Monday, October 1, 2012

YA: It's Not Just For Youth Anymore!

Hi, I'm Sue.  I'm currently reading a Star Trek novel on my iPad and the meta-ness off the situation makes my heart happy.  And I am an Anomaly.

It seems that, over the past several years, Young Adult novels have become incredibly popular, especially with people who would not necessarily be classified as "young adults."  Now, I don't have any numbers to back this up - it's just an observation based on my own experience - but I started noticing it when "Harry Potter" came along.  And then there was "The Hunger Games" and yes, even.... "Twilight."

I'm not sure why YA has become so popular with adults.  Maybe it's "easy reading."  Or maybe, as I think I've posited on the podcast, when we're younger, our minds are more open to the extraordinary.  So while adult fiction may be more set in its ways and predictable (similar to some adults), maybe we're gravitating toward YA for something different.  But whatever the reason, I like the trend.  But there are plenty of great sci-fi and fantasy YA reads beyond the three series mentioned above.  I want to take this opportunity to recommend some of my favorites.

The Dragonslayer Series by Jasper Fforde
The Last Dragonslayer, UK 2010, USA 2012
The Song of the Quarkbeast, UK 2011, USA 2013
The Return of Shandar, UK 2012, USA 2014

The world was once filled with magic and dragons, but the magic started to fade away and only once dragon was left.  Magic usage (measured in Shandars) became regulated by the government, requiring paperwork and even special releases for large spells.  The story focuses of Jennifer Strange, a foundling who runs Kazam, one of two magical organizations still in operation.  She handles the paperwork, the phones, and the general business; making sure that the once-powerful wizards make it to their jobs - spelling away clogs in drains or delivering pizza on magic carpets.  But one of the wizards starts to have visions of the death of the last dragon at the hands of an unnamed dragonslayer, and the onset of "Big Magic."  This series is why I despise the publishing delays that can occur between the UK and US.  (Yes, I will be ordering the third book from AmazonUK, thankyouverymuch.)  The series is sometimes referred to - mostly by American publishers - as "The Chronicles of Kazam."

The Johnny Maxwell Series by Terry Pratchett
Only You Can Save Mankind, 1993
Johnny and the Dead, 1994
Johnny and the Bomb, 1997

It's no secret that Terry Pratchett is my favorite author, and he is most well-known for the Discworld series.  These books have nothing to do with the Disc, but have the same wit and humor that make me love Pratchett's writing.  Johnny Maxwell is a young teen living in England, with a group of friends who don't really fit in anywhere else.  That is, until he starts to see things that other people can't.  Not because he's crazy, but because those things (aliens, ghosts, time travelers) are actually there, but other people don't see what they can't understand, or just don't really look (a common theme in Pratchett's work).  It all starts when the aliens he's battling in a computer game try to surrender...

The Starcatchers Series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Peter and the Starcatchers, 2004
Peter and the Shadow Thieves, 2006
Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, 2007
Peter and the Sword of Mercy, 2009
The Bridge to Neverland, 2011

This series came to my attention because of a Broadway play, Peter and the Starcatcher, based on the first book.  I fell in love with the play, so of course I had to read the book.  It's a re-imagining of the origin story of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook, and Neverland.  The first four books are set in Victorian England (and at sea) with characters that will eventually become those that we know and love.  The last book is a bit different, with modern-day characters finding out the truth about one of their favorite childhood fairy tales and a big focus on Disney World (Disney is also the publishing company for the series, so it can seem a bit marketing-heavy, but as a fan of WDW, I didn't have too much of a problem with that).  Technically, these might not be "young adult" books.  My library system lists them as "juvenile" and sometimes even "children's."  But they're fun, fast reads (even though most are around 500 pages)!

The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
Divergent, 2011
Insurgent, 2012
Untitled, 2013

In the remains of future Chicago, society is divided into factions dedicated to the virtue they believe is most important for preventing war - Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peace), and Erudite (intelligence).  Each individual, at the age of 16 has an aptitude test for these qualities, and then has the opportunity to choose which faction where they will spend the rest of their lives.  Those who have high aptitude for several factions are considered "Divergent."  And dangerous.  And their numbers are growing.  I will be honest that about halfway through the second book, I started having problems suspecting my disbelief regarding this segmented society, but that is intended, based on the payoff at the end of book 2.  I'm now eagerly awaiting book 3.

The Tiffany Aching Series by Terry Pratchett
The Wee Free Men, 2003
A Hat Full of Sky, 2004
Wintersmith, 2006
I Shall Wear Midnight, 2010

More Pratchett, and this time, it is related to the Discworld, but you don't need to be familiar with the other 30-something books to jump right in.  This series, intended for younger readers, is meant to be an entryway the series - the reader is introduced to this world along with the protagonist.  Tiffany Aching is a girl who lives on the chalk, and a witch, under the watching eye of Granny Weatherwax, possibly the most powerful witch on the Disc (and my favorite character in the series), though not directly apprenticed to her.  Tiffany, starting at the age of 9, is a natural with magic, but doesn't always understand how to control her innate abilities.  She befriends the local fairy folk, called the Nac Mac Feegle, who love to drink and fight, and will be by her side to the end, and like Johnny Maxwell, she is gifted with "first sight and second thoughts" - the ability to see "what is really there" and "the thoughts you think about the way you think." She's also very good with cheese.

Feel free to friend me on Goodreads if you want to keep up with the other stuff I'm reading (just let me know you're from Anomaly, so I respond relatively quickly), and I encourage you to join the new Anomaly Podcast Communtiy Group on Goodreads as well.  Goodreads is awesome, you guys.  And let me know if you pick up any of these books, and what you think of them!

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Michele said...

On the train ride to work in the mornings, I peep to see what other people are reading. Often enough, I see adults reading all sorts of YA/Children or my new favorite genre as created by Barnes and Noble "Teenage Romance: Paranormal". I definitely agree with the idea that books targeted for YA/teens/Children tend to be more imaginative/boundary pushing especially when it comes to genre books.

Randy Crane said...

Excellent suggestions Sue! I'll have to look into a couple of these.

I'd also like to suggest to people my all-time favorite series, which I'm pretty sure fits into this category: The Belgariad (and its follow up series, The Malloreon), by David Eddings.