I'm not a big reader of YA. Too much sappy romance, too many vampires, too many dead parents. I know, there's plenty of YA that does not include any of those elements. But I don't have the time or energy to seek those out. But every now and then, a YA book will grab me. A friend will recommend it, or a review will catch my eye, or I'll hear about a book that interests me and only realize later that it's been classified as Young Adult by... someone! (Whom? The publisher? The Library of Congress? The author?)
In the last 6 months or so, I have read three stand-out novels that someone, somewhere, has deemed Young Adult.
Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert, seems at first to be a book about baseball, but is really about faith, love, parenting, siblinghood, morality, the justice system, and a tug-of-war between familial loyalty and truth. When I first started the book, I assumed the title referred to a belief system, but as I kept reading, I realized it also referred, cleverly, to a finding of guilty in the criminal justice system. A fabulous book for adults, young and otherwise.
I picked up Burn Baby Burn for it's NYC 1977 Summer (Son of Sam, the blackout) setting. Although I am too young to remember that summer, I lived through it, and am convinced I have a sort of collective memory about it, combined with living in NYC through the 80s and 90s. Author Meg Medina, thankfully, does not wear rose-colored glasses and lament the gentrification of the city since then (yes, artist could afford apartments here back then, but they often got mugged as they traveled to and from them!). Her 1977 Queens is the real deal, with a serial killer on the loose and looting erupting during the blackout. But her characters have their problems writ small (although not to them), too. Nora is eager to graduate high school and start her "real life" but her teachers are trying to convince her she's college material. She has a crush on a coworker and there is domestic violence at home, of a sort not often addressed in fiction. Again, you don't have to be a young adult to enjoy this book. In fact, you will probably enjoy it more if you lived through that summer or lived in New York during its grittier days.
I've lately become intrigued by books set in the Middle Ages, possibly because there suddenly seem to be a slew of them being published (it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario), or maybe because of my daughter's fifth grade class trip to a place called Medieval Times. With the publication of the highly anticipated The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog in September, the trend continues. In the meantime, pick up The Passion of Dolssa (written, strangely enough in my opinion, by the author of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, a perfectly fine book, but far inferior to this one) to satisfy your medieval cravings. Dolssa believes she has a direct relationship with Jesus, who she says appears to her, and who endows her with the power to heal and work other miracles. The Church has labelled her, and other women like her, a heretic. Dolssa takes refuge in a medieval village where three sisters protect her. The middle sister, the local matchmaker, narrates the story. However, I must make one confession. At the very end of the book there is an epilogue of sorts. An old woman is in prison and is speaking to someone outside the prison with instructions. I could not figure out who the woman is. Apparently I was not the only one who was confused (sigh of relief!), because the author posted an explanation online. Nonetheless, the book is wonderful despite this lack of clarity (or perhaps despite my denseness!).
What YA books have you read and enjoyed?