Some bandwagons I would break a leg before jumping onto, and some I can’t wait to sign up for. On The Book Lantern, my fellow lantern bearers have created a trend of shedding light on hidden gems, with Ceilidh first discussing books from her side of the pond, and then Jillian coming out to bat for the wizards of Oz. I would have loved nothing better than to discuss obscure-yet-interesting YA novels from India, but tragically, I don’t think there are any interesting enough to have caught my attention! Indian English writing seems to be more literary than genre-inclined, for the most part. Maybe someday I will take a break from YA fiction to enumerate on this topic, but for today, in lieu of great-but-undiscovered fiction from my homeland, I have settled for just great-but-undiscovered fiction.
The books on my list are not flawless; they are not the best prose out there. Some of them have achieved critical, if not commercial success, but some of them are just plain unknown. But every single one of them has an element of uniqueness, something that makes them stand out, and lifts their claim to literary fame high above the general run of YA fiction. If the world were a more balanced place, these are the books that would hog the limelight, instead of rape-perpetuating non-books like you-know-what (substitute standard YA PNR here).
NEVERMORE by Kelly Creagh
This is probably the most commercially successful of the books on my list, yet it is still nowhere close to the level of success it ought to be enjoying. Nevermore is a story about a cheerleader, a Goth and some paranormal troubles. Yeah, yeah, heard the storyline a million times... But wait. You haven’t. You really, really haven’t. This book is a dark, fascinating psychological drama that makes mincemeat of the facile new-gen YA PNRs about fallen angels and sparklepires. It is great storytelling combined with tight, atmospheric writing. It takes all of the standard YA tropes and twists them into unrecognisable but un-put-down-able plotlines that creep up and grab you by the throat. And besides, it’s inspired by, and draws heavily on, the life and works of Poe. Really, that ought to be grounds enough to rush out and buy it! Here is a link to Jillian’s review of the book, since I haven’t gotten around to writing one yet...
THE NATIVE STAR by M.K. Hobson
The Native Star, much to my delight, has been nominated for the 2010 Nebula Awards. The book is a historical fantasy that has been termed “witchpunk” by several reviewers. It’s an imaginative ride to the America of the 1800s, rich in detail but far from boring. The story itself manages to be both fun and adventurous, and really, how can you not fall for a fussy, lanky, adorable hero called Dreadnought Stanton?! While a sequel is due to come out next month, this book can be read satisfyingly as a stand-alone novel. I do wish this book enjoyed the same level of commercial success as it does critical praise! Combining magic, environmental awareness and industrialization with endearing characters and a romp of an adventure, this is a book you shouldn’t miss! If I haven’t convinced you yet, here’s hoping my full review will!
THE FALSE PRINCESS by Eilis O’Neal
Imagine if you had everything you ever wanted in life. Wealth, health and a best friend to share it all with. Imagine if you woke up one morning, and you were told that it was all a lie. That you were not who you’ve believed yourself to be your whole life. That you’ll have to give it all up - your identity, your life, your family, and go far, far away. Imagine if one day you were a princess, and the next day, you were nothing.
Eilis O’Neal works this premise beautifully in her YA fantasy novel, The False Princess. I like to plug YA fantasy because there are so many great books out there, like Tamora Pierce’s Tortall Universe, and Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series, and they are definitely worthy of all the attention they get, and more. But I get even more excited about plugging books like The False Princess because they receive such miniscule amounts of exposure, when people ought to be shouting their names from the rooftops. This is interesting, thought-provoking, character-driven fantasy that is definitely worth a read, maybe even two! For more of my thoughts on this novel, here is my review.
Sophie Littlefield is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. I discovered her first YA novel Banished a couple of months ago, and I have been incessantly badgering friends and strangers to read it ever since. Sophie made her literary debut as crime mystery-thriller author, and it shows. Her writing has the speed and force of a runaway Mack truck, forcing you to race through the novel breathlessly. Her world building is simple, but convincing, and her characters are sympathetic and fleshed-out. Banished is not about literary prose or detailed world crafting. It’s about simple entertainment, the thrill of a good, tight novel that takes you out of your everyday life and dumps you in the middle of someone else’s problems! Escapism in its purest form, and with inimitable style! And what really made this novel stand out for me is the fact that it can be read as a stand-alone novel, and one with no romance aspect to it whatsoever!
This is perhaps the book that I am the most tentative about recommending to people. When I first read it, I thought it was not flawless, but very adorable. After having allowed it to simmer in the back of my brain for a while longer, I now think it is adorable, times three. Reformed Vampires is Catherine Jinks’s response to sparklepires. Her vampires are weak, sickly creatures of the night, who nonetheless manage to be more likeable and strong-willed than Bella Swan and company. The book, while being fresh, interesting, funny and endearing, is hobbled by slow pacing and ponderous prose. But if you’re willing to give this book a chance, I think it could definitely wriggle its slow way into your heart. For a more detailed analysis, here’s my review.
This is sort-of cheating because I’m plugging a book that hasn’t released yet. However, it’s my list, after all, and more importantly, I worry that this book will get lost in the general pile of generic YA novels that release by the dozen every week. A Long, Long Sleep isn’t due to come out until August of this year, but I was lucky enough to score an ARC from Net Galley. It’s a great ‘soft’ sci-fi novel, about a girl who wakes up sixty years into the future. It’s a creative, emotional, moving retelling of the story of Sleeping Beauty, and definitely a book that you should put on your TBR pile. To see me really gush about this novel, click here.
So there you have it, my 5+1 list of books that should not be missed. Don’t forget to come back and let me know how you liked ‘em once you finish reading! J