Posts Tagged ‘young adult fiction’

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

This is the first book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy, a series about Nathaniel,a young magician’s apprentice, and the djinni (Bartimaeus) he summons, initially for a spot of personal vengeance and then, in the way of these things, to try to sort things out when he ends up way out of his depth.

This book will definitely appeal to Harry Potter fans but has a very different tone; darker and with more humour. The point of view switches between Nathaniel and Bartimaeus, and the djinni’s chapters definitely stand out. He’s self-serving, sarcastic and the footnotes cracked me up. His chapters reminded me a lot of the Discworld books. Nathaniel’s chapters aren’t narrated by him but do move the story along and are often where the action is. There’s magic, demons, really bad guys and a huge adventure.

Recommended, especially if you need a giggle.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

This book was strongly recommended a number of times by various LibraryThing members. It was a little awkward to get hold of – I’m not sure it’s been published in the UK, but Amazon came to my rescue. I’m glad I put the effort in to find it.

Helen has been Light – a ghost – for 130 years. In that time she has haunted a number of ‘hosts’ – people she attaches herself to in order to stay in this world. Her current host is a high school English teacher and one day she senses one of his students looking at her.

The story that follows describes the bond between Helen and this boy. I was captivated from the very beginning – in some ways I was less captivated as it went along but it pulled me right back in at the end. I think the setting you read this book in is important; it really deserves to be soaked up in one sitting and I couldn’t do that, and I think that’s the only reason I became less engaged. Overall though I loved it all and became really attached to Helen. I definitely recommend this.

Tithe by Holly Black

Tithe is another young adult book and again is about a teenage girl who can see faeries. I suspect the recommendations for this and Wicked Lovely probably came from the same place.

Sixteen year-old Kaye has spent her life moving from town to town with her mother’s band. When her mother is attached by her boyfriend they return to Kaye’s childhood home to live with her grandmother, a place were Kaye used to see faeries. She finds herself drawn back into their world and, as with Wicked Lovely, we see that the faerie world isn’t all (or even mostly) sweetness and light.

Though there are obvious similarities with Wicked Lovely the tone is quite different, and Kaye’s story is very different from Aislinn’s. Many elements of Kaye’s real life are as seedy as the faerie world, it’s quite gritty in comparison to Aislinn’s and I’m clearly become very shockable in my old age as I was surprised to read of a sixteen year-old smoking (quite why I don’t know, apparently you really do forget what being a teenager is actually like. This is probably a good thing). She is drawn to the faerie world rather than resisting, being a more willing participant in her adventures, although she does get more than she bargained for.

For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Wicked Lovely – I warmed to the characters in the latter a lot more and felt like I knew them better by the end of it. However it’s still a very good book – I enjoyed it a lot and will be seeking out the sequel.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Again this was one of those “if you liked x, you may also like” type recommendations, I can’t remember where it came from but was probably based on some of the urban fantasy stuff I’ve been reading.

This is another book I really enjoyed. I was immediately drawn in by the blurb (well, that’s what it’s for, but this particularly grabbed me) describing the three rules Aislinn, our heroine, has been taught to live by:

Rule 3: Never stare at invisible faeries.

Rule 2: Never speak to invisible faeries.

Rule 1: Don’t ever attract their attention.

Aislinn has always been able to see faeries but has carefully built up the ability to pretend she can’t, because she knows how dangerous they are. Unfortunately she does unwittingly attract the attention of Keenan, the Summer King, and once she does there’s no going back really.

The faeries in this world aren’t the happy fluffy tree dwelling type at all and that’s one thing I really liked about the book. Aislinn is great, her relationship with Seth is really well described and you do end up rooting for them. The faerie world is great, creepy but in a way that makes you want to learn more about it.

The book is young adult fiction and there are a couple of places – but only very minor points, where that shows. Towards the beginning the exact track that Aislinn chooses is mentioned which jarred a bit, it’s a really minor thing and I’m not sure why it stood out so much but it did. Aislinn’s concerns about her virginity stuck out too, although again I’m not sure why, probably because I’m much older! But they’re realistic concerns for a girl of her age. However I wouldn’t let the fact that it’s a YA book put you off – it’s really well written, a good story and gets pretty dark in places. I was initially surprised at the age recommendation on the back (13+) but I ended up thinking even 13 might be a little bit young (it’s a long time since I was 13 though).

I’ll probably be picking the sequel up over the weekend, and am now following the author on Twitter, so definitely hooked!

Knife by R J Anderson

This caught my eye about a week before I bought it on account of its shiny cover (I’ve been compared to a magpie on several occasions). Not only was it shiny, but the shiny was different colours when you held it up to the light at different angles. Book sold.

It’s the story of a fairy (of the occasionally prickly, too curious for her own good variety) inĀ  a dwindling group living in The Oak. They no longer have much magic and, with the exception of a select few, are banned from leaving The Oak due to the dangers lurking outside, with humans among the greatest of these. She is curious about the outside world, and particularly the people – to describe it any further would be giving the plot away so I won’t.

It is very obviously a kids’ book, and is therefore a fairly simple and short read. The characters and story do have depth to them but it wasn’t as satisfying as an adult book would be in some ways. That said it was an enjoyable read, was always going to suffer a bit from being read directly after Temeraire but I liked the characters and the story, while a bit predictable in some places, kept me wanting to read more.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

This was another book club read, and one I knew nothing about before I read it. The blurb gives absolutely nothing away so I’m going to try not to either because a lot of the power of the book comes from the fact that you have no idea what’s coming when it hits you.

As a vague synopsis the book is told from the point of view of Daisy, a fifteen year-old New Yorker who is sent to stay with her aunt and cousins in England. And it goes from there…

The writing style grated on me at first but works well given the voice of the narrator – there’s very little punctuation, it’s a stream of consciousness narrative. She also has a tendency to capitalise seemingly random words but that works well for emphasising the bits that are important to Daisy. Once you’ve settled into this it becomes less of an issue.

It sounds odd to say it but overall I didn’t like this book, but do think it’s very good. I’m not sure what it is I don’t like about it – Daisy’s relationship with her cousin doesn’t bother me particularly, I like the characters and you find yourself quite drawn into it. I think possibly it suffered from being read immediately after This Thing of Darkenss which is one of the best books I’ve ever read, maybe I was making unfair comparisons. Maybe it’s just that it was an uncomfortable story. That said it’s a powerful story, there’s a lot in there and it really does make you think. I’d recommend it.