Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Are YA Authors the New Innovators?

I've never been a huge YA reader. I loved Harry Potter, yet I've always has a bit of a prejudice against YA fiction because I preferred a book that didn't feel as if it was holding back on content to appeal to a certain age group. But it's clear the success of Harry Potter has brought about more YA fiction than every before. And who can blame the authors? Clearly there's a huge cross-over audience for really good YA fiction.

And lately, I've been getting a lot of titles that have me rethinking my original biases. Most of the books are by authors I've never read before, though some old favorites are showing up to take advantage of the trend (De Lint is actually an old-hand at this-- I just thought his looked really cool); and I'm really intrigued by what I'm seeing. It's not that the ideas are wholly new and unique to YA fiction. But there seems to be a real effort in delivering well crafted stories that appeal to a broad range of ages. Could it be that YA fiction is where it's at these days?

Here's a small sampling of what I've gotten recently. What do you think? Innovative or not? Or am I just seeing a trend where none exists?

Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese

Years of covering the antics of End Times cults for The Banner, a religious news magazine, have left Christine Temetri not only jaded but seriously questioning her career choice. That is, until she meets Mercury, an anti-establishment angel who's frittering his time away whipping up batches of Rice Krispy Treats and perfecting his ping-pong backhand instead of doing his job: helping to orchestrate Armageddon. With the end near and angels and demons debating the finer political points of the Apocalypse, Christine and Mercury accidentally foil an attempt to assassinate one Karl Grissom, a thirty-seven-year-old film school dropout about to make his big break as the Antichrist. Now, to save the world, she must negotiate the byzantine bureaucracies of Heaven and Hell and convince the apathetic Mercury to take a stand, all the while putting up with the obnoxious mouth-breathing Antichrist.

The Painted Boy Charles De Lint

Jay Li should be in Chicago, finishing high school and working at his family's restaurant. Instead, as a born member of the Yellow Dragon Clan—part human, part dragon, like his grandmother—he is on a quest even he does not understand. His journey takes him to Santo del Vado Viejo in the Arizona desert, a town overrun by gangs, haunted by members of other animal clans, perfumed by delicious food, and set to the beat of Malo Malo, a barrio rock band whose female lead guitarist captures Jay's heart. He must face a series of dangerous, otherworldly—and very human—challenges to become the man, and dragon, he is meant to be. This is Charles de Lint at his best!

Trance by Linda Gerber

Ashlyn Greenfield has always known when bad things are going to happen. Each time that familiar tingling at the back of her neck begins, she knows what's to come a trance. She's pulled in, blindsided, an unwilling witness to a horrible upcoming event. But she's never been able to stop it not even when the vision was of her mother's fatal car accident. When soulful Jake enters Ashlyn's life, she begins having trances about another car accident. And as her trances escalate, one thing becomes clear: it's up to her to save Jake from near-certain death.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Edward Scissorhands meets The Catcher in the Rye in this wildly imaginative and frighteningly beautiful horror novel about an unusual boy and his search for a place to belong.


Jamie Gibbs said...

Those seem like pretty good ideas, but my recent experience of YA fiction hasn't been that pleasant. The sci-fi YA I've read has been a little bland, and the fantasy YA tries too hard to break the YA comfort zone and present itself as an adult novel with gratuitous sex and violence. I think I need to reacquaint myself with good YA fiction again.

Budd said...

I am going to send this link to my daughter.

She is 9 but is advanced in reading. It is so hard to find books that are challenging but appropriate.

SQT said...

Jamie-- I wondered about sci-fi. I haven't been getting, or seeing, science fiction titles and I wondered whether that was a weakness in this group. That might be something to look at.

Budd-- My daughter's 10 and I can't get her to read my books. :( She's likes stuff with names like "Allie Finkle" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." She does like Harry Potter, but that's about it for the fantasy.

DJL said...

The titles mentioned in your post look very promising, especially The Painted Boy. With YA fiction, I've found it's like many other genres. You have to wade through many titles before you find favorable authors. Or sometimes, it's all about finding a familiar author or possibly a YA author recommended by a favorite author. Personally, I've had some luck with YA fiction, and if it gets people reading, I'll support it.

Charles Gramlich said...

scott westerfeld is another YA writer who is doing some cool things.

SQT said...

Charles-- That's right, I should have mentioned him. I keep hearing about Paolo Bacigalupi too. I haven't read either author yet, but they're both garnering good reputations.

M. McGriff said...

I haven't been one to really go out and read YA fiction books either but you're right. They are EVERYWHERE! I've seen some titles, (like some of the ones you have up) that the storylines look so promising, I'm just scared that it will be bland to me. I picked up one YA Novel (I Am Number Four) and I have my fingers crossed that I won't be disappointed!

SQT said...

M. McGriff-- When I was a kid there was a decent selection, Madeline L'Engle was pretty big in my world and so was Narnia, but nothing like today. I'm glad because there's so much more for my kids to read (and hopefully get hooked on reading). We do have to pay attention because the teen fiction has some sexuality, but nothing I fret about too much. Though I have to say I think "Twilight" ranks low on the quality meter. Lots of better stuff out there.