Tag Archive: Young Adult Fiction


Catch-up

Oh Boy.

I have been reading but not blogging. Am seriously, majorly behind on the blogging and realized that as my one-year book experiment is coming to an end that I need to catch-up NOW.

So unlike many of my previous posts, this one is going to really just be some quick thoughts on all the books that I have read recently.

The first two are Young Adult books, the start of a series written by Michelle Cooper. The first book in the series is called A Brief History of Montmaray and The FitzOsbornes in Exile. The books create a sort of alternate history within history– they focus on the children of the royal family of Montmaray (fictional)– an island between England and France, in the run-up to WWII (non-fiction). In doing this, they place the children smack in the middle of real historical events.  Told by the younger sister Sophie, the books capture both the importance of the historical events unfolding around her and her siblings, as well as the fantasy world of the made-up Montmaray island. The books are romantic (in the true meaning of the word) gothic, clever, and at times very funny and outlandish. The FitzOsbornes are quite the family, complete with a mad uncle (the King) and illegitimate offspring (the best friend of the Crown Prince.) While the books are in some way, a fantasy, they are in other ways, highly relevant– they show how WWII was a watershed moment for many of the smaller European royal houses, which did not survive the war. Loved both these books, savored reading them, and recommend them highly, for both adults and teens.

Next– I read two memoirs by people who grew up in religious sects.

The first is by Mary-Ann Kirkby, entitled I am Hutterite

Mary-Ann grew up on a Hutterite colony on the prairies of Canada. Hutterites are often confused with groups like the Amish, and while they are an Anabaptist group (like the Amish) they are very different. Hutterites hold everything in common– they are a sort of Utopian Anabaptist group. And I mean everything– everyone works on the common farm, eats in the common kitchen, etc, etc. While they dress “plainly”- it is distinct from Amish and Mennonite styles, the style of worship is different and they use modern conveniences like farm equipment, trucks and electricity. Anyway, Mary-Ann’s book is a beautiful memoir– she goes into great depth to help you understand her family’s history as Hutterites, the Hutterite lifestyle, her Hutterite childhood, and how eventually struggles over power (and to some extent, family) forced her parents to leave the colony– never having lived on their own in the real-world (like never having owned anything of their own, not even knowing the specifics of what a bank account is, etc.) The book is beautifully written, beautifully realized, and insightful.

The other book is Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler- also a memoir of life in a distinct religious group.

On the whole, I like the book but perhaps its title should be “Leaving the Amish” because it really focuses on Wagler’s tortured young adult days and the multiple times he left and then ended up coming back to the Amish. Although Wagler’s character is well-realized, I feel like his family isn’t (unlike in Mary-Ann’s book, where you get a tremendous sense of family and community. In Wagler’s book, you don’t, which is strange given the sort of community he grew up in). I had no sense of his father other than he was a strict man who was trying to hold his family together, and no sense of his mother other than the fact that she was clearly a long-suffering woman. I wish he had spent more time delving into his parents’ characters– to make them more multidimensional. I will give the author credit for being brutally honest– even when it did not paint him or his choices in a very good light.

I have two more books to catch up on, but that will be another post….. see what happens when I get behind?

Ciao for now,

Bookish C

 

 

 

A Clever Young Hero

Today’s book is The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

So far in my book challenge, it has not been hard to read a book (or more than one) a week. This week, however, was the first week that I struggled– perhaps because I wasn’t feeling all that well, or maybe because I felt slightly bogged down by the huge pile of library books on my dining room table. So I chose this book because it seemed like something fun, and indeed, it was.

The Thief is actually a Young Adult book– but as many of you who are avid readers know, some of the best literature out there is being written for children these days. The book was a Newbery Honor award winner in the last 1990s and is the first part of a trilogy.

Having read this first book, I think I am going to have to finish the trilogy.

Okay, so the book starts with the main character, Gen, who is languishing in a prison. He is a thief who was caught for stealing the king’s seal. Gen is sprung from prison by the King’s Magus (a sort of educated councillor) who needs a skilled thief to steal Hamiathes’s  Gift– a rock given by the Gods that bestows the right of rule on the wearer. The little problem about this is that the rock has to be stolen from the Gods themselves.

The book is set in a fantasy world that seems to be one part Ancient Greece/Rome, and one-part Enlightenment-era Europe. It is clearly based off of the Mediterranean countries (the countless references to olive trees, yogurt, and the sunshine make sure of that.) Turner also creates an intricate pantheon of Gods (much like the Greek and Roman Gods) that are revealed to the reader as the Magus, Gen and a small party journey to the place where Gen is to steal Hamiathes’s Gift. The stories of the Gods and their particular subplot in the story are intricate and tightly written.

The book is told in the first person (from Gen’s point of view) and initially he is a bit unlikable. He a smart-ass and troublesome, but as the book proceeds, he evolves, as do his motivations and background (which you discover little of until about the last third.) The other characters evolve over time too, and Turner does a great job of portraying them evenly and realistically. The book moves forward evenly, if a little slow at the beginning but once you get past the middle it is hard to put down. Turner’s writing is brisk and succinct. She does not give over to overly flowery prose–instead it is tight and intricately plotted storytelling that she sticks to.

I won’t give away the ending, but to say that it has a surprising and throughly enjoyable twist. This book was great fun to read and I enjoyed it — and I think it is a fabulous book for pre-teens to young teenagers.  There are many themes in it but the main one is power. Turner carefully explores all of its intricacies– the power between people, between kingdoms and what happens when one challenges those perceived notions of power. A fun book and it helped to get me out of my reading funk.

Ciao for now,

Bookish C