Who reads YA?

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The other day I was in my local bookstore (ha-ha nothing new there) and I was perusing the Young Adult section. Another lady, roughly the same age, stood next to me staring at the same books. Every now and then she’d give me a sidelong glance. I thought maybe she needed some assistance in making her choice. So I offered my advice.

“I just finished reading this” I said, holding a top seller in my hand.

“It’ s a really great story if you’re looking for something new to read” I offered.

“Oh I’m not looking for, me my niece is turning thirteen, so I thought I’d look in the teen section,” she said with some undertones of judgment pulsating in my direction.

We continued to have a pleasant conversation and discussed what her niece did and didn’t like. After vetoing a few suggestions the lady happily left with my recommended books of “Fangirl” and “Eleanor and Park” (hello, commission please).

As she exited the store, smiling, my shoulders dropped slightly, did I belong in the YA section? I felt I suddenly needed a story, a rouse, or an alibi for why I, an adult, would be looking in the teen section. I don’t think I’m alone in this dilemma as according to a study by Publishers Weekly 55% of YA readers are adults and 28% of those are aged between 30 -44.

Since the largest purchasers of books are in this age bracket, maybe bookstores should make the YA section more welcoming to this demographic. Is this the reason for the popularity of eBooks in this age group (40%)? Anonymity. What do readers without an eReader (me) do, lurk in the shadows, with a trench coat, hat and dark glasses. I think the simple answer is for bookstores to change their signage from YA to YA and Crossover.

 

Do you feel guilty standing in the YA book section as an adult?

 

We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We Were Liars

Another brilliant novel has sailed across my desk – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This is a YA novel which stays with you long after the final page has been devoured. The story is told through the central character, Cadence. We follow her summers spent on a family island along with her friends /cousins –The Liars. As the liars hold a mirror to their family, they don’t always like what they see, and this has a disastrous effect.

The narrative of this novel is like a boat on the ocean, the reader is rocked by its undulations, of an idyll childhood spent on a private island near Martha’s Vineyard, to the fractures of this Kennedyesq family, which break, heal and break again. The reader is taken on an emotional journey, riding the ups and downs of the waves, which eventually crash to the shore with its stunning conclusion.

Lockhart’s writing is clear and concise but not devoid of description or poetry. It is her writing that first grabbed my attention. Here is an example of the main character describing her cousins and friend.

 

Johnny

He is bounce, effort, and snark.

 Mirren

She is sugar, curiosity and rain.

 Gat

He was contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee.

 

The writing was taut and effortless, but it was the plot in the end that won me over. I had to know the secret, the mystery.

Do not go in search of other reviews if you are interested in reading this one, as spoilers will surely ruin the whole experience. I’ll leave the last word to the dust jacket.

“We Were Liars is a modern suspense that will leave you reeling. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just lie.”

Title: We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Published: 2014

Genre: YA/ Crossover

All Our Yesterdays – By Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays

I love this book. This is one of those novels that book reviewers pull out all the clichés; a real page-turner, I couldn’t put it down, had me up all night. Because it’s true, I’m ‘exhibit A’ – The kid’s dinner went by the wayside, I was up all hours, zombie eyed; I was obsessed. Every moment I had, the book made its way back to my eagerly awaiting hands. I needed to know what was happening to the characters that had so quickly taken up residence in my life.

A quick plot outline – the two main characters travel back in time to try and save themselves and the world. To do this they must kill someone, but they find this more difficult than they thought.

That’s the gist of the plot I don’t want to spoil anything by giving too much detail. This book is the perfect example of “How to Start a Novel” Terrill puts you straight into the action –tick, questions are forming in your mind, has you curious – tick, tight plot – tick, early attachment to the characters – tick. The story has the essence of The Terminator films, which is fine with me, as I’m a huge Terminator fan; the fiction world has been waiting for a good time travel book for sometime. All I want to say is if you enjoy reading YA fiction then put this one on your shopping list.

 

TITLE: All Our Yesterdays

AUTHOR: Cristin Terrill

GENRE: YA

NB: was awarded the 2014 Thriller Award for Best Young Adult Novel by the International Thriller Writers

Independent Novels

Today I’m reviewing two independent novels at request from the authors. I think it’s important to encourage and support this industry, but I will only give a fair evaluation and will not promote any writing that I feel is of poor quality. That said I was very happy to read and recommend both of these books, which are available at a very reasonable price on Amazon.

 

Real Heroes Cry by Kieran Gould-Dowen

Amazon Blurb:

How would you react if you had superpowers forced upon you? More importantly, who decides if that reaction is good or evil?

Standing in a deserted field in rural Hereford, Dom watches alongside his brother Elliot and best friend Zara as meteors crash from the sky. Thrown into the destruction and to his death by Elliot, Dom awakens not just alive but reborn. Confused by his new superpowers, in particular the power over all matter, he soon gets labelled a super villain and sent on the run. With both his evil brother playing the role of superhero perfectly and the new mysterious organisation GEU hunting him and Zara down for crimes Dom was framed for, he is forced to make a choice: die an unknown hero or play the monster to protect those he loves.
Leading his new family of “ghosts” and fighting for the girl he loves, this is a story you won’t just fall in love with, but you will become obsessed with. Forget everything you know about superhero stories, it is time to see how a real hero lives.

Review:

The beginning of the novel is a little disjointed and confusing, but once the main characters of Dom and Zara are introduced it settles into a smooth rhythm that evolves into an engrossing novel. There is strong character arc development as we see the protagonist, Dom develop from a carefree teenager into a leader. I was enthralled by this novel and found its plot gripping; in a X-men meets The Fantastic Four sense. The book sits firmly in it’s YA genre and I look forward to the future novels in this series.

 

Order of Ascalon by Daniel J. Franks

Amazon Blurb:

A magical mystery adventure that takes you around the world…
After a group of drunken yobs mug sixteen-year-old Peter Butler one evening, he discovers that he has ancient magical powers, which will change the course of his life. Powers that will embroil him in the oldest conflict in human history, fought by influential and deadly secret organisations. Embarking on a daring magical adventure around the world, deciphering clues that lead him to long lost and powerful artefacts, hidden in famous landmarks, the Illuminati hunt him. The Arcanium need him. Governments want him!

Review:

Daniel J. Franks delivers a fantasy novel that catapults the reader head on into the world of intrigue, magic and adventure. Even the most reluctant reader would enjoy the fast paced rollercoaster ride that Franks takes to the reader. The writing is succinct and taut and the pace is reminiscent of a Matthew Riley novel. This is a light- hearted adventure that I recommend for the demographic of pre to early teens. This is the first book in the series and I’m sure it will develop a strong fan base.

Is the beginning the end?

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The start of a novel can make or break a book for me. It has to grab my attention with the very first line. As everyone today, I am too time poor to hang around hoping the book will get better. Am I too harsh? If an author has not put everything into their opening sentence then where is the respect to the reader? But here lies the problem, what makes a good first sentence? Every reader has different taste and I know what I like and if the writing is good,  I’ll stick around and give the book a fighting chance.

I recently attended a talk by the author Alexander McCall Smith. McCall Smith discussed the importance of a great opening line. He then delighted us with one of his favourites from The Tower of Trebizond by Rose Maccauly.

“Take my camel dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

Has the reader curious. No?

My favourite is a little more subdued, from the master himself, Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Whenever I read this I wonder whether Dickens sweated over every word, rearranging, rewriting, putting in a comma and then removing it again or was he hit by inspiration and it flowed in one sitting. Here it is, for your pleasure.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair

My son wanted to add his favourite, it’s the opening line of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit

“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit”

What is your favourite opening sentence?

Jump

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At the end of last year, a book was released that had me page turning faster than the bionic woman on steroids. This book was “Jump” by Sean Williams, book one in the “Twinmaker” series. Set in our future world where the characters are using a teleportation device called a d-mat. The teen generation are consuming this technology like candy without a thought to it’s possible consequences until the protagonist, Clare’s, world  is spun out of control when her friend Libby’s life is threatened. Clare’s life is turned into a rollercoaster ride and this is where the book shines, Williams knows how to move the novel along at a gripping pace. We see Clare’s character grow as her eyes are opened to a larger more sinister world than her previous carefree life.

The book plunges headlong into all the teen dramas without moral judgment. It delves into the dilemmas of friendship, loyalty and, superficiality and comments on the future use of technology and social media.

I felt at times that Sean Williams lacked subtly in exploring these themes, I like my themes whispered not screamed, but his twisting and suspenseful plot kept me intrigued to the very end. There are two more books in the series; I do hope we see more character development, as I need to care. I do like Clare, but everyone else is slightly superficial.
NB. In the US the books title is Twinmaker

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Libraries

Sicily Library

Confession – I have an addiction to libraries. In my wallet, amongst the Boost Juice and Gloria Jeans loyalty cards, sits my many library cards. Like inching out the notches on a belt, my wallet needs more room, maybe a separate wallet just for them.

 Over the years I’ve had many fine library moments, running around London’s library was pure joy, Sydney University library, had my face pasted with a smile, like the joker, for the entire day. Recently I visited my local library after it had major renovations, and I declared I’d found my utopia. I also have fond memories of visiting the Lands Title’s office and feeling like Alice in Wonderland as I struggled to open the huge record books. The large tomes are the size of a house; well a moped at least – seriously! I still have a world of libraries to conquer. I may start with the one pictured; it’s the Anscient Ursino of rare books in Sicily, Italy, or we could search for the lost books/library of Alexandria. Does anyone want to join me?