilling plot relating to the most extreme form of reality entertainment, characters who stay with you long after you’ve closed the book, spare but lyrical prose, and a compulsively readable storyline. I read both books in the series over the course of three days, then went into work and recommended them to my colleagues, many of whom went home and had the same response I did. These are, simply put, fantastic stories for almost any age. I cannot wait for the third book to be released this summer.

Also a stand-out is Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth, another dystopian story that gets it just right. If you’re spotting a trend in my picks, you’re also spotting a trend in literature right now: for some reason, readers seem to be craving bleak yet gripping stories of people facing the worst in humanity but using strength and love to guide them through unimaginable circumstances. Perhaps this trend was inspired by the success of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, one of my top ten books of all time. Or maybe collectively, the country is feeling pessimistic and longing for everyday heroes. The Forest of Hands and Teeth delivers that AND one of the most unique and horrific storylines I’ve read in a long time. Without giving too much away, Mary lives in a village that has isolated itself behind metal fences, protecting itself from the hordes of Unconsecrated that lay beyond in the Forest of Hands and Teeth. The Unconsecrated are zombie-like creatures spawned many generations ago during an infectious epidemic now referred to as the Return. While life inside the walls is orderly, peaceful, and strictly regimented by the Sisterhood, Mary is not content to accept the rules of her society, getting herself into a heap of trouble by being too curious. Scratch the surface of this placid community, and you’re going to find secrets that may make it impossible to stay. After the incredible set up, the book is a nonstop roller coaster ride of riveting action, suspense, and heartwrenching scenes of love and despair. I have been very sick over the past few days and in desperate need of sleep, but last night, I stayed up until 2 A.M. to finish the book because I absolutely could not put it down. And then, once I finished, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It is haunting in the very best way. And, it has a sequel, The Dead-Tossed Waves, coming out in March!

If you haven’t given the new YA a try, I highly recommend the books I've just mentioned, along with several others I’ve read this year: Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It, Mary Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox, and Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty series. There are many, many more out there; these are just a few I’ve really enjoyed!

1 comment:

sarah Pekkanen said...

I've heard amazing things about Hunger Games! Thanks for the review.. I really need to buy it.