Hello all! Welcome to the YA edition of a bunch of mini-reviews of selections that are more family-friendly and less-tropey. (That went better this time…) I bring you more historical fiction selections this round, and I actually have one contemporary in here! (What is happening to me…)
- The Mermaid’s Sister: This is a sweet and almost poetically-written tale that isn’t a traditional fairytale re-telling, nor is it set in ancient times, nor in an alternate world. It’s set in the mid-Atlantic USA in the late 19th century, and the narration is first person present tense. There are some religious undertones, but it doesn’t detract from the overall story, and it’s certainly appropriate for teens, as there are lines that the author doesn’t cross when describing violent scenes or referring to “delicate” matters.
- Where the Woods Grow Wild: This is self-published by the very social-media-friendly Nate Philbrick. (You can find him on Twitter and Goodreads and WordPress, and he’ll be very nice.) His debut novel (with more planned in the series) is a sort of mashup of Narnia, Middle-Earth, and Wonderland, with fleshed-out characters and nothing over the top in terms of the violence (and again, it’s necessary because we’re talking wild woods with nasty creatures).
- Journey to the River Sea: A historical fiction about an English orphan who lives in the Amazon for a while, this is extremely interesting. The viewpoint of colonialism presented is much more broad and objective than we might get from a 21st century publication, and I think that’s important for the next generation to be aware of as well — that in history, there are always several sides to each event.
- Catherine, Called Birdy: Set in (I believe) the 13th century in Great Britain, this novel is a wealth of historical information without being boring. It has its humorous and poignant moments, and it does feel like snippets from the narrator’s daily life, rather than a history lecture full of dates and records of wars and who was king when.
- Wild Wings: Here’s the contemporary. It’s set in the late 20th century in Scotland, and it focuses on surviving loss, and overcoming prejudice. There is a very sensitive death scene (no spoilers, but I feel that’s important to know before starting out). White Fang and I read this a couple of years ago when we belonged to a book club at our local library.
- The Colors of Madeleine: (A Corner of White is the first. You may have to just forgive my sieve of a memory and look up the others on Barnes & Noble.com or something.) Each book in this series is pretty long (at least 300 pages), but the teenagers aren’t running off to party all the time. They’re kind of nerds, and the author clearly thinks this is okay, and I like that. There are pretty serious topics addressed here, too, such as political intrigue and how young is too young to have certain responsibilities. But these themes aren’t presented in too-heavy-handed a way.
- The Discworld selections for younger readers, and non-Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. Believe it or not, there are works in here by the great Sir Terry that I have not yet read. (I know, what is wrong with me?!) The Johnny Maxwell series is a combination of 20th century contemporary/history/science fiction. There’s also the noteworthy Nation (not pictured here because WordPress is being difficult).
Since Mr. Pratchett’s passing (sob!!!) in 2015, so many of his books have been released in pretty new editions. And I’ve finally seen a greater offering of his genius available in American libraries than ever before. (And for those of you not in this country, I know for a fact this author is all over the internet.)