Recently I was given some added responsibility at my bookseller gig. Along with one of my coworkers, I’m now in charge of monitoring the teen section. I guess a passion for young adult literature makes you somewhat unique in literary circles, or at least in my particular group of booksellers. For me it was an easy offer to accept.
My recent reading efforts have been mainly in adult literature, so I’ve enjoyed this motivation to get back into the YA scene. I started with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, which has been a bestseller alongside The Fault in Our Stars since 2012. (That’s especially cool because Ransom Riggs and John Green attended Kenyon College together.) Miss Peregrine’s is a rare book that is truly difficult to compare to anything else. Riggs used vintage photographs, often of the creepy variety, as inspiration for a school full of children with “peculiar” abilities. The narrator Jacob is investigating his grandfather’s past, leading him to England and the peculiar children. This book is proof that inventiveness can thrive in the YA genre.
Next I ventured into the Teen Fantasy and Adventure section. Last year Juliet Marillier, my favorite fantasy writer, released a new teen book called Shadowfell. It’s the first in a series about a girl named Neryn who lives in a kingdom where magic is forbidden. This is dangerous for someone like Neryn with an uncanny ability, in her case to see and speak with magical folk. Shadowfell had many of the hallmarks of Marillier’s adult novels, but the story felt simplified for a younger audience. Marillier has such a lovely writing style that I enjoyed the book even when I thought I could predict what was coming next. Even better, my predictions were sometimes proven wrong. It won’t win my devotion to the extent of the Sevenwaters series, but I’m looking forward to reading the second book in July.
Most recently I finished The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. She is another friend of John Green’s, so you can tell where I go for YA recommendations. This book is about Rory, a Louisiana teenager who spends her final year of high school at an English boarding school. Someone begins recreating the Jack the Ripper murders, and Rory gets caught up in the mayhem. I enjoy how Johnson approaches a classic subject like ghosts with a modern, snarky tone. She isn’t necessarily trying to be deep, but her writing is well-researched and entertaining. The Name of the Star is also the first in a series called Shades of London. The Madness Underneath, the second book in the series, is high on my to-read list.
The floodgates have opened. I have a list of at least ten more YA books that I want to check out. As if that wasn’t enough, Sarah Dessen’s new book comes out a week from today! The teen section is often the butt of jokes, and admittedly there are some superficial and copycat titles out there. Like any genre, YA has its good and bad examples. And Gentle Readers, I will continue sharing the good examples with you.