Thursday, April 30, 2009

YA . . . more than OKAY!

I still have several books and authors I want to share with you and so the Book Beat beats on. The popularity of the Harry Potter books and, more recently, the Twilight series, has highlighted the fact that books written for younger audiences also have appeal for adult readers. As with books written for adults, YA books vary in style, quality of writing, and level of difficulty. For me, however, a compelling narrative is a compelling narrative, whether or not I am a particular book’s target reader. I get pretty frustrated/annoyed when people consider certain types of books beneath them. When I read, sure I hope to learn, to be inspired, to be transported, to appreciate the beauty of language and the nuances of a writer’s style, but most of all, I hope to enjoy the reading experience. If you enjoy the books you are reading, do not let anyone make you feel ashamed or foolish about what you read. Now down from soapbox, I present my next grouping of books you may want to check out:

Novels Written for Young Adults that Might Appeal to Readers of All Ages:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I resisted this book, despite its awesome reviews, because I did not think I wanted to read another Holocaust narrative because, you know, they do not tend to end well even though they often highlight the best of human courage and resiliency alongside the worst human depravity. The Book Thief offers insight into the Holocaust from the perspective of a young German girl, reminding readers that not all Germans bought into Nazi thinking, even though party membership was widespread. The book is narrated by Death, which takes some getting used to, but is effective. What I love most about this book is the way it highlights the tremendous power of words, a truth that readers of all ages cannot be exposed to enough. Steal this book if you have to. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This novel made me wish I was teaching ninth grade English, which is, trust me, quite rare. Set in the future, The Hunger Games is the perfect novel for helping one to reflect upon present realities, particularly reality television. LAP and I have discussed how people (ourselves included) these days are kind of “soft” and wondered if we could step up and survive without life’s luxuries if we had to do so. This book offers glimpses of life lived in survival mode. It would be a great book to teach in conjunction with Lord of the Flies or to replace Lord of the Flies with the story of a strong, smart, courageous young heroine. I was an itty bit disappointed with the ending, which clearly left the door open for a sequel (which I discovered will be available in September). I will forgive the ending, I guess, if the sequel delivers. I’m reading another YA book set in the future right now. It’s called Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. It provides some food for thought, particularly about the ugly/pretty distinction, but the romance portion is a bit clumsy and the points are made more obviously than necessary. Still, I’m enjoying it and may investigate its sequels, though not in a hurry.

I also want to mention two YA series that I read a few years ago, but want to endorse, though they are nothing like the books mentioned above. I loved the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books by Ann Brashares. Please, please do not judge these books by the movies. I also get a huge kick out of the Georgia Nicolson books by Louise Rennison. In my mind, these British books are sort of a Bridget Jones for young teens and tweens. Freaking hilarious at times.

If you don’t trust my authority that YA books are worth checking out, perhaps you might trust Nick Hornby’s. He writes about quite a few YA titles in Shakespeare Wrote for Money, a collection of his reading columns for The Believer, and comments, “I see now that dismissing YA books because you’re not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you’re not a policeman or a dangerous criminal, and as a consequence, I’ve discovered a previously ignored room at the back of the bookstore that’s filled with masterpieces I’ve never heard of . . . The world suddenly seems a larger place” (81-82). So there.

What about you? What are you reading? Any YA titles to recommend? When have you read outside your box and been pleasantly surprised?


msh said...

"the book thief" may well be one of my favorite books of all time. and i actually didn't even know it was aimed at young adults until i read the cover when i was more than halfway through the book. the only other "young" book that comes to mind as a favorite is "the giver" by lois lowry. loved it.

and i have to say, mep, that i am inspired by the way you are the opposite of a book snob when, being the dr. that you are, you'd have every right to be one! i think i will now proudly flaunt book 3 of the twilight series whenever i get around to reading it instead of reading it hiding in my bedroom like i did the first two!

Actchy said...

When I finally got my library card a few months ago, ntb, the first thing I took out was Lord of the Flies on CD. (I thought it'd be easier to listen to a story than to read while I was caring for my newborn. I've found this not to be the case whatsoever, and accordingly, had to renew the thing three times before I got through it.) LOTF was never required reading for me for some reason, and I always felt in the dark when someone, say, "had the conch." Holy crap. What a story!

Steph said...

I'm a huge fan of your book recommendations, so thank you!

I read the Twilight series and enjoyed it! I did catch a few "plot flaws" - and they've been written about extensively - but it did not lessen my enjoyment of the series. I've always been a little in love with Edward Scissor Hands, and that's whose face I kept seeing as Edward in the book. :-)

Steph said...

Oooh - and a big YES to the Giver mentioned in the first post.

Melissa Walters said...

A Northern Light. I forget the author, but it was really good and a historical fiction, which I love.

One of my fav books, Her sister's keeper, I just saw that they are making into a movie...

Now I'm sad to say that I need to get to the library because I need a good book. I have been going threw my mom's collection of summer reads...lots of Mary Higgins Clark. I like the mysteries now and then, but its time to move on.

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