I’ve also decided I’m sticking to YA either from or about countries other than the US, but I am going to try to find stuff from this year’s World Cup list before moving on to other countries – as good a place to start as any. I do want to make sure not everything in my World YA series is from France and Germany!
Brief Thoughts: Very good story with a unique setting
I can’t believe I forgot The Summer Prince in my last post when I covered Brazil. This is a dystopian YA fantasy that was published in the US, but it’s set in a futuristic Brazil, and there are elements of real Brazil that have crept into the language, setting, and culture. The world is fantastic: Palmares Tres, the city in which it is set, is a vertical city, and it doesn’t feel like the burned-out cities of other dystopian novels. The characters are fascinating and very diverse, with two of the main characters having fluid sexuality that’s just accepted without comment. To be honest, I read it a year and a half ago, so it’s a bit of a cheat for this list, and it’s somewhat difficult to remember the complex plot involving the election of an enigmatic Summer King who is destined to die, but it is a very good award-winning YA novel and different from most other things out there.
After the break: Australia
Brief Thoughts: On one level, I loved it and it made me cry. On another, it has some plot issues…
The 2009 Michael L. Printz Award Winner, Jellicoe Road is a definite recommend for anyone who likes character-driven YA and a good cry. I couldn’t put it down, even though I had absolutely no idea what was going on for the first 100 pages, and at the end of it all, sort of wondered why it all had to happen the way it did except for plotting purposes (which is why I’m calling it “character-driven” rather than a “mystery”). The story is about an orphan named Taylor who is a leader at her boarding school on Jellicoe Road. The “territory wars” between the boarders, the townies, and the cadets consume her, and when Hannah, the only adult she likes and trusts, disappears, she’s thrust into a mystery trying to figure out what her present has to do with Hannah’s past. She also has to deal with her growing attraction for an enemy cadet in the form of the charismatic Jonah Griggs.
As mentioned above, it took me a good hundred pages to have any understanding of these “territory wars” and to understand that the story-within-the-story – a manuscript about five kids living in the same area in the past – had something to do with the present. I was relieved to realize that others felt the same way. What I have not seen mention of, however, is the fact that the entire story progresses the way it does because of very bizarre decisions made by adults, and I don’t understand these decisions even within the context of the story. Anyone have thoughts on this? I must reiterate, though, that I loved the emotional experience of reading this, and for that, it’s a definite recommend.
While this will surely get compared to The Fault in Our Stars, I’m going to try not to do that here, because I think it’s somewhat unfair to both books. Yes, this is a book about two teenagers with cancer (that was started before TFIOS was published), but there are more ways than one to tell a story. If we only allowed one book on every topic to be published, it would be like saying that there is only one way to experience everything in life, which is just not the case. I say that only because I think this is a great book, and I think it would be sad if people missed it because they thought it was a copy of something else.
Set in Australia, the story is told from the perspectives of both Zac and Mia, who meet through a hospital wall while both are undergoing chemotherapy. Zac has leukemia and a supportive and loving family, and Mia has bone cancer and a tumultuous relationship with her single mother. They’re very different, but in the intense circumstances they understand each other in ways others don’t, and they manage to get through to each other when others can’t. It’s at times humorous, definitely touching, and it feels real. In terms of seeing another culture, it definitely gives the reader a picture of parts of Australia.
Brief thoughts: Lively and funny
This graphic novel, set in Cote D’Ivoire in 1978, follows 19-year-old Aya and her two friends Adjoua and Bintou as they navigate life in “Yop City.” Aya wants to be a doctor, but her friends are more freewheeling and love going dancing and meeting men at night on the empty picnic tables in the market square, a hangout for teens. Things don’t work out quite as planned for some of her friends, and this lushly illustrated, colorful tale, practically a soap opera with a very funny ending, offers an interesting glimpse into a time and place we rarely, if ever, see.