I have a not-so-secret addiction to YA Novels. I used to be embarrassed to purchase books from the Young Adult section of bookstores, but not anymore. Over the last few years I’ve come to terms with my love of all things not rooted in the “grown-up” world. Besides, I live that reality every day of my life and I’d much rather escape with a narrator that houses a completely different set of issues and tribulations. A common misconception held by many readers is that YA novels are somehow lowbrow knockoffs of adult titles. This is so absolutely not the case. I can honestly say that many of the YA novels I’ve read over the years have been head and shoulders above some of the popular adult fiction that so often finds its way onto various bestseller lists and then become critical darlings. Just because 14 people in your subway car are reading the same book doesn’t mean that you have to. Below are some of the excellent YA titles I’ve read recently that I think will also serve to convince you that there’s nothing wrong with loving YA.
The Hunger Games is a brilliant character driven tale by Suzanne Collins that takes place in a distopian version of America called Panem in the not-so-distant future where a rather Shirley Jackson type lottery is held each year that forces two adolescents from each of the country’s twelve districts to compete on a vicious reality television program where only one survivor can win. And by survivor they mean you have to be alive at the end, none of this “silly” you’re voted off the island and go back to civilization and a segment on the Today Show business. These young men and women are expected to fight to their deaths under harsh conditions and artificially manufactured scenarios. In the story we follow, Katniss, a young woman from one of the poorest districts in Panem, who volunteers for the games after her younger sister’s name is drawn to be a participant. Katniss takes her sisters place and is then forced to participate in some of the most horrific mentally and physically challenging tasks one can imagine. The horrible irony of the novel is that there are several secondary characters that Katniss meets and interacts with that you will inevitably grow to love, including the endearing young baker’s son whom she grew up with, Peeta, and an intriguing young girl named Rue who will steal your heart, but The Hunger Games insist that there can be only one winner so please prepare yourself for a bit of heart wrenching grief. I found this novel to be incredibly addictive. I couldn’t put it down and honestly I’m beside myself with the thought that I have to wait until September to read the next title in the series.
Graceling is hands down the best book I’ve read in the last 6 months. I’m not generally into fantasy novels. I’ve never really cared about magical worlds with mythical creatures and dastardly bad guys riding horses to storm cold stone castles but since reading Kristin Cashore’s amazingly plotted first novel I have to say my mind has been thoroughly changed. Graceling is the story of Lady Katsa who lives under the command of her not-so-nice uncle King Randa in the kingdom of the Middluns. In the world of this novel certain individuals are born with special abilities called graces. These “gifts” range from the mundane, such as being an amazing cook, to the extreme such as being able to read minds or, as in Katsa’s case, the ability to kill. Men and women who are graced are marked by having two color eyes. Suffice to say, her henchman-like reputation precedes her and Katsa, with her stunning green and blue eyes, is both revered and feared by the people she encounters. When Katsa meets Po, a fellow graceling with whom combat skills have been bestowed upon, things start to get very interesting. It appears that not everything is as it seems in the kingdom and Po and Katsa set out on an eventful journey to uncover the truth. Long days on horses and even longer nights by the fire allow for a burgeoning romance between the two which plays off nicely with the continuous swashbuckling adventure that ensues. You will not be disappointed with this story. The prequel to Graceling, Fire, is set to be published this fall. I suggest that you get it on your pre-order list immediately. In the meantime, you can keep up with all of the author’s going ons at her blog: This is My Secret.
For all of my fellow Gossip Girl addicts I implore you to check out the Luxe novels by Anna Godbersen. The first novel opens with a quote from The Age of Innocence so I’ve always thought of these novels as Gossip Girl meets Edith Wharton, which is even more funny as Gossip Girl just recently aired an episode where our favorite Upper East Siders put on a play of The Age of Innocence. Truly escapist in nature and dripping in romance and intrigue these novels trace the daily activities of the beautiful Holland sisters, Elizabeth and Diana, and their eccentric circle of equally rich and troubled friends. Instead of chauffeured cars, Manolo Blahniks, and iPhones we have horse and buggies, Parisian seamstresses, and calling cards but the effect is still quote similar. The third title in the series, Envy, was just released in January and I’m impatiently waiting for my friend Anna to finish reading it so I can curl up in my favorite chair and devour it.
Some additional upcoming and currently available novels on my “to read” list include:
Jumping Off Swing by Jo Knowles (scheduled to be released on August 11, 2009)
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Along for the Ride by Sarah Desen (scheduled to be released on June 16, 2009)