Thursday, May 5, 2011

Young Adult Books for Adults

Today's post is by guest blogger and School of Information Management student Amanda.

In recent years, young adult fiction has experienced a renaissance of sorts, in which many wonderfully crafted and exciting new titles have emerged. Young adult or YA books often provide a unique reading experience because authors are usually given more free reign to experiment with new writing styles and different formats, making for engaging and exciting reads.

Through time young adult classics have held a continuous appeal for adults with titles like The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird catching the imagination of readers of all ages. Within the past few years many new young adult titles that are also suited to adults have been published. These books cover all subjects and genres, and often times cross and blend genres together. Below a few of my favourite recent young adult books are described. I feel these books illustrate the breadth of content present in YA fiction today.

The Chaos Walking Trilogy
by Patrick Ness

The Chaos Walking Trilogy, which contains: The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men are a part of a growing sub-genre in YA books known as dystopian fiction. Dystopian books, which include classic titles like Brave New World and 1984, are books set in alternative imaginings of our world or a new world, in which something has changed resulting in the creation of a controlled and repressed population.

The Chaos Walking Trilogy is set at an unknown time in the future on a planet known simply as the New World, which humans inhabited after polluting the planet Earth. But, unfortunately things are not looking much better for humans on the New World. When humans arrived on the planet, they were surprised to discover that it was already home to an indigenous group of aliens known as the Spackle. The humans attempted to eliminate the Spackle in a violent war. Although the humans were successful in killing off their enemy, the Spackle released a virus that killed all of the women and half of the men on the planet, leaving the survivors in a precarious state. But that is not all, the virus also made it so that all men could hear one another’s thoughts, as well as the thoughts of all animals, creating an inhospitable environment. Todd, the trilogy’s protagonist is the last boy left on the last town on the planet. He will soon enter manhood, and then truly become a part of his town. But everything changes when one day Todd goes into the swamp and finds a girl.

I have recently become addicted to dystopian fiction, and The Chaos Walking Trilogy are the books that first got me hooked on this sub-genre, and remain the best that I have read to date. The best thing about these books is that they are not only geared towards readers interested in science fiction, but touch on so many themes that are relevant to any reader including: what it means to be human, friendship, love, loss, family, slavery, and war. I highly recommend this trilogy, but be warned the first two books both end with major cliffhangers, so when reading be sure to have the next book on hand and ready to go.

Jellicoe Road
by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road was the 2009 Printz Award winner for excellence in young adult literature. The novel’s Australian setting provides a unique backdrop to the story, which is centered around seventeen year old Taylor Markham, the elected leader at her boarding school on Jellicoe Road. As the leader, Taylor must negotiate the ‘turf wars’ that take place in the area every fall between boarding school students, cadets and townies. But this is not all Taylor has to contend with. When Taylor was only eleven, she was abandoned on Jellicoe Road by her mother and taken in by the enigmatic Hannah. Hannah has been the only constant in Taylor’s life for a number of years, and when she disappears Taylor’s world is turned upside down. To add to her troubles, this year, the leader of the cadets is Jonah Griggs, someone Taylor has a unique connection with, but would rather just forget. As Taylor tries to find out what happened to Hannah, while grappling with her feelings for Jonah she discovers starting revelations about her past and the people she is closest with.

Jellicoe Road starts slowly, and the plot is a little hard to follow for the first few chapters. But this is intentional, and done to make the reader more involved in answering all of the mysteries within the book. The writing is what really makes this book what it is. The plot is complex, yet becomes easy to follow and all the more real because of the complexities. All of the characters are well developed and exude a realness not seen in all books, especially those dealing with such tough subject matter. Furthermore, although Taylor’s life is filled with problems, these problems are treated in such a way that they resonate with the reader, but do not make reading a sorrow filled experience. Rather, Taylor is a strong character with a unique voice, who is able to rise above the hardships she encounters and become stronger as a result of her experiences.

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