Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Young Adult adventure, redux

I had so many suggestions on my last post about YA books, that I thought it might be nice to offer an update.

You've already seen my response to Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (recommended by Jill). Other suggested books I've read since are Cory Doctorow's Little Brother (recommended by Gwen) and Megan Wahlen Turner's ATTOLIA trilogy (recommended by mb).

The ATTOLIA books as a whole are, from a writerly perspective, all about point of view. In that respect, I was very much reminded of Dorothy Dunnett's LYMOND CHRONICLES. (The first one, The Game of Kings, is brilliant, and brilliantly funny. I recommend it wholeheartedly. The others, eh, there's a real drop-off.) Basically, once you understand the underlying paradigm of ATTOLIA--Eugenides will always win and finds it convenient to be underestimated--the narrative tension slackens, so it's important to increase the reader's distance from his internal process. (No, I'm not going to offer a plot summary. They abound elsewhere.) This leads to a series of very richly textured books. The first one, The Thief, is fun, but very much a writer learning her craft, with some tedium (or, as Kelley puts it, oh the Groundhog Dayness of it all...) But then, wow, there's a real gear change in book two, and book three is a knockout. And they're fabulous adventures. And beautifully published. Eos/Greenwillow have done a lovely job. The cover illustrations are delicious. Recommended without reservation.

I enjoyed the Doctorow, though it's a different animal. For one thing, the tone shifts wildly; I'm not always sure who it's aimed at or the level of wisdom intended for the narrator. Sometimes it tastes a little good-for-you-hectoring, sometimes genuinely, adolescently gauche. It was fun, and trundled along nicely, but felt thin. Mind you, if I'd read this as a teen I would, like the protagonist, have turned hacker in a hot second, which I imagine is the point, so in that sense it's a very successful book. It's just not my kind of book. Not anymore.

Winging their way to our house are Elizabeth Knox's Dreamhunter and Block's Weetzie Bat. I'm just not sure when I'll get to read them. I'm finally back in full Hild flood, getting some really good traction. No fiction for me for a while.

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