Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Mother of All Coming of Age YA Reading Lists

Tansy RR says:

Colleen Mondor over at Chasing Ray has been compiling a list of recommended YA novels dealing with the classic theme of "Coming of Age."

It's a long, interesting list with lots of books I know well, know of and have been intending to read, as well as plenty I've never heard of. In the interests of revealing a little of our editorial tastes, I thought I'd name some of my own favourite picks from the list, and explain why. I'd love it if the other Shiny editors did the same! (hint, hint)

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

One of the many books I read because my Dad made me. :) This is one of my favourite Australian novels ever, dealing with a young girl's trials, tragedies and getting-through-it grit with a good balance of drama and comedy. Also, incidentally, had a movie made of it which is (I think) one of the rare examples of a film adaption that gets it absolutely right, both in interpreting the book, and in its own right as a film.

Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci

A cool, funny story about what it's like to be a girl geek, and the essential coming-of-age discovery that in fact this thing which alienates you from the majority of humankind is a good thing.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Cute, romantic story about which should appeal to all dreamy, imaginative girls who spend their lives with a nose in a book while their glamorous sisters get up to no good. Also has an excellent film adaption which was supremely underrated at the time. I discovered this book at just the right time, in my early teens. It's still a cultural reference that I refer back to regularly.

The Anne of Green Gables Series

One of my favourite and probably the most-read of the classic childrens' novels. (pauses to wonder if have read Anne's books more than Little Women books, suddenly notices that Little Women wasn't on the Chasing Ray list - interesting omission, really) Anne of Green Gables is not one of my favourites - but older Anne, and particularly mother Anne, was something I just glommed to as a young reader. Rilla of Ingleside was my favourite, and is one of the many works that got me so attached to what-the-women-did-during-the-war stories.

Valiant by Holly Black

There are so many faerie books and fairy tale books out there, but this one did something different, making faerie gritty and hard-edged and dangerous in a way I'd never quite felt before. Plus, she inverted the sexy vampire, sexy werewolf trend (which I think everybody is so over, yes?) to create sexy troll. For which she should be commended. (OK there's a challenge for writers, how about some sexy orc action?)

Howl's Moving Castle and Fire & Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones

While Archer's Goon is my first DWJ love, these two books constantly vie for my favourite DWJ book spot, and at times even my favourite book ever spot. Howl's has a ridiculously complicated plot, but pulls so many excellent tricks out of its hat that I forgive it every time. Sophie is one of my favourite protagonists, and Howl such a beautifully ridiculous and selfish hero. I think this book has conditioned me to love manga, for which I am dubiously grateful.

Fire and Hemlock is one that I keep thinking I shouldn't love, because I already love a version of Tam Lin (see below) and surely you can't have two versions of the same story on your best books ever list, especially when the story itself (in its original form) doesn't especially do anything for you. But this is so sweet and clever, the child heroine so vulnerable, the adult hero so desperate not to take advantage... and the way the myths and the imagination and books mix with real life, tough magic is just breathtaking. Best DWJ book ever. No, wait...

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

Best book ever.

Possibly book most responsible for women having unreasonably romantic expectations of university.

Every word in it is perfect, and whenever I read it, I never want it to end


Alisa K said...

Swoon swoon swoon

My ALL time fave books, not just YA, HAVE to include the Anne books, Little Women and Looking for Alibrandi.

All books, I guess, with really strong and independent female leads. I guess, my formative years were highly influenced by these characters.

Anonymous said...

Ya know, nobody nominated Little Women! It is up now, but I don't know why it took so long and as it is one of my all time favorites, I should have added it myself. I was asleep at the wheel on that one, but it is there now.

I'm glad to find another duel fan of Tam Lin and Fire & Hemlock. I adore them both as well and they are both on my bookshelves!

Colleen aka Chasingray

Michael Merriam said...

Not only is Tam Lin maybe the best YA book ever, but Pamela Dean is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. But even better. She's working on something new.