Thursday, July 9, 2009

Reading YA Books

Until about a year ago, I hadn't read any YA books, since I was, well, a YA myself. Before I began this blogging adventure I would have never thought of looking for books in the YA section. What I've found since, is that when you look past all the vampire books (sorry, that genre just doesn't appeal to me at all) and books with sexy girls on the covers, there are treasures to be found in the YA section. I've read a couple recently myself.

Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls is the story of a young woman suffering from anorexia. I felt as thought I knew a fair amount about anorexia before reading this book. I did a science fair project about it in the 7th grade that was featured in the newspaper. I had a close friend in high school that suffered from the disorder. In my professional career, I've read doctor's interviews with sufferers and observed their behavior in the hospital cafeteria as they obsessed over food, threw some away and sometimes sat with their families in situations that can only be described as turbulent.

Despite all this, I didn't really know what was going on in the head of a person suffering from anorexia and what their families go through as well, and that is where LHA comes in. She has created a portrait of a young woman, full of self doubt and pain that exerts control over her life in the only way she feels she can, by starving and cutting herself. This is an intense and powerful read.

Another book I read was If I Stay by Gayle Forman. This is the story of Mia, a young woman with a joyful life who is preparing to make a choice. A choice between leaving home and going to Julliard after high school or staying home near her boyfriend who is a member of a local up-and-coming band. Suddenly tragedy strikes and Mia finds herself with a different sort of choice to make between everything or nothing.

Reading these books, and other YA books I've noticed some similarities. These books start with a bang. There's no meandering, get-to-know-the-characters in the first 50 pages as I so often find in adult books. By the end of the first chapter or even sometimes even the first page, the story is out there, we know where we're going, there is action and suspense from the get go. I understand this, I mean these books are being written for the ipod and text message generation, they want to just get to the story. This is also, I think, why I tend to not find these books completely satisfying. More likely though is the fact that I'm 'past' much of the subject matter.

I enjoyed both of these books, admittedly Wintergirls more, and will continue to read from the YA section when the right book comes along.


Melissa said...

Like you, I also hadn't read any YA before I started blogging, but those two are on my TBR list. (I'm in the minority, I know, with the vampire genre not holding any appeal to me either.) Glad you enjoyed them - thanks for the reviews!

Anna said...

I haven't read too many YA, but I've noticed the vampire trend and that they're getting sexier. (Not sure how I feel about the latter, being the mom of a young girl and all.) I've had my eye on Wintergirls for a while now. Thanks for the recommendations.

Diary of an Eccentric

avisannschild said...

I also hadn't read much YA before I started blogging (with the exception of Twilight, which I didn't like enough to read any of the rest of the series), but I've picked up a few this year that I've really enjoyed (though I haven't reviewed most of them yet!). I'm curious about the two you reviewed and also about your observation that these books start with a bang. This isn't something I've noticed so far, but maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention!

bermudaonion said...

I'm not even sure there was a YA section when I was a YA back in the dark ages. I enjoy YA books (I'm reading The Chosen One right now) but have to admit that I've been shocked by the sex in some of them.

Anonymous said...

I often enjoy YA books a lot - they tend to be more straightforward, plotwise, than adult books, and sometimes I am in the mood for that. Laurie Halse Anderson, I have to say, is exceptional. (If a bit grim!) I always look forward to her books.

JoAnn said...

It's been amazing to see where my 'blogging adventure' (I love that phrase!) has lead. So far it's been graphic novels and short stories. Like you, I haven't read much YA (and I don't like those vampire books either), but I have a feeling that will be my next experiment will be with YA novels.

Karen said...

I have been reading a lot of YA novels as well! I have just finished If I Stay and really loved it. Will have to keep an eye out for the other book you talk about in this post.

Staci said...

I really enjoy YA and the two that you just read are some of my favorites from this year.

Bree said...

I don't think when I was a YA/teen there was a YA section of the library. Before taking my YA lit class, I had only read Harry Potter (love it!!!) and now I'm addicted to YA. It's a nice break from adult lit. You're right though how the authors just throw everything out there. Most "good" YA tends to have some moral or realism to them. I was talking with my teen daughter about certain YA lit (specifically Speak) and as a teen she does not want to read such books because she deals with it on a day to day basis. I thought that was very interesting. So it makes me wonder if more adults are making certain YA authors popular or are the teens themselves?

Tara said...

B&B's Mommy, these two are definitely worth reading - LHA has many great books, it seems.

Anna, yes! The covers are so sexy, with short skirts and lots of makeup -ick! Wintergirls is a great book, I hope you decide to read it!

avisannschild, It might just be the books I've chosent that begin with a bang - perhaps the dramatic ones just appeal to me vs. the boy/girl sorts of stories.

bermudaonion, I think you're right. Too bad, since when I was a teenager I gravitated towards lots of V.C. Andrews and the like. Also, the Sweet Valley High books. Come to think of it, If I Stay had some sex in it - it is surprising.

Jennysbooks, straightforward is a good word for it, I agree withyou. Yes, LHA does seem to be the master of the YA book, I'm definitely going to read more of her work.

JoAnn, Me too! It's fun to experiment with books I'd never thought of reading before.

Karen, what else have you enjoyed?

Staci, do you have any other recommendations?

Bree, I think you're right, as I commented to Bermudaonion, I think I read some pretty trashy books when I was a YA! I find your daughters reaction interesting and understandable. (I do need to read Speak) I bet it's a combination of the two, adults and teens.

Carrie K said...

I think the YA section was called Junior back in the dark ages when I was one or the other. I've never much kept to any particualar age group, except I do notice I'm a bit judgy about YA. Why, I have no idea.

Not into vampire books either! YA or adult.

Iliana said...

If it wasn't for blogging I don't know that I'd be reading YA books either. I'm so glad I've been introduced to the genre though because I've really discovered some treasures.

Haven't read either of these but I have heard about them and both sound very good!

Melissa said...

I don't do vampire books either, but I have both of these on my TBR pile!

Jenny said...

I often really enjoy YA fiction. Some is a LOT better than others, though. Diana Wynne Jones and Sonya Hartnett are both excellent, if you're looking out for more.

Tara said...

Carrie K, Ah yes, the junior section! Yeah for no vampire books!

Iliana, these were both good reads!

Melissa, I hope you enjoy these!

Jenny, I will check out those authors, thanks for the recommendations!

Kim L said...

I very much enjoy YA fiction, and its one of those things that I basically read a lot of it when I was a teen and I just never stopped liking it. Going to that section of the bookstore or library makes me feel a little weird now that I'm older, but I still get this thrill out of reading YA books.

I think you hit the nail on the head that the books tend to start with a bang. They tend to be shorter, so they tend to condense things, but I think so many YA books still have extremely sophisticated plots, so its always fun to see how they fit a large topic into a short read. Plus, its nice to sit and read a novel in a short amount of time.

Anyhow, I'll stop babbling now because once I get started on my opinions about YA books it takes me a while to shut up :-)

Tara said...

Kim L, I'm glad you agree with my 'big bang beginning' theory! Who are your favorite YA authors?