There was an incredibly diverse range of Young Adult books reviewed over the past two months, and some incredibly insightful reviews. I’m thrilled to be able to share some of those with you here.
Welcome to my library had an extended response by Angela Long to Kirsten Krauth’s just_a_girl which was a recent book club selection. The story of a girl exploring her sexuality and place in the world led to debate and discussion amongst the readers – a sign of a book that has been successful in interesting the reader.
Our century is one of connectivity and instant self gratification however Krauth’s characters are lost in their own worlds of fantasy and disconnection, each avoiding their realities and unable to connect with their emotions. But where the others are caught in the despair of their own choices, Layla openly explores her options.
I thoroughly recommend going to read the rest of the review – it is a wonderful example of the depth of Young Adult books and the discussions around them.
Belle’s Bookshelf looked at The Accident by Kate Hendrick. She described the book – about the interweaving stories of three teenagers – as having beautiful writing and powerful imagery. She notes that the switching points of view can be a little confusing at first, but soon becomes engaging.
A lighter read, The Intern by Gabrielle Tozer, was reviewed by Bree (who bought it after hearing good things about it – reviews really work!). She describes it as a fun book which leaves you smiling. She also pointed out that it was nice to see a book that had a romance, but didn’t place it front and centre. The main character was focused on her job and her degree, and the romance was there, but not all consuming.
Bree also reviewed Romy Bright by Jen Storer, another story about a girl who has a goal she wants to achieve – this time playing guitar for a real gig. However, Romy is constrained by family obligations, with her mother and step father increasingly expecting her to take on baby-sitting and other household obligations. Bree pointed out that this is a very real concern in some families and that there are a number of teenagers who would relate to looking after younger siblings, sometimes at the expense of their own interests and activities.
Angie reviewed the recent winner of the Children’s Book Awards – Wildlife by Fiona Wood. The book, which is told in first person by two different narrators, follows the characters as they embark on a term at their school’s outdoor education camp:
The best moments of the novel are the scenes where the characters venture out for their solitary overnight experience in the bush. The descriptions of their fear felt in the threatening landscape but also their appreciation of its peaceful beauty are lovely passages: ‘It was quiet but for my puffed breathing and a wheeling spray of rosellas. I got up, legs trembling and started looking around. There was a pond, and it was full of fresh water after all the rain…Black sun spots burnt into the red of my closed eyelids when I blinked. I filled my hat with water and put it back on.’
Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzie Zail was reviewed by Rochelle. This is a very different book from the others reviewed – a historical fiction dealing with a 14 year old boy in Auschwitz. Alexander has lied about his age to be put into the men’s camp and when an opportunity arises to take care of the horses of the German soldiers, he grabs it. The book, which is based off the story of an Auschwitz survivor, shows a character who is guarded and unable to look beyond the present to hope for a future. However, it does manage to have both heart breaking moments and hope.
Just because the protagonist was 14 does not mean this should only be read by teens. I recommend this to everyone. This is a time in history that cannot be forgotten, and those looking to understand it more should read this book. Zail’s writing was flawless, she quickly drew me in and held me captive until the very last page. It was a powerful story of hope and survival. Alexander has sunk into my heart and will stay with me for a long time.
There’s been some discussion recently about Young Adult books and their intended audience. It’s becoming increasingly clear that although these stories are suitable for teenagers and deal with the lives of teenagers, that they are books which stretch far beyond a teenage audience.
YA novels were my ticket to ‘coolness’ in high school, when my speed reading led to an invitation to choose new books for the school library. I continued reading children’s and YA books long after I was supposed to ‘grow up’ – something which served me very well when I became a teacher and was known all over the school as ‘the teacher with the books’. I’m currently on maternity leave, enjoying the rich world of picture books with my toddler, saving libraries and sporadically blogging over at Adventures of a Subversive Reader