Lately I’ve really been soaking up young adult literature, in part to start things I’ve been thinking about reading, and also, honestly, to catch up on what I feel like I should have been reading.
First there’s In Darkness by Nick Lake. I took this book out after I’d heard that it won the Printz award, honestly surprised that no one else was anxiously waiting for it. The book starts right after the Haiti earthquake from 2010 from the point of view of a boy called Shortie, who is trapped inside a hospital in utter darkness. Losing hold due to lack of food and water and the complete darkness, Shortie starts up a conversation with the reader, going back through is memories about his twin sister and the violent life he leads in the slums of Haiti. This would have been fascinating enough, but then we fly back to the 1700s, when the Haitian slaves revolted for their freedom, and we are in the mind of their real life leader, Toussaint L’Overture. The novel switches between the two of them, as their minds are somehow connected, and we see how the violence of the revolution is reflected in the violence of the present, and vice versa. It’s a super engaging book, with characters you like so much you feel nervous for them the whole time. And as an added bonus, this book gives a real view of what Haiti is like now, something we really like to forget about, and also a lesson in a really important revolution that I can’t for the life of me remember learning in school.
I took things more to the supernatural side with Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz, and I have to say I was exceptionally disappointed in this book. The premise was interesting — vampires are actually creatures cast out from heaven that reincarnate themselves to exist through time, and now make up some of the most powerful families in America. But de la Cruz’s execution is so hackneyed. Characters are suddenly in another place at the start of a chapter, at peace in one moment and then in danger the next, so I had trouble keeping track of what the heck was going on, and at one point the author tries to turn so many twists in the plot at once that instead of being shocking, it’s just annoying. Character’s actions are often needlessly over the top, and too many of them fall into YA tropes — main character is dumpy looking but actually just doesn’t know how pretty she is, blonde popular girl is a complete bitch and doesn’t like the dumpy main character at all, blah, blah. Really, it was just a frustrating book, and I don’t see myself going back to this series at all.
Finally, I also started reading Gabrielle Zevin’s dystopian novel, All These Things I’ve Done. It’s the near future, somewhere in the 2070’s if I’m doing my math right, and everything’s a mess. Water is rationed, and things like chocolate and coffee are prohibited. Anya is the daughter of a mob boss who used to run the chocolate business in town before he was murdered when she was 9. Now she lives with her brother, her sister, and her ailing grandmother, and does her best to keep the family business out of their lives. But that doesn’t quite work out that way as her brother starts a job with her cousins and her ex-boyfriend is poisoned by the chocolate she gave him. I had a few nitpicky problems with this book, like how about halfway through the story is suddenly interjected with what I assume is commentary from the future by Anya, and instead of helpful and interesting I found this awkward and distracting. But overall, I loved this book. The main character isn’t whiny, she take initiative with everything. She also has priorities that she sticks too, like putting her family first. I often read a scene anxiously, expecting the story to turn in a usual, disappointing way, but then Zevin would surprise me in the best way possible. This is a finely crafted book, and I can’t believe that out of all the YA dystopian fiction I constantly hear about that this isn’t one of them. I’m just waiting to finish up some other books I have on hand before I snatch the rest of this series straight off the shelves.