Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Young adult novels

Some of the best books in the library are cataloged as Young Adult books and can be found in the Teen Area.  The main characters are usually teens who deal with their problems without the experience and confidence of adults.  The books come in all genres and hold the interest of readers older than fourteen years of age.  Try one of these well-written and complex stories on your next visit.

          Bone Gap by Laura Ruby begins as realistic fiction with the very human story of 14 year-old Finn, who daydreams, gets into fights but doesn't fight back, and sees people in a different way.  He notices their shape and movement more than their faces, but in the small community of Bone Gap, he knows who everyone is.  His older brother Sean is big and strong and does everything right; and he takes care of Finn.  It's the two of them against the world.  Their lives change overnight when the most beautiful woman in the world is found in their barn.  Her name is Rosza, she is a great cook, and she makes the brothers happy.  As quickly as she came, she leaves - taken by a man that Finn can’t describe, even though he saw Rosza get into his car and disappear down the road.  There are several mysteries taking place at the same time, eventually unraveled through the separate narratives of Finn and Rosza.
          At some point, the story transforms into surreal fantasy, paralleling the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, who was kidnapped by Hades and taken to the Underworld, just like Rosza was kidnapped and hidden from sight. Finn is fearless in his quest to find Rosza and becomes the hero of the story.  There are several allusions to the myth beginning about halfway through the story such as the superhuman strength and persona of the kidnapper.  References to the pomegranate seeds that Persephone ate, resulting in six months above the ground and six months below, are found in Rosza's cookie recipe with an especially delicious pomegranate filling, and her inner struggle to stay connected to her grandmother in Poland, while, at the same time, wanting to start a new life in the U.S. with Finn and Sean.  This is a story about perspective - inner beauty versus physical beauty and the value of acceptance for each individual viewing the world from a slightly different viewpoint.

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds begins in Matt’s senior year in school as he reels from the recent death of his mother.  He can't seem to forget the images of his mother's funeral, but needs to get back to the reality of school and work.  He ends up working for the funeral home and, drawn to the grieving families, sits in on the funerals held there.  It's like therapy, so he puts on his black suit each day to blend in with the mourners.  While Matt is trying to get himself together, his father starts to hit the bottle as he grieves his wife's death and ends up in the hospital.  Matt is without parental guidance at this point, but relies on his best friend, Chris, and his new friend and romantic interest, Lovey, who just lost her grandmother and primary caregiver.  The two lost souls connect on several levels, including a secret they share without knowing it.

The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey is science fiction at its best, elevating the zombie theme to a new level of sophistication.  Ten year-old Melanie is collected from her cell each morning by three guards with rifles and delivered to her classroom with 30 other students who are strapped into their wheelchairs.  Melanie can’t remember any other way of life and enjoys the stories taught by her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau.  She is clearly the most intelligent student in the class, but begins to realize that her brain cannot control snapping jaws and body functions when she smells human flesh without the disinfectant chemicals used by school personnel.  She is a “hungry,” a human shell powered by a contagious grey fungus that destroyed most of the people in England twenty years ago.  When other “hungries” breach the school’s defenses, Melanie and three human school administrators make a break for safety.  Will they survive?  This thriller is currently shelved in New Adult Fiction. 

Mosquitoland by David Arnold features Mary Iris Malone, who uses the pseudonym MIM. She has just been displaced from her home in Ohio to the mosquito infested state of Mississippi with her father and brand new stepmother, prompting her to run away and hop a bus back to Cleveland to tie up loose ends with her mother, who now resides in a rehabilitation facility.  Lucky for her, she sits next to a grandmotherly woman. This woman ignores Mim's teenaged flippancy and penchant for being impulsive, allowing a chance to share their quests with each other - their reasons for being on the bus.  Mim is also unlucky enough to meet up with "pancho man," forcing her to face the moral dilemma of doing the right thing by reporting his suspicious activities, which would also blow her anonymity and reveal her as a runaway, or saving herself.  On the next phase of the journey, Mim tries hitchhiking and meets her next two traveling buddies, the handsome Beck and the charming, childlike Walt who bring humor and goodness into the adventure.   Throughout the story, Mim reflects back in time to analyze her mother's mental illness and her father's over-reaction to any hint of odd behavior she displayed as a child.  Will a family history of mental illness affect her also, or can she hope to live normally and unmedicated? This coming-of-age novel truly depicts the growth of the main character, who learns a little bit about herself from each of the quirky characters she meets along the way.

--Lynette Suckow, Reference Desk

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