Friday, November 11, 2005

New(ish) YA Lit

I don't read as much YA (Young Adult) literature as I should, given that 1) my daughter is a young adult and 2) I teach children's (which includes YA) literature. So yesterday I went on a little rampage and read three books, and they are all remarkable.

They are also all what might be termed "edgy." In a book that got a lot of press about a year ago, Welcome to Lizard Motel, Barbara Feinberg complains that kids' books are too sad, too taken up with "problems." (She cites Bridge to Terabithia, a book I find sad but also uplifting, as an example...) Well, that may be. But then again, life is rather too taken up with "problems" for my taste, and problem novels have the advantage, usually, of being able to solve their problems.

But I digress. These are all, arguably, "problem novels." Weetzie Bat has a baby her partner isn't ready for, her gay friends deal with HIV/AIDS, and her father kills himself. Daisy, in How I Live Now, leaves the States to go live in England with some cousins because her father's new bride is a contender in the wicked stepmother sweepstakes, but she gets caught up in a war. And Michael, in Skellig, moves to a new house and has to face the possibility that his premature baby sister will die.

And yet. They are all fabulous books, lyrical and imaginative and thought-provoking. While I liked all three of them, it's Skellig that I keep thinking about today. I gave it to Mariah right away; it is the most brilliant example of magical realism outside of Latin America that I've ever encountered. At some level it takes up the Darwin vs. Intelligent Design debates, but not so you'd be put off by it from either position. And the writing is just spectacular in a quiet way.

I still don't have a book order list for next semester; I'm not quite sure what books I'll teach in what way. But somehow I've got to get Skellig on the list.

No comments: