There are lots of great things about 2017, but for a moment we are going to travel back to 1967 when a book came out called The Outsiders.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
There has been some debate about when YA (young adult) became a genre of fiction but many point to this book, written for teenagers (by a teenager) specifically about the life being lived by a group of teenagers. Dealing with identity, society, pressure, family, and issues from that unique young adult perspective. So, in celebration of The Outsiders, and all of the YA that has come since a few of your friendly, local, library workers have thought about YA they like and we’re sharing it with you today. There is so much YA available; some of it is great, some of it is good, and some of it is a bit meh…but the best thing about YA is that it talks to you and as we prove below stays with you long after you’ve finished the book.
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
I’ve loved Fire and Hemlock since I first read it at thirteen. It’s a mysterious, complex, interesting story with a deep current of the fantastical running through it. Polly, whom we meet at the spiky and curious age of 10, travels between her mother’s house, where she’s always second-place to the paying lodger, and her warm, fierce, biscuity Granny’s house, where she mustn’t ask questions about the women who live at the House up the road and the funeral processions that come down every nine years. Polly does something wicked and brings the House’s attention down on her, and the book follows the repercussions down the next nine years of her life. I loved it as a teen because I could look up to nineteen-year-old Polly (going to University!), but reading it as an adult what really stands out is how much growing up she does: she learns hard lessons about the fallibility of parents, the fickleness of lovers, the worth of good friends, and about her own shortcomings and what she can do to overcome them. It’s witchy, gloomy, intriguing, and exciting, and I have loved it for years.
Alone by Robert Crane
My absolute favourite YA series at the moment is Robert Crane’s Girl In the Box. This series seems (so far) to be never-ending with the count at 25 at this stage, but the books are only around 200 pages each. The kick-ass star of the books is Sienna Nealon, a meta-human with awesome powers that she develops as the series progresses and an even awesom-er sense of sarcasm and snark. Nobody is safe from the sharp barbs of her wit.
The best passage in the series, in my opinion, Sienna is wandering through a run-down part of LA when a kid in baggy clothes tries to mug her:
He gave me an icy look. “How about you give me all your money?”
“How about you give me a pony?” I asked. He blinked his surprise away after about ten seconds of struggling with it. “What?”
“I figured since we’re making requests,” I said with a shrug.
“I ain’t giving you no pony,” he said, informing me about the state of his education.
“Well, I’m not giving you my money,” I said, “so it would appear we’re at an impasse.” (Robert Crane, Sea Change)
That’s all you get, as I don’t want to give too much away – but the young man ends up naked at a police station in downtown LA, while Sienna goes to a party…She’s quite powerful.
So much to tell you by John Marsden
I first read this book, which is now 30 years old, for school when I was 11 or 12. I loved it and re-read it a couple of times back then so I wanted to see if my opinion has changed. Happily… it has not! I enjoyed rediscovering Marina and the slow revelation of the traumatic events leading to her silence. Diary style has always been a favourite of mine (Adrian Mole, anyone?) and would appeal to many young adult readers.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
When the plane he is travelling in crashes in the remote Canadian wilderness, thirteen year old Brian Robeson must learn how to survive with a hatchet as his only tool. He builds shelter, discovers fire, hunts game and, ultimately, survives. In the follow-up books, Brian must survive winter in the wilderness, escort an unconscious man many miles downriver on a makeshift raft, return to the wild when he no longer suits modern life, and track a killer bear.
Gary Paulsen has extensive survival experience which brings real authenticity to the story; he has hunted to feed his family, made his own bow and arrows, and even run the Iditarod sled race in Alaska. The books are short, only take a few hours to read, and will leave you wondering how well you might survive with nothing but your wits and a single hatchet.
The YA book series I loved when I was a teenager
The Islanders. Vol. 1 by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant
When I was a teen, over a decade ago, I found this series in my high school library and I DEVOURED it. I loved the setting, an island in Maine – so different to Perth, the fact that the characters were all different and they all had ‘issues’ and how connected I felt to characters that might have been nothing like me but spoke to me in some way. This series was, and still is, bent towards romance but there was so much more going on – this was the first time I can remember reading about a blind character, a character who had dealt with child sexual abuse, parental issues, with a bit of mystery thrown in. This series, or at least the first eight novels, have been re-released as The Islanders, and I bought them for nostalgia but I admit I haven’t re-read them yet. I can still picture the original covers vividly (I’ve included one below) and I remember in my early 20s talking to a friend about this series and we both discovered a mutual love of it.
My Adult YA Read
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
I read this series (His Fair Assassin) a couple of year ago and I really enjoyed it. The books are set in Brittany, on the coast of France, while it was a duchy and the time plays a major role in the story. Especially the treatment of women at the time because the books all have a different female protagonist – and all are disciples of St Mortain, a convent dedicated to training girls into assassins in the name of Death, or Mortain. Yes, the women all find a man at the end but it’s really about their own journeys from lives that lead them to a convent for Death, to training to be assassins, to a life that ultimately they controlled.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Life pretty much sucks for sixteen year old Eleanor. She has frizzy red hair and freckles, has no money for clothes, has to wear men’s clothes with holes in them and she is overweight. But much worse than that – her step dad is a monster, she shares a small bedroom with her four siblings, her biological dad doesn’t want her and she is being bullied at her new school. The one ray of light in her life is Park Sheridan. Park is the Asian boy she sits next to on the school bus each day. Eleanor & Park is their love story. I really enjoyed it because it’s gritty, believable and immersing.
We would love to hear about some YA that you love now, or in the past, comment below and share it with us.
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