Thursday, August 07, 2008

Because a couple of you asked...

Instead of sitting around trying to come up with ASSinine punny names for future books in the Twilight Series--Breaking Wind, Full Moon, The Butt Crack of Dawn--I thought I'd give you a few titles for teen girls ... and middle-aged librarians who have never made the emotional leap beyond 17.

Books for older teens (i.e. they feature sex, sexual assault, pregnancy or drugs or they're simply sophisticated from a narrative standpoint)

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: let's start with first principles, here, folks. Published in 1948, this book pretty much invented the YA genre. It's still crackles with sexual energy and naive despair after all these years. The 2003 film version wasn't bad either, IMHO.

Before Wings by Beth Goobie: A 15-yr-old girl who has an aneurysm in her heart goes to summer camp where she engages with spirits who haunt the lake at night. Goobie is one of the most insightful and lyrical YA writers out there. She should be giving writing lessons to every aspiring novelist. It's too bad she's a bit of a recluse who doesn't do workshops because, oh my, her skills are so needed right now.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: Melinda is raped at a party during the summer before high school and spends her freshman year as a social outcast. What might otherwise be yet-another-problem-novel is made rich by the depth of Melinda's character and the cutting authenticity of the high school environment.

Seven for a Secret by Mary C. Sheppard: Set in a Newfoundland out-port in 1960, this book tells the stories of three teen cousins as they unearth the secrets of their pasts and face the sometimes harsh realities of their futures. The narrative voice of 15-yr-old Melinda is spot on with the warmth of the Newfoundland dialect.

The Corner Garden by Lesley Krueger. I reviewed this novel a few years back and loved it. Toronto author, Krueger, stitches together the life of a troubled teen with that of her aged neighbour who has not yet come to terms with her own teen regrets as a Nazi sympathizer in 1940s Holland. And, no, this is NOT yet another WWII/Holocaust novel for children. I too will admit that that particular genre has been done to death. It is, however, more of a YA/Adult cross-over.

Feed by M.T. Andersen: A YA dystopia that actually has the courage to be a dystopia rather than carrying a saccharine message of hope. The characters in the novel receive everything they need through the feed that is implanted in their brains. They can order and buy any kind of experience they want. The only problem is the "they" gets lost in the "want."

Sights by Susanna Vance: How's this for a first sentence: "I was in the womb eleven and one half months, came out fat, durable and gorgeous." Baby Girl was born with the Sight but it doesn't let her see her own future. She and her Momma have fled her dad and now she's starting high school all sore-thumbish in a new town. Reading this book is all tickly, like drinking icy ginger ale on a hot day.

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty: Jessica spends a year missing her best friend Hope. No, it's not quite an allegory. It is, however, a smart, sassy look at high school written by a writer for Cosmo Girl. It also includes an irrational attraction to a bad boy, but this one is sorta kinda ok in the end and, most importantly, DOESN'T WANT TO EAT ANYBODY OR READ THEIR THOUGHTS. Some may lump Sloppy Firsts with other teen fluff like L.B.D: It's a Girl Thing or Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging but I found it to be a cut above. So did ole Whatzernamenow, the Harvard freshman who infamously plagiairized it a couple of years ago. Second Helpings, the sequel isn't so bad either.

True Confessions of a Heartless Girl by Martha Brooks: This from the epigraph attributed to John Gardner: "There are really only two plot lines: a stranger rides into town and a stranger rides out of town." In the book, a community nurtures a pregnant teen who lands in their midst. Sometimes the setting feels like a throw back to, uh, I dunno, a combination of Leacock's Mariposa and a the estrogen-laden bear hug novels of Carol Shields. In the end, it proves twice over that it takes a village to raise a child ... and that it takes a child to bind a village unto itself.

Books for your 11 and 12 year old girls who are reading Twilight despite your admonishments
Before Wings by Beth Goobie: See above. I love this book so much I accidentally gave it to my niece two Christmases in a row.

Everything on a Waffle, The Canning Season or just about anything written by Polly Horvath: Do you know the novels of Horvath? She's crackles with dark humour and creates some of the most memorable supporting characters out there.

The Emily Series by L.M. Montgomery (like duh)

Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan: A pro-(quirky) family, pro-creativity, pro-happiness book for emerging teens. Imagine. It's also great, whacky reading for the home-schoolers out there.

Howl's Moving Castle or Witch Week or just about anything by Diana Wynne Jones. Diana Wynne Jones is round about one of the best fantasy writers for children ever but let's not get into that now, shall we? We could alway save fantasy and sci-fi for another list, another day.

Stravaganza: City of Masks by Mary Hoffman. OK, so I have a thing for fantasy when it comes to my late, middle readers. I put this one on the list because of the love interest in it--you know, in order to appeal to the Twilight readers.

You could also check out Kittenpie's book review site for older readers here. For those who don't know her, KP is my mommyblogging librarian doppelganger in Toronto. She also has the distinct advantage of reading far more widely that I do because, I suspect, she is just plain better at her job.

Do any of you have any suggestions, recommendations for me in the teen girl genre? I've had Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light and Sheree Fitch's The Gravesavers by my bed for about six months now but other books keep jumping the queue.