Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Any Excuse Will Do (YA Reads)

Sometimes I can be such a task master. I mean, it's one thing to assign myself research books on the history of the outer banks and how the ecosystem of the islands have changed. That makes sense, when I'm setting a book on the NC islands. But making myself read a whole stack of YA novels? That's just cruel.


I must have checked out a dozen YA books this summer, and devoured them all in the month of August while we ran from place to place. I even taught myself to read on the road, something I've never been able to do before. And it was so much fun! Here are a few of the highlights, with my writerly insights thrown in for good measure.

Vampire Academy, Book 1, by Richelle Mead.

I know I'm years behind the curve on this one, but I'm so glad I didn't let that stop me from picking it up. This was so intense! I loved it! The heroine is
a tough girl, which I like, but has a soft side and is fiercly loyal. The stakes
are super high and feel genuine--nothing superimposed or put there for plotting purposes here! My takeaway was that dark, intense novels with relatable but hard core girls can sell--which is a yay for me, since that's what my YA is shaping up to be! Also, the reader can really tell when the situation deserves extreme measures and the character's fears are justified...kind of like the potential fate of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice. Part of the book's lasting appeal is we know that despite the charming and peaceful veneer, society has no use for washed up old maids without an inheritance. In each case, the characters are going to have to find a way through their problems, 'cause going around them simply isn't an option.

All-American Girl, by Meg Cabot.

I've read several of the Princess Diaries, and liked them okay but never fell in love with the books. This one I enjoyed more. It's the story of girl who accidentally saves the life of the President, and gets caught up in a bit of political intrigue, high school popularity pushing, and the fascinating young man from art class who happens to be the President's son. It's cute, and a fun read. I liked the interesting background of 'At Home in the White House,' and the well-developed supporting characters. I also liked--and this is going to sound so writerly--how well put together the book was. Everything made sense, the plot threads weren't introduced and then dropped, and the end fit the beginning without being too predictable. I know some people don't care about endings, but I see the ending as the place where all the parts of the book synergistically come together and create something more than we started with or could piece together from the parts. And All-American Girl pulled that off.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares.

I confess, this book made me cry--and coming from me, that actually means something! I don't (normally) cry over books, and I don't choose books in the hopes that they'll make me cry. I read to escape, or work through my emotions. Rarely am I picking up a book so I can wallow in a tear fest. No, Pants made me cry because it touched the core of human loss in a girl I could relate to, especially having just experienced loss myself. And that's part of the beauty of Pants. The girls in the book are so different from one another that there's sure to be someone for everyone. They aren't brought together by any one commonality--like family, money, or hobbies--all that's tying them together is their friendship. In lesser hands, the different girls might have felt like spot holders for one cliche or another. You know, the pretty one, the smart one, the athletic one, etc. But instead the girls were each given unique problems, then left to muddle through them like real human beings. It was refreshing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And there you have it! Three 'current classics' that you really don't need a reason to read! Of course I read other books this summer, but most of them either blurred together into forgetable characters set against bland backgrounds or did the same thing as these books, only not as well. One thing I think both my reading side and writing side can agree is that books should stand our crisp and clear in my mind months after reading them, so yay for these books that achieve it!

What about you? Got any good books to recommend?

1 comment:

  1. Great reviews-and you're not the only one who's behind on those books :)

    I enjoyed Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon series and I just finished Mandy Hubbard's Ripple. Hubbard and Brennan have different writing styles, and it was fun to compare the way they dealt with fantasy elements, characters . . . and such. I can't honestly say one writer is better than the other. They simply are different.