Monday 30 August 2010

Books For B.

I talked to someone over the weekend who is reading Ursula Le Guin's classic Earthsea series for the first time, with intent.

In the interest of sharing, a few books I recommend if you're starting your YA fantasy reading a little late (or just looking for some good storytelling)

Kelly Link Pretty Monsters

The stories in Link's first collection for YA readers are generally more traditionally told than her stories for adults: they all have a proper ending. The stories are dark, inventive, and involving; a race of people living in an old lady's handbag, a dead girl who follows a boy home, a girl who becomes a servant to a magician.

Reviewing the collection for the Guardian Tom Lee concludes

Ultimately, [the stories] play to the experience and fertile imagination of the bookish, cultish teenager rather than those looking for the next Kafka or Borges.

... I didn't see the problem with that, myself.

Margo Lanagan Tender Morsels

If YA writing was chocolate, Lanagan would be the 90% cacao bar - dark to the point of bitter, smooth but not at all sweet. I had to read this book - a retelling of the fairytale of Rose Red and Snow White, and exploration of just how much a parent will do to protect her children - in small, slow doses, completely unlike my normal rip-through-it style.

Meg Rosoff, writing for the Guardian (the best source of YA reviews I've found, their reviewers are tremendous), notes

From the first paragraph we are transported to an authentically dark place that hums with cruelty and perversion; it seems only right to warn those tempted to buy the book for precocious young readers that the early chapters of Tender Morsels are filled with acts of sexual violence - the sort that feel more, not less, terrifying for being presented in folkloric style.

Meg Rosoff How I Live Now

I've blogged about this book before - a masterpiece as much in what Rosoff leaves blank as what she describes for the reader.

Rebecca Stead When You Reach Me

For younger readers than the three books above, but a lesson in taut writing and clever plotting nonetheless.

In this love-letter to Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time (which should be read first, but should really have been read when you were 10), among many things Stead evokes that feeling of passionate attachment to your favourite books:

'I was getting annoyed. The truth is that I hate to think about other people reading my book. It's like watching someone go through the box of private stuff that I keep under my bed.'
PS: If any of you are on goodreads, let me know ...

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