Pay attention, Poppets! This column will be a little, teensy-weensy bit different than previous columns by yours truly--i.e. this will be a column talking about Young Adult (or YA ) books that are written for and published for boys and girls between 11 and 17-- and the subject matter is not what it was "when I was that age" (sounding like the typical "older generation".) I had asked my director, Jill, about doing a column for YA readers and she thought it a good idea and I, for some reason known only to God and me, thought that would bear fruit in, oh, 3 or 4 months.
The books arrived yesterday. I honestly did not look on their spines, of the first two books I pulled out of the box, 'cause I just knew that of course they would be fiction, for this Sunday. They were--but not adult fiction -- which I picked up real quick when the first sentence I read was; "When Sam met Grace, he was a wolf and she was a girl." I thought - "Oh, yeah, I dated those guys in college, figured out what THEY wanted quickly, smiled sweetly, and found a date for a tennis game--where there was a net to jump over!"
To go on, "That should have been the end of their story, but Grace was not meant to stay human--now she is the wolf." Now, I was confused--I mean, I went to high school and college with girls known to be "fast"--we all did! Remember how they dressed and the make-up and the "attitude"? Well, I suppose you could, if you wanted to, find some of my classmates who might think I had the last of the 3--but I was usually on the courts, in the pool, in the yearbook office, or getting rid of--and despairing of getting the attention of--either one type of college boy or the other. But I was not a "wolf"!
So, I looked at the book cover, and it said, "Forever", by Maggie Stiefvater, and on the spine was the YA symbol--ah yes! The clouds parted and the sun came through--Jill had sent a selection of books for teens-just as I'd suggested. I thought all was well--I'd simply look at the flyleaf info and leaf through and read parts of the book. Yeah, right.
Okay, in this book the wolves of Mercy Falls are about to be killed in one big roundup and while Sam loves Grace, "and one boy and one love really change a hostile, predatory world? The past, the present, and the future are about to collide in one pure moment--a moment of death or life, farewell or forever." Yeah, I guess. In any case, dear readers, we have got to--absolutely got to--keep in mind that these books are not written for the world-weary and world-wise of we "grown-ups", but (all together now!) for Young Adults.
There's a lot of tenderness between these two people, and descriptions or scars and dirt literally on their skin and underneath their nails because they change into wolves and are in the woods, she learns who wants to kill Sam and who wishes her harm and has to use her skills, both human and wolf, to deflect the death coming at them. I am not going to divulge the end of the story but it not only involves Sam but her father and his understanding and thoughts.
Okay, next YA title. "On the Volcano", by James Nelson, which also involved grave danger but a love story and how it all affects Katie's father and their future. (For those of you who have little or no interest in YA books and are about to leave me and run errands or floss the cat's teeth, thanks for staying this long and better luck the next column For those of you who are still here and have young adults to buy for or just want to know "what's out there for my teen reader", stay awhile.) See, the thing I realized about the YA books was that if it is well written, and you start looking through it, the principles of a good story and the characters reach out and "grab" you and keep you interested.
Katie and her father live on their own, on the side of a crater of a collapsed volcano and they've built a happy life up there--"far removed from the frontier perils of the world below them"--but then Katie's birthday comes along. "With it comes grave danger and tremendous love and also, heart-pounding but tender romance, the kind to build a life on." A tragedy happens with a young man, Jess, who finds his way up the volcano side, involving the rape of Katie, and it seems as it her sense of guilt and somehow being to blame will hurt all of them.
Lorraine, who I'm sure is her father's good friend, is very supportive of her and her dad and what was necessary to do, but, of course, the sense of guilt over having to kill Jess haunts them, then another man, Dan, is killed and his father comes to face them, first saying he believes that two Indian tracks prove that two men were trailing his son, then, upon spying a glass in their cabin much like his murdered son, accusesÂ Katie's dad, Jack, of killing him. No amount of explaining to the desperate father, by Jack and Lorraine, convince him otherwise, and he shoots Katie's dad. So, soon after Dan's father rides away, Katie knows how to track him and shoot him with bow and arrow. I think all endsÂ up well, Katie is "taken" with the young deputy and all's well that ends well, I guess, and it seems that the deaths were easily explainable and forgivable.
Even I have heard of the authoress, Carol Lynch Williams, who wrote the excellent novel, "The Chosen One", listed on "Best Books for Young Adult Readers" and her new one is, "Miles From Ordinary", a story about a young girl, getting her first job helping at the library and Lacey, 14, is so hopeful not only for her job but also for her mother starting out on a new one at a store. Her dad's gone and her mother's always been "different" and is scared about how Momma's going to do at the Winn-Dixie food store, beginning that day also, and would she stay there?
Lacey looked forward to having a friend at the library whom she could talk to and maybe spend overnight with---if she could leave Momma overnight. She's a caring, loving daughter who has to look after her mother and worry where she is. A boy, Aaron, whom she went to school with last year, helps her look for her mother when she isn't at Winn-Dixie, later in the day, and she tells him a little about her mother's illness and her Aunt Linda. These YA books, I've learned in a short time, are constantly full of things happening, thoughts expressed--silently or aloud to others--and constant drama.
Her mother is possessed by Granddaddy's memory, adopts his voice and then tell Lacey that he misses both of them and wants both she and her mother to "join him" and Lacy is propelled to her bedroom, by Momma, and turned towards the closet where Granddaddy hung himself--you'll have to get the book and read the final chapter yourselves! Be warned--this is not a "pretty" story.
Gary Schmidt wrote "Okay For Now", and I'm hoping, as I open it, that it's less dramatic and quirky and frightening than the previous books. The story is about a young man, Doug Swieteck, and his daily living in a new environment/home he calls "the Dump. " It is the summer of 1968, the Apollo space missions are underway, Joe Pepitone is slugging for the New York Yankees, and the Vietnam War is raging.
"His home life includes a father who has lost his way, a brother accused of robbery and an older brother coming home from war--and what wounds will he have and how will his being added to the family affect Doug's life? Then, he meets Mrs Windermere "who drags him to a theater opening he does Saturday grocery deliveries and meets people who will surprise him and affect his life.Â This is, supposedly and an aim of the author's, that transforming power of Art over disaster in a story about creativity and loss, love, and recovery, which includes survival. A grand plan for any author, I thought, and began to look through it.
His wonderful art instructor also teaches him about life, a little about love, and he also learns his brother, Lucas, is coming home "a little bit changed", the letter says from his buddy written to his mother, and his father made them all go to the Bullard Paper Mill annual picnic and he and Mr. Bullard won the contest on Baseball stats, and Mr. Bullard teaches him how to throw horseshoes, and his sort of- girlfriend gets him to show her, and lots of things happen to young master Swieteck. There's saving Joel in a bad, really bad asthma attack, there's the part about being bribed by a print of Au dubon's, "The Snowy Heron" to help in a play, Lucas gets a job helping the Coach at the high school (who was really impressed at how well Lucas could handle his wheelchair going up and down the library steps) and all's well that ends well for Doug's family and friends. The End.
Good Heavens! These YA books can wear you out just trying to tell about them, much less, as a reviewer, having to read almost all the book to see what else is coming around the corner for the characters. I can certainly see why the readers get so involved in the stories! I'm most admiring of the authors who have the "secret" to writing challenging plots and believable characters, and I can pity the writers who think writing a book for young readers is a piece of cake--you better have an excellent, empathetic sense of what's going to come out real and believable or else think of something else to do. These stories are really good, and in trying my feeble best to tell about them--I'd have to write a column for each book--as witness the last part of my effort to "wind up" the story "Okay For Now." I had a hard time even finding a stopping point, so much was still happening up until the last three pages and I just finally stopped--and could have gone on for another 6 or 7 sentences. I'd unequivocally urge you to pick up one of these titles or any on the shelves in the library and begin reading--you'll be there for another hour, standing or sitting in the same place--and just "pulled in" to the characters and their lives.
I will promise to do this twice more before the end of the year; meanwhile, eat your veggies, don't complain about the heat--you have shady spots and air conditioning--no one likes a whiner, if, by the time you read this no compromise has been reached by the "I've taken a stand and won't move off it" men and women of Congress, pray for all of us! I'd have been, with that attitude, sent to my room "to collect myself" and it's always tough when people "take a stand" and express it verbally and in writing because then they can't or won't abandon it for fear of appearing "weak." As one of my neighbors can say (with devastating tone and puzzled look--very effectively) "Really?
I loved the last part of "Harry Potter" and thought the actors had matured in their craft well and ended with a flourish and my next movie is going to be "Cowboys and Aliens" 'cause who wouldn't want to watch the fun of seeing Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig stand off winged monsters and awful creatures--all the while on horseback? The trick is to do it with aplomb (no, I won't tell you what it means--look it up!) Y'all take care and let's all rejoice that we're going to have Football season--here in Texas it's un-American to have it cancelled for any reason!