The English teacher in me surfaces every now and then so I still enjoy checking out Young Adult fiction.
UnEnchanted, Chanda Hahn, 2011
Mina Grime is unpopular in her high school and uncoordinated in life generally. She does her best to be unnoticeable even as she crushes on Brody, the most popular guy in school. When she accidentally saves his life on a school excursion, she starts to learn the truth about her family: she belongs to the line of the Brothers Grimm who are cursed with trying to finish fairytales, all played out in the real world. Mina learns about family loyalty and courage in this magical adventure, all the while discovering who she is and shifting her conceptions of what it is to be ordinary. This is a series, so once you’re hooked, you can keep going. I was a little worried that Mina was going to need saving by her ‘handsome prince’, and she certainly flirts with that idea, but in the end, she discovers her own strength, and this doesn’t detract from the love story. (By the way, there are no sex scenes, just a few kisses.) A good one for reluctant girl readers.
Iskandar, Mike Bird, 2013
Written by Aussie theologian Mike Bird, this reads like an old fashioned epic without the breadth of vocabulary or sophistication of plot that so intimidates many young adult readers. The tale evolved from bedtime stories Bird told to his oldest daughter and it reads that way: it’s episodic, with each chapter leaving you wondering what will happen next. I was disappointed at the lack of female characters – there’s one on the good guys’ side and on the bad guys’ side, but isn’t that just a bit tokenistic? Nevertheless, the characters are likeable, including one who has some sort of intellectual disability. This ‘sword and sorcery’ adventure is littered with biblical language and themes with plenty to discuss afterwards, including redemption, loyalty, loneliness, and power.
Kindred, Octavia Butler, 1979
Not written specifically for young adults, this much more confronting book is one for readers who are prepared to be stretched in content and ready for writing that is a little more polished. It follows Dana who inexplicably is transported from 1970s California back in time to save the life of Rufus in 19th century Maryland. Time passes differently so while Dana appears at various points in Rufus’ life, only moments pass for her. The catch is that she’s black. The racism she experiences in her own time is tough, but unlike the suffocating captivity of slavery. At times her white husband is also transported back which brings up interesting dynamics between the two. There are some sensitive themes like suicide but this story will expose the mature reader to a world entirely unlike their own, growing them in empathy and capitalising on the common adolescent desire for justice and independence.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.