Friday, March 9, 2012

Three recent YA books I really loved

A Long, Long Sleep, by Anna Sheehan
YA futuristic fiction

The first book I've finished this year, and really excellent. And also somewhat undefinable. It's a retelling of Sleeping Beauty--sort of. But it's not a fairytaleish sort of telling. Sixteen-year-old Rose Fitzroy wakes up from her stasis chamber after 62 years. It's not the first time she's been put under--but never for this long! For the first time, her parents aren't there, Xavier, the boy next door, isn't there...everyone she knew is long dead, and the world is a different place. Suddenly she's the heir (or ward, depending on who you ask) of Unicorps, her parents' worldwide--no, make that solar system wide--business. She's got to start a new school (again), try to figure out how to make friends (something she was never very good at), and deal with the permanent loss of Xavier, who was always there for her before. And oh yeah--there's this plastine robot out to assassinate her. Bren, the boy who found her in the dusty apartment building basement, and his family are trying to help her physically, but only gradually, with the help of a strange alien boy named Otto who's a friend of Bren's does she realize she needs help in other ways, too. Ways that make her deal with things in her past...

Other reviewers have said this, but I was just so angry at the parents in this story. And even though Rose starts out sort of distant at the beginning (for understandable reasons!), there was a spot in the middle that made me cry. Really excellent worldbuilding with a very human story at its heart. I really hope there's a sequel, because while this story is finished, there is more to be told, if that makes sense. Definitely recommended!

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

The story, for those who just want to read a book: every fall, horses come out of the sea onto Thisby Island. People catch them and train them for a year, and then race them the next. (Or however long it takes to train such a horse.) They are extremely fast, and they are also deadly. They have a tendency to run back into the sea, thus drowning the rider, or more likely, they see people, sheep, even regular horses, as food. It's extremely dangerous. Seventeen-year-old Puck Connelly is racing so she and her orphaned brothers don't lose their house to the richest man on the island (who also owns a racing stable and whose horses participate in this yearly event). Nineteen-year-old Sean Kendrick is racing because he wants to own the killer horse he trained, he's won on, and who he loves. Except that that's the hold his employer (and technical owner of the horse) has over him. (The employer is Puck's landlord.) Both have to win--but only one can.

The writing in this book is all kinds of gorgeous. It feels very natural (ie not too flowery), it's very nice to read aloud, but it's very specific to the characters in question as well. Take this from page 334: "I wasn't prepared for it to be Sean, and so my stomach does a neat little trick that feels like either hunger or escaping." Or this: somewhere (I can't find the page now), I think it's Puck who tells her brother he "looks like homemade sin." I could go on--but between the writing and the fact that you're very much inside the heads of two otherwise very private individuals, and the tension the plot sets up between them, there is no way to go wrong. And the Printz committee recognized that this year. Yay!

Ultraviolet, by RJ Anderson
genre-bending YA mystery SF

I loved this book! I read the first third of a rough draft a number of years ago, and have been waiting rather anxiously for it to sell and then for it to come out. And the rest of the story did not disappoint.

Alison's always been extra-sensitive, something she keeps quiet about, ever since she told her mother about seeing sounds, and her mother thought she was going crazy and freaked out. But when she wakes up in a mental institution and everyone thinks she killed a girl in her class after a fight, she is terrified that she IS crazy--and guilty. But really? Even though she saw it happen--how could Tori have disintegrated? Then a neuroscientist comes to the hospital and Alison learns she's a synthesete. Dr. Faraday says she's not crazy. And, he believes her story.

The book is science fiction (you should pick up on that by the whole I-saw-her-disintegrate thing at the beginning), but that aspect unfolds gradually. It's a warm *people* story, as opposed to hard scifi, and carries wisps of L'Engle and Dr. Who--except that it's really different from anything you've read, too. I highly recommend it!

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