Tuesday, February 14, 2012

YA Grows Up

Books written for teenagers can be, frankly, simplistic and melodramatic even when they are enjoyable.   Anyone who's spent some reading time in Forks, Washington can attest to that.  However, merely being marketed towards a younger audience doesn't mean a book is dumbed down, poorly written or lacks serious content.
An article by Laura Miller on Salon.com reviews two recent YA books - The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff.  Miller writes:
 If you were to skip “The Fault in Our Stars” — or another new novel, by YA luminary Meg Rosoff, “There Is No Dog” — because you assume that such books are less intelligent, well-written or emotionally complex than their adult counterparts, you would be most miserably mistaken.
 It makes no sense that the maudlin goo that is “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” should be classified as a work for adults, when “The Fault in Our Stars,” a far more mature rumination on the same themes, is regarded as a children’s book. Likewise, why should grown-ups be subjected to the cutesy “The Life of Pi” while teenagers get to revel in an astringent fable like “There Is No Dog”?
I can vouch for The Fault in Our Stars (and you can check it out in the International High School Library.)  Through the smooth witty voice of a 16-year-old girl the reader is led to question what it means to live a good life, what a hero really is, and the significance of death. The book also addresses the interconnections and complications between the reader, the writer, and the work of literature. I haven't read There is No Dog yet, but I know Meg Rosoff's work, and the premise of a teenage boy as the supreme deity promises to be magic in her hands.

Other books written for the YA audience (and available in the library) that cut the BS and tackle hard issues:

  • The Incredibly True Story of  Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Speak by Laura Halse Anderson
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Stuck in Neutral by Terry Truman
  • Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper 

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