Friday, 22 January 2010

Unsung YA Heroes, a.k.a. My Favourite Young Adult Books you (probably) haven't read yet

Kelly at Yannabe has come up with this awesome project - Unsung YA heroes - and it's all about celebrating the love for lesser known YA books in need of more could I not be in it??
It's a bit like the Nerds Heart YA Tournament (which btw, is happening again and why didn't I know anything about it until yesterday?!) except that it's not a tournament and that we can pick books published any year, as long as they haven't reached the big audience they deserve (yet).
If you would like to read more about the project, learn how it works and maybe even post your own list, go read Kelly's master post here.

I have chosen to talk about 5 young adult books, which I have loved, reviewed, but somehow haven't praised enough. In no particular order:

The Year the Gypsies Came by Linzi Glass

I read this back in 2008 and I still think of it as one of the most lovely-written YA I've come across. Skimming through my review makes me want to read it again right now. I had forgotten so much. Set in the '60 in Johannesburg, South Africa, it's the story of 12-year-old Emily and her dysfunctional family and how their lives are forever changed by the arrival of another strange family, one summer.
This what I wrote in my review:

What I loved most about this book is the way it’s written. The only word that I can find that describes it it’s gentle. It feels like a petal that softly touches the story and never intrudes too much. You can almost smell the flowers and the trees with exotic names (jacaranda, poplar, bluegum…) while you listen to a story told by Buza, the Zulu watchman who sits on a wooden stool all night at the edge of the garden, holding his stick who has been passed through generations and holds the power of sixty dead Zulu warriors.

I loved its sense of nostalgia, the wisdom and the beauty of those Zulu tales, the atmospheres that the writing created...It definitely deserves a much broader audience.

The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan

To be fair, this one hasn't been released in the US or UK market yet, which is why it doesn't feature prominently on LibraryThing. But it did really well in Ireland, where it was first published, and also in Australia.
According to Amazon it will be released in Us and UK in April 2010, with brand new covers which look really cool, so look out for it!
From my review:
This story is not your usual fantasy adventure for teenagers. And maybe that's why it took me a little longer to get into it. It's a story about intrigue at court, yes, but at its core it's a story about relationships, about the strong bond that can exist between friends, family or lovers. It's real, and it's intense, but in a world ruled by protocol and politics, personal affections can become obstacles, or even powerful tools, depending who is using them.
I thought the honesty in the writing was unusual. It's very elegant but very physical and intimate too. As for all the books featured in this post, I'd love to read it again, especially before reading the second chapter "The Crowded Shadows".

The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman
I've read this before I started blogging, so I haven't written any reviews for it. But I still remember it as one of my favourites. It's the story of Rain, daughter of the queen of the Amazons, and next in line to take her place. Rain's birth was the result of a horrific rape, and that is why her mother shuns her. It's up to Rain to prove to her clan and to herself that she's worthy of being a leader.
Sparsely and skillfully written, this is a book you can read in one intense afternoon, and still carry it with you for a long time. It has a poetic, mythical quality to it which is matched by a wonderful message of peace and acceptance. It's also about women warriors, strong, independent and proud. What's not to like?

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
This is pure undiluted feel-good pleasure. It doesn't pretend to be anything else that great fun. The subtitle says it all: A novel of love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park. Now, I don't know much about Fenway Park, but Love and Mary Poppins...yeah, definitely big hits with me:)
Especially when The Love was between two boys, Augie and Andy. This is what I wrote in my review:
The romance, oh the romance...Of course I'm talking about Augie and Angie. Maybe I don't read much YA gay romance between boys, but I thought this was the sweetest, most romantic, most adorable, most everything boy-on-boy literary love. The way their family and friends reacted was even cooler. They knew all along Augie was gay and they were wondering how long it would take him to figure it out. I probably felt closer to him than to any of the other characters.

I literally smiled and giggled all the way through it. And when I wasn't smiling I was fighting back emotional tears of empathy.
No wonder it managed to win all its rounds for The Nerds Heart YA Tournament and claimed its crown!

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine
Although I still love Finding Violet Park more, I have gushed over it enough, I think. Broken Soup is great, too. Jenny Valentine needs to be HUGE!
This is what I thought after reading Broken Soup:
The charm of Jenny Valentine's style relies in the characters, I've already said that. But of course is not just that. It's in the way she describes emotions, which belies an attentive observation of human nature. It's in the metaphoric language, exemplified in the title, which can say so much with very little words. It's in the palpable love for all her characters. And in the fact that I feel I should reread this book right now to be able to explain why it was so good, because there's so much to highlight and to appreciate.
Oh, and there's a bit of a surprise ending, which combined with everything else that happens before, is a wonderful heart-warmer.

There's nothing else I can say, except READ IT!

Here endeth my "Unsung YA heroes" love letter. *Off to check out all the other unsung heroes*


Nymeth said...

1, 2 and 5 have been on my wishlist ever since you reviewed them! And The Foretelling sounds amazing too. You already know I have nothing but love for My Most Excellent Year :D

Celine said...

Thank you so much for including the Poison Throne in this, Valentina. I'm so honoured! (I've been longing to read My Most Excellent Year ever since you reviewed it too!)

Lenore said...

I need to read some Jenny Valentine. I do! I do!

Anastasia said...

The Year the Gypsies Came sounds a bit like The Summer The Spies Moved in, a truly obscure little book that was written in the early 90's, I think. Anyway, I loved that, so I'm pretty sure I'll love The Year the Gypsies Came, too. Thanks for bringing it to me attention! :D

Renay said...

Jenny Valentine is turning up everywhere! I think it's time to read some of these books.

Yay, My Most Excellent Year. <3

The other three I have never heard of, and that is awesome. I will definitely check them out; thanks for mentioning them!

Celine said...

Val, my local bookshop says that My Most Excellent Year in' available in Ireland! Is this so?

mariel said...

The Foretelling sounds great, I love Alice Hoffman. Interesting selection, thanks!

Jodie said...

Love these posts! I almost picked up Broken Soup today while shopping but it went back because I thought the summary sounded too 'Bellaish' without the vampires - damn me and my distrust of summaries. And an Amazonian teen novel?!Why is this not bigger?

As to NHYA we've kept it really under wraps until now while all the details got hashed. But once nominations open PR is going to go insane on my part.

jehara said...

i read The Foretelling last year and loved it. i was thrilled to see it on your list. :)

Sarah said...

I keep checking out My Most Excellent Year but then I never get to it so I have to return it and pow, cycle starts again. I enjoyed Broken Soup, and I'm going to have to investigate the other titles. Love the list!

Kelly said...

Lenore and Renay, yes! Read Broken Soup!

Valentina, love this list! I've not even heard of 3 of the titles.

Alessandra said...

I've only read Broken Soup - which was totally amazing. Made me cry so hard.

The Foretelling sounds great.

valentina said...

Nymeth, I know you do;) I hope you'll get to read the rest of them, at some point!

Celine, you're very welcome!

Lenore, yes! yes!

Anastasia, you're welcome. Now I'm curious about The Summer The Spies Moved in, although Amazon doesn't have any information on it!

Renay, I'm glad she is. I love her writing to bits!

Mariel, this is the only novel by Alice Hoffman that I've read so far. I should read the Ice Queen soon, as it's been on my shelf since Christmas '08!

Jodie, Rowan ("Broken Soup" girl)is the opposite of Bellaish! she can kick Bella's ass anytime!:P
And so could Rain in the "Foretelling". I don't know why it's not bigger. Go figure.
re NHYA: can't wait for those nominations to open!!

Jehara,yay! so someone else *has* read it! :P

Sarah, I'd say that once you start read My most excellent year, you won't want to stop. It's that addictive.

Kelly, that's good isn't it? I glad I picked them now:)

Ale, really? did you write a review? gonna go check now!

aloi said...

fantastic list, valentina! i've not been reading much YA lately, but all these lists just inspire me to put these books on my reading list.

mariel said...

I love love LOVE the Ice Queen, though it did make me blub!

Darla D said...

I have read NONE of these books. Bad, bad! I am adding them all to my list. Thanks for this post!

celine said...

Val, I got a copy of Most Excellent Year! ( from the book depository like you suggested!) Haven't read it yet (I'm researching my new book so 'm immersed in Victorian sci-fi) but my daughter ATE it - thinks its the sweetest books she's read in forever. THanks for the recci!

valentina said...

Aloi, I'm happy I inspired you to pick up more YA books, hope you get to read them some day!

Darla, you're welcome, hope you'll find them in your library:)

Celine, YAY! I'm super happy your daughter loved MMEY, I hope you'll enjoy it too, it's such a feel-good read.
Victorian Sci-Fi? wow, Sounds amazing!

Celine said...

Ah no - don't be getting your hopes up for steam powered spaceships or anything ( wow! That would be cool) It's more moody Gothic weirdness then anything else. I have MMEY and WOlfhall lined up for when I crawl out from the other side of this and I can't wait!

Hope you're well