On the topic of “growing up” in literature.

black espresso

Recently, I’ve started to hear more and more about writers of adult fiction asking writers of YA fiction when they will grow up. The problem? Readers experience the same phenomenon. I can’t tell you how many times someone who chooses to read the classics or someone who chooses to read endless strings of adult crime thriller novels, tells me that I should grow up and stop reading my “silly teenage fantasy romances.”

UM, EXCUSE ME?

My main issue with this does not lie in their obvious literary snobbery or even the fact that they don’t know what they’re talking about, since they don’t read YA fiction. My problem lies in the fact that they’re looking down on a genre that actually gets kids and teenagers to read. I can’t tell you how many of my friends growing up seriously disliked reading because of its association with school, and therefore things like “work” and “bad” and “for smart people only.” Yet when I begged them on my figurative hands and knees to read something (usually Harry Potter), they would inevitably give in and appease me. By doing so, they would fall in love with reading all over again and discern things about the world around them and the world within them that they’d never even glimpsed at before.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care if 99.9% of the books I read center around teenagers who discover a hidden magical/mythical world within their own while finding first love in the process, defy a totalitarian government against all odds, or find out that they are, in some way, very different than most people. Because all of these crazy plots are inspiring. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on the formulaic crime mystery. As a kid, I would constantly sneak into the study to read Catherine Coulter, Iris Johansen, etc. until the wee hours in the morning. Are these novels bad? No. Are they the only good ones? Definitely not. Are they the most inspiring? Depends on who you are. But in a world where teenagers would rather watch endless hours of TV, waste time reading the same tweets and Instagram photos over and over, and use SparkNotes on every English exam, books that intrigue teenagers are important.

Take Harry Potter, for instance. A scrawny eleven year old with a lightning bolt-shaped scar who, rather than choosing defeat, fights the most feared wizard in magical history and wins. What about Katniss? A half-starving girl from an unimportant district firmly under a horrific government’s control finds herself the face of a revolution. Tris—a small girl from an unassuming faction who chooses to be Dauntless in more ways than one, who begins to understand bravery, selflessness, and facing one’s fears, both in everyday life and in epic battles, and who glimpses her mother’s hidden strength. And Lena? The girl who follows all of the rules, who is perhaps the most afraid of love, who later becomes one of its biggest advocates, and who takes down her society’s walls built upon years of fear of the unknown. Don’t forget Meghan, the girl who risks everything to save her little brother, who finds herself at the center of the faery universe, and who changes from a self-conscious farm girl into a catalyst who changes the very fabric of the faery existence.

All of these stories, and much, much more, tell of teenagers who step up and change something. They find love and they lose it. They figure out what’s important to them in life and fight for it. They aren’t okay with being a part of the status quo. Now, I know that all of the stories I referred to were dystopian or fantasy, but the same goes for much of young adult literature. These authors are so full of imagination that these stories become more than words on a page. These characters are no longer caricatures; they take on a life of their own. Whether young adult fiction tells of transformation of an entire world or of transformation in a single person’s life, it makes a difference.

Camus’ The Stranger, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Shakespeare’s plays, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Jane Austen’s works, Catherine Coulter’s FBI Thriller series, etc. are all GOOD. The classics, the moderns, the fantastical, the realistic, the sci-fi, the paranormal, the romance (well, not Erotica, sorry), and many more are all GOOD.

My point is, just because something is written for a young adult, a middle grade, or a children’s literature-based audience doesn’t make it childish.

So, THANK YOU to every single young adult author, reader, blogger, or publisher who refuses to “grow up.”

 

Okay guys, what do you think about growing up in literature? I’d really love your feedback! 🙂

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Review: Countdown by Michelle Rowen

Publisher: Harlequin TEEN

Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Teen & YA

Series:  None

Pages: 336

Release Date: September 24th, 2013

Rating: coffee cup iconcoffee cup iconcoffee cup iconcoffee cup icon

Summary from Goodreads:

3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped. 

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.

Kira Jordan survived her family’s murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it.

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira’s psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan’s secrets prove ever more deadly, Kira’s only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can’t escape.

GAME OVER

__________________________________

coffee to go

Coffee To Go: If you want a quick, fun adrenaline shot, this book is for you. It’s gritty and doesn’t sugarcoat the deadliness of Countdown. Did I mention psychic powers and implants? How about having to trust a convicted murderer to survive? The story rushes through the plot a little too quickly for me, but there’s non-stop action, secrets, and sci-fi, all of which combine to make the perfect rainy day read.

Characters—

Kira: This girl is a hot mess. I’m not sure whether I like her or not. She doesn’t necessarily change over the course of the novel, but the reader does get to know her better. She’s a bit unrealistic and changes her mind a lot, but if you like spunk and attitude and fierceness she’s your girl! Oh, and sarcasm. Her sarcasm is hilarious!

Rogan: Definitely my favorite character. He will surprise you over and over again! He has such a crazy story. The best part? He’s not perfect. Thank goodness. He has some serious skeletons in his closet and feels tons of guilt. That said, it’s a really interesting journey to see the true Rogan come out. You will find some definite “squeal” and “swoon” moments with Rogan.

The World—

Full of rust and overcast skies. Odd, yes, but that’s my mental picture. The book cover gives you a pretty good taste of the setting. Kira’s city is one that nobody wants to live in, which is why she wants so badly to go to the Colony! The sci-fi technology is very creative. I remember putting my iPad down for a moment when I learned about the implants because my brain couldn’t handle all of the awesome-ness. YES, IMPLANTS. Let that sink in…okay, good. The world has a neatly tied up history and makes for a great setting, especially for the type of game Kira and Rogan play.

Final Thoughts—

I liked it well enough. It didn’t give me an “OMG I love this and I want to read it again every day” feeling, but it did keep me on my toes and interested in Kira and Rogan’s fates. Other minor characters come along, but they’re more plot device than dynamic character. That’s okay though—Rowen uses them effectively. Warning: if you want a story in which you can fall in love with the characters and the world, this probably isn’t for you. It could be, but usually that’s reserved for series. Countdown has a pretty rushed feel to it. But once again, if you like sci-fi, READ this book. I can’t tell you more about the sci-fi aspect without spoilers, but it gets CRAY. And it’s totally logical in Kira and Rogan’s world. LOVE THAT.

Memorable Quotes—

“He eyed me as if I might do something else utterly unexpected—either kiss him or kill him.”

“But what I felt right now—it was real.  No drugs required.”

***This book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.

Book Review: FAE by C.J. Abedi

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Publisher: Diversion Books

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance, Faeries

Series: Fae trilogy

Pages: 471

Release Date: July 30th, 2013

Rating: 3.5/5

Summary from Good Reads:

The battle between Light and Dark is about to begin. 

Caroline Ellis’ sixteenth birthday sets into motion a series of events that have been fated for centuries. A descendant of Virginia Dare, the first child born in the lost colony of Roanoke, and unaware of her birthright as the heir to the throne of the Light Fae, it isn’t until she begins a tumultuous relationship with Devilyn Reilly that the truth is revealed.

Devilyn is the only one of the Fae who is both of the Light and of the Dark, and struggles to maintain that precarious balance to avoid succumbing to the power of the Dark within him. He is the only one who can save Caroline from those who would destroy her and destroy all hope for unity among the Fae. He promises Caroline that he will protect her at all costs, even when it means protecting her from himself.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Caroline and Devilyn, FAE draws on mysteries, myths and legends to create a world, and a romance, dangerously poised between Light and Dark.

__________________________________

Characters—

Caroline: Can I just brag on this girl for a second? She was my all-time favorite aspect of this novel. She begins and stays so witty that I found myself literally laughing out loud. Her internal monologue is so relatable and real. Most high school girls would think exactly like her. I’ve read some reviews in which people criticize her for fawning over Devilyn when they first meet, but if we’re being honest, almost any teenage girl with hormones would be immediately drawn to Devilyn. The authors describe him as incredibly hot, a star athlete, and a mysterious boy arriving in a small town. I am impressed that Caroline does have self esteem. She doesn’t walk around feeling ugly and insecure. She knows where her strengths lie, both physically and personality-wise. With that said, she’s also not vain or conceited. She doesn’t realize the extent of her beauty. I do wish that Caroline would have uncovered more secrets about her past and delved deeper into the world of Faerie, but that’s what the second and third books are for, right?

Devilyn: Let’s just describe Devilyn as a much more intense and less sarcastic Daemon Black (Lux Series). He’s got the prickly, overprotective, secretly sensitive and romantic thing down. I guess we will all understand him when we are an immortal teenager constantly battling our evil temptations while trying to defy Fate and protect the person we love. What I love about Devilyn is that he has everything: looks, wealth, charm, you name it. But he doesn’t care about any of it. He can see through false beauty. Long story short: if you’re a fan of the brooding, self-sacrificial, gorgeous type, Devilyn Reilly is your man.

Odin: Every story needs the “rock” character, the person who stays constant and represents goodness, and Odin fits that bill. He may be quirky but I always get a sense of safety and warmth when he was in the scene. Great addition to the book!

Teddy: I hate to say it, but Teddy is the formulaic guy best friend that’s so common in paranormal romance. He’s utterly human—and a good one at that. He seems to only show up in the plot when it’s convenient, which has some pros and cons to it. I can tell you (no spoilers) that he doesn’t constitute the third party of a love triangle! How refreshing. Teddy, while a more minor character, adds some depth and some well-roundedness to the story.

The World—

There’s a prophecy foretelling of an epic battle, romance that defies ancient laws, a conniving, manipulative villain, and human drama throughout it all? Yes please! While the back story and the prophecies behind Fae have a dark and medieval feel to them, the story itself isn’t dark. If you’re looking for something reminiscent of Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey, you won’t find it here. Instead, it has more of a Twilight feel—with a way less whiny narrator and a way cooler world. The romance here is different. It isn’t sensual or built on witty, sarcastic banter. Instead, it’s sweet and bittersweet…if that’s possible.

Final Thoughts—

This book has its flaws. It does. There were times that I wanted to tell Devilyn to take a chill pill and to stop using such girly sentences. “I had to close my eyes and gain control over my racing heart.” So not okay for his character. What about “…and HE, the one that will not be named…”? This isn’t Voldemort we’re talking about. Some of the descriptions within the story were a bit excessive and the authors could have tightened up the plot, but the story itself is enjoyable. It has some great qualities; it’s just not for those seeking mystery and action. Those who are seeking a teen romance with a paranormal edge will LOVE this book! Moreover, I’m sure that everyone will appreciate the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. They’re all relevant, insightful, and hail from Seneca to Shakespeare to Emerson to Italian proverbs! I’m a huge fan. Lastly, the transitions from Caroline’s POV to Devilyn’s and back again are flawless. You’ll have to read for yourself to see how flawless. Do it.

Memorable Quotes—

“Enchanting. Loveable. Forbidden. I had to stop.”

“How ugly my world was. Ugly even with all the outward beauty we possessed.”

“It may be what I am, but right now it’s far from who I am.”

***This book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.

Book Review: “The Girl of Fire and Thorns” by Rae Carson

the girl of fire and thorns

Publisher: Greenwillow

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

Series: Fire and Thorns

Pages: 423

Release Date: September 20, 2011

Rating: 4/5

Summary from GoodReads:

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one. 

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

__________

Let’s just say that this book definitely has its strengths and its flaws.

Characters

   Elisa:

I absolutely love that Carson steps out of the formulaic female protagonist! Don’t get me wrong, I love them as much as anybody else, but not everyone is perfectly fit, petite, and attractive. Elisa, on the other hand, begins the story with food as her only friend. Moreover, I could see a gradual change in her throughout the book. She liked some of it while also admitting that she did not like her evolving self sometimes. Carson does a very good job of showing the reader how Elisa makes decisions. Elisa’s thought processes are more than simply stream-of-consciousness.

The Men:

Alejandro, Elisa’s husband, shows the reader just how little looks matter sometimes. He is gorgeous, yet weak. He cannot seem to make a single strong decision throughout the novel and his insensitivity proves to be very irritating. That said, he becomes the perfect foil character to both Humberto and Hector. Both men are deep, chivalrous, kind, protective, etc etc. They’re almost too perfect. Nobody wants a male protagonist without flaws, right? Moreover, the two men are nearly the same person.

   Ximena:

I loved this lady! She is a very static character, but that serves as a complete bonus in this case. When things get crazy in the novel, Ximena is the constant nugget of solidarity. Who doesn’t want a complete badass lady in waiting who can hem a perfect gown while serving as your fierce guardian?

Overall, I thought that Carson could have done a more thorough job with characterization. I had a hard time feeling any attachment to many of the characters. When Elisa has conversations with other characters, I feel like I am seeing them through a veil because they weren’t quite real to me.

The World—

The novel takes place in a mostly desert climate where God dropped the characters’ ancestors—literally with his “righteous right hand”—many generations ago after the First World ended. The country of Joya, where Elisa spends 99% of the novel, is a vast desert with a small hilly region along one border and a coast/oasis, where the capital city lies. Elisa’s home country seems to be less dry and the enemy territory seems much woodsier, but there is no kind of map to which I can compare the settings. The Godstone concept is SUPER interesting and different from normal protagonist distinctions, although I feel like having a stone, no matter how alive it may be, lodged in your bellybutton would be uncomfortable. My only complaint is that the God seems under-formed. I know that this God is a supreme, all-knowing being, but as the religious elements lean heavily toward Christianity, I feel like the God should be more personal and have more of a dynamic voice. I just don’t understand how Elisa feeling the Godstone “pulse” and “warm to the idea” is communication with God. That said, I LOVED the faith Carson incorporated! I’ve read many reviews where the writer did not like the amount of religion Carson uses, but it’s really refreshing for me.

The Themes—

Self-sacrifice

   Extraordinary from ordinary

   Having faith in yourself

Final Thoughts—

   Read it! This book has some room for improvement, but the things you will take away from it are valuable, not to mention a good read! It’s entertaining, inspiring, and real—er, well, it’s still fantasy…You get my drift. Elisa is a witty protagonist who doesn’t sugarcoat her feelings. When she’s embarrassed, you’ll feel embarrassed with her. When she’s feeling snarky, you know she has a good reason. When she’s grieving, you’ll feel her pain as well.

I really hope this review helped you! It’s my first one, so I am open to suggestions on other books and ways to improve!

               

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