Following on from my post last night about the state of young adult fiction, I have chosen my two favourite young adult fiction books for 2010 so far. I’ve chosen books which have a real commentary about them and will challenge the young reader in some way; to deal with emotions they are unfamiliar with, to ask them what they would do.
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (hardback)
This is a truly stunning book, it overwhelmed me. The story is actually a re-working of Grimm’s Snow White and Rose Red (I knew there was a reason I was drawn to it). Don’t be deterred by the size of this hardback, it is so worth your time. The story follows Liga who at a young age experienced things no child should have to and grew up in an unhappy home. One day, she is given the security of a safe place to bring up her children where no one can hurt them and they can live in the knowledge that their safety is certain. This security cannot last forever and Liga and her children must learn to face reality with the hindsight of knowing what peace and security once felt like. Perhaps it is this knowledge, that love is paramount to a families survival that will get them through.
What is most extraordinary about this book is that the author has used the magical/paranormal aspect of the story in such a positive way. Lanagan has recognised the potency of the paranormal genre right now and used this to her advantage to tell the reader that whilst is is whimsical and inspiring, magic can’t always save us and sometimes with the horrible things we face in life, we have to look them in the eye and use everything we have in our hearts us through. For Liga, living in a violent world was too much to handle and yet so was the sanctuary of living alone with her family. For liga, the toughest thing she has to do is learn how to survive in a world where there is undeniably good and evil, and a lot of the time we must learn to make the best of it.
This book is controversial, there is no denying it and has come under much scrutiny, but let’s not ignore the critical acclaim it has received as it challenges children’s literature. This book is not meant for young children and as long as it remains that way, I see no problem in challenging a teenagers reading and their ability to understand difficult social issues.
Please note, I would only recommend this book for ages 15+ and even then I would recommend you research this book properly and even read it yourself beforehand as it deals with issues of a father raping his child, unwanted pregnancy and gang rape.
Have a look at this article http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jul/05/tender-morsels-childrens-novel-sex for more information regarding the books suitability and the book cover. Whatever happened to not judging a book by its cover I say! That’s what a blurb is there for. (ISBN: 9780385613231)
The second book I am reviewing today was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Kids Book Prize 2010.
Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur
This is another beautiful book that challenges the notions of death and loss and how we deal with it. Eleven year old Aubrey has lost her father and sister in a car accident and her mother has just abondoned her. She feels she can’t tell anyone what she is going through and does not want to, not yet anyway. Like many young children, although it is hard to see she feels completely alone and decides to write letters. These letters give her a way out of the bottled up despair and loss she feels and addresses a need for open relationships when it comes to dealing with death.
Whilst it may be hard for some readers to empathise with Aubrey because they haven’t experience such a tangible loss, the author uses little life experiences well that allow us to connect with this heartbroken little girl. Aubrey is a wonderful uplifting character who will stop you in your tracks.
Of course, Aubrey isn’t completely alone as she has the love of her grandmother and yet the gaps she feels in her heart are palpable and wont go away. Through her beautiful letters to those she misses, Aubrey starts to overcome her tragedy by finding a way to communicate with those she has lost.
The story is not as melancholic as you might think as we see Aubrey’s progression in each letter and we are reassured knowing she is getting better and each day is a little easier to get through. Aubrey, as a protagonist gives us something not every character can give; honesty. She’s writing to people who will never read her letters and she’s writing to herself. A beautiful, beautiful book. (ISBN: 9780141327044) Recommended for 13+