Young Adult Fiction, great teen reads

After reading “The Lord of the Rings” at age nine, where else was there to go?  I asked my father to find me a book about ‘quests’ in the local library, and he gave me “The Little House on the Prairie”.  So much for that.  So it was discovering “Over Sea and Under Stone” by Susan Cooper that started me down this now well trodden path, bolstered on both sides by Alan Garner’s “Weirdstone of Brisingamen”, and “Owl Service”.

It was perhaps the escapism which attracted, together with the power given to children to save the world, of course.  I drifted from novel to novel in my teens, settling on Anne Rice and Jean Auel, which I read and re-read.  But it was Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, which struck a chord that continued to reverbate well into my adult life.  Nowadays, I have a great excuse for perusing the teen fiction genre, aptly called “Teen Noir”, in some bookshops.  Steering clear of what is popular, and I’m not sure why, only that perhaps I’m afraid of being disappointed after all the hype, I found myself researching new titles in order to engage my then-reluctant teen girl to read.

That she didn’t (read), was not so much a surprise as a disappointment, not for me as much as the thought of what she was missing.  That entire imaginary world was ready to be breathed in, explored, mused over, and yet she wasn’t reading much at all.  I resolved to tempt her into it with a few well chosen novels.  The Amazon system helped enormously, reading recommendations, following threads, looking at the relevant forums all steered by towards the One, the book which gave her the reading bug, and it was Suzanne Collins “Hunger Games”.  This is a fabulous story of a dystopian North America, where the apocalypse has happened and the world is split between those who have and those who struggle for survival.  Each year, tributes are given to take part in an extravaganza, a gladiatorial only-one-can-win “game”, and all the contestants are children.  And she devoured it.  Once she started, she was off and in fine sprinting style reading not only this trilogy, but asking for more.

The next set had to be good, then.   On to “Gone” by Michael Grant.  The premise of his story is simple and captivating.  One sunny day somewhere in California, everyone over the age of fifteen disappears.  Gone, in an instant.  What would you do?  I’ve seen this work compared to ‘Lord of the Flies’ and whilst I understand the need to find commonality in novels in order to understand them, this comparison is a huge understatement and indeed it might put off some readers, and that would be a shame.

Maggie Stiefvater’s ‘Mercy Falls’ trilogy was an entirely different concept.  Not so much survival against all odds, as falling in love with someone who is not quite what he seems.  And my daughter fell just a bit in love with the lead boy.  That was until she met Jace of Cassandra Clare’s ‘Mortal Instruments’ stories.  Now it’s difficult to get her to do anything but read, but I do find myself cheering silently.

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