Tuesday, March 25, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different

As I've relaxed into a regular YA reading pattern of two or three YA books a month, not counting the books I review for School Library Journal (no fear that I'll be leaping at the opportunity to be on an awards committee and read upwards of 200 YA books in a year), I've begun to recognize the patterns in the books I choose.

I would have enjoyed Laurie Halse Anderson as a teen, so I listened to Twisted on CD. Ms. Anderson has the signature ability to tell a poignant story without going overboard, and Twisted proves no exception. Tyler Miller had a surprisingly good summer, considering that he spent it doing community service after spraying grafitti all over his high school in an attempt to garner positive attention from his classmates. In addition to the community service, he worked a landscaping/gardening job and bulked up considerably. He's gone from a scrawny junior to a tall, buff senior, and he's caught the eye of his longtime crush, Bethany Milbury. The crush crashes after Bethany spends a drunken night hitting on anything that walks, and Tyler decides to move on...but he can't. The night of the drunken escapades, someone took sexually explicit pictures of Bethany, and since Tyler has a record and, rumor has it was sent packing by Bethany, he's the prime suspect. The fact that Ms. Anderson uses Tyler as the narrator brings a real edge to the novel, and it's worth a look.

Next up, Does My Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Fattah. At 16 and attending an elite (mostly white) private school in Australia, Amal decides to begin wearing the hajib, the traditional head covering and conversative style of dressing of Muslim women. It's fully her own decision, though she wrestles with what her crush, the uber-intelligent Adam, will think, not to mention how her snobby, WASPy classmates will respond. They respond with a mix of emotions, ranging from the curious to the outright racist, but the novel retains its teeny-bopper tone, never crossing into preachy or over-the-top. Amal's story is standard fare for YA fiction - she's in an awkward phase, has something unique about her personality that she dares to show in public and has a crush that she knows can only ever result in a friendship. In short, it's a fabulous read, but it hasn't stretched my literary boundaries in the way I would have liked.

I have yet to venture into reading urban fiction, and I may have to gradually dip my toe into different genres. Maybe one of those pirate books (Bloody Jack, anyone?).

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