Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back to high school

I've gotta tell you, folks, I do not care for delayed gratification. When I want something, I want it now. This is why I'm likely to be a bit twitchy for the next few days, at least until my copy of Eclipse arrives from It actually arrived yesterday, but I returned it to the store because the dust jacket was ripped (I'm compulsive, so sue me) expecting to just do an even exchange for a new copy. B&N's method for dealing with this is pretty asinine, and the upshot is I left without the book but with a new one on the way. If I'd known this would happen, I'd have read the damn thing before I returned it.

But, whatever.

The whole situation has put me in a YA frame of mind. I stopped by the library this evening to find something to fill the hole until Eclipse arrives, and I made use of its painfully small YA section. This is what I love about YA. When you read it as an adult, it's usually a pretty quick read but it's entertaining because you have the benefit of hindsight. Yeah, you can see the disasters coming from a mile away because you actually lived through high school, but it's so easy to get caught back up in that high-school, oh-my-God-he-talked-to-me mindset. Particularly if, like me, you were a geek in high school who never got to do any of the exciting stuff.

So without further ado, my list of awesome YA that even an adult can love.

I was late on this bandwagon. I finished the first book last Saturday and the second one last night. The wait for Eclipse is going to be brutal. Partly, I've always had a thing for vampire stories, and the whole star-crossed lover deal is always a winner. But really I think it boils down to the fact that I--I who hate chick lit, who won't watch sappy movies, who thinks Nicholas Sparks is Satan incarnate--I am a sucker for an angsty teenage romance. I mean, think about high school. Think about who you were dating in high school. Can you imagine wanting to spend all of eternity with that person? (You don't count, Jenni.) I mean, not everyone hit the unfaithful-drug addict-high school dropout trifecta with their high school boyfriend like I did, but usually those are not romances that are made to last. But damn if Stephenie Meyer doesn't sell it. I was only about 50 pages in before I realized how hooked I was. I'm doing a terrible job of selling it. But it's awesome.

How I Live Now
You have to respect a book--particularly one aimed at young adults--that takes on a topic like incest but handles it sensitively. Set in the near future, it's a story of falling in love with the absolute wrong person. When war breaks out, American fifteen-year-old Daisy is stranded in England with her cousins—and no adult supervision. As the realities of war sink in to the five children, Daisy and her cousin Edmond find comfort—and love— in each other. Their comfort is short-lived, however, as the children are forcibly separated and Daisy and her cousin Piper struggle to stay alive and find the others.

Rats Saw God
Nobody is more surprised than Steve York when he’s selected as a National Merit finalist. Steve cuts class. He spends all of his time stoned. And he planted a marijuana seed in his guidance counselor’s fern. He’s drugged out, depressed and failing English—despite a 760 verbal SAT score. When his guidance counselor investigates, he finds that two years ago, Steve was a straight-A student. He challenges Steve to write a 100-page paper on the topic of his choice in return for a passing English grade. Steve chooses to explore the last two years of his life in the paper—which may be just what the counselor ordered.

Written by Veronica Mars creator (not musician) Rob Thomas, this is an amazing story of a life totally derailed by one series of events. It's kind of like a Catcher in the Rye for a new generation, if Catcher in the Rye didn't suck so much.

I Am Morgan le Fay
Morgan was born into a world where women have little power, where men make all of the decisions, where a son is valued highly above a daughter. But there is a power reserved for the women alone. It is the power of the Fay, the Faerie. When Morgan learns to harness that magical power for herself, she changes history, for she is the half sister of the legendary King Arthur. She is Morgan le Fay, and her power will bring down Camelot.

I also have a weakness for Arthurian legends. Traditional tellings of the story are very focused on the male characters, and the women are often either evil or spineless. Nancy Springer chooses to focus on Morgan le Fay as a child and young adult, ending the story before she encounters King Arthur as an adult. Morgan is classically seen as a villain in the mythology, but Springer’s take on the tale is that of a good if misguided girl who lets the allure of power lead her astray.

Elinor is lucky, so lucky. She is lucky to be part of True Cause, because True Cause is the True Cause. She is lucky to not be an Outsider, because Outsiders don’t know salvation. They don’t know Howard. Elinor is lucky to be one of Howard’s Chosen, because she will become one of his wives when she turns sixteen. Howard is the Savior, and he chooses very few. Elinor is lucky. But sometimes she doesn’t feel so lucky. Sometimes she wonders why telephones and newspapers are Forbidden. Sometimes she wonders why the Outsiders seem so content with their sinful lives. Sometimes she wonders why she keeps meeting the Outsider boy Jamie, even though she knows it’s wrong. Sometimes she wonders if this is all there is to her life.

Creepy and touching. And creepy.

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