Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer YA Reading Spree

Recently, I’ve been on a young-adult reading frenzy. It’s a bit strange, when I was a kid I preferred adult science fiction. But now that I’m an adult, I like young adult novels. Maybe it is because the YA books are a lot better than they used to be.

“The Princess Academy” by Shannon Hale. A really interesting modernized sorta fairy tale. When the royal priests degree the future princess will be from a frontier mountain known for its quarries, officials build an academy to train the local young ladies in proper princess behavior. Only the point of the story isn’t really marrying the prince, but how education broadens the minds and perspectives of these girls so that even if they aren’t the future princess, their homes and families are greatly improved because of their greater understanding of the world. When you combine this with a likable heroine, some good adventure and complex adult characters, well, it makes for an excellent read.

“The Lightening Thief” by Rick Riordan.
What is it about Greek gods? 2000 years after their worship fell out of favor, numerous fictional works make use of the mythology. Perhaps the reason is that with twelve main gods and armies of various supernatural creatures, the Greek Pantheon makes for good drama. That’s just as true for young adults as is it for grown-ups. What if you discovered that your missing father was a Greek god? What if this turned out to be a really dangerous fact? That’s the premise of the “Percy Jackson & The Olympians” novels. This first book in the series is a very fun, well-paced read with a trio of pre-teen demigods trying to prevent a war. Good fun, humorous plot twists revolving around various points of Greek myth and some interesting hints about Western civilization in general. I look forward to reading the rest of these books.

“His Dark Materials” Trilogy by Phillip Pullman. Ah yes, the controversial trilogy that advocates the death of “God”. Honestly, the subject matter is less disturbing than the extreme unlikability of most of the major characters, heroes and villains alike. I’m actually impressed that Mr. Pullman wrote three novels involving people I don’t particularly like but he somehow managed to make them suspenseful. This was mainly a credit to his plotting skills. My main gripe is that the conclusion of the series is woefully anticlimactic. The story continues for a couple of chapters beyond what it really should in order to deliver a gut-punch of a twist that frankly seems entirely too convenient. These are good books in the sense of being well-written and plotted, don’t get me wrong. Unfortunately, the last book was the least enjoyable for me.

On a sidenote, I'll be travelling for work this week so it's unlikely there will be any posts until Saturday.

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