Thursday, May 24, 2012

Young Adult Fiction Challenge Update - 4 Books In!

I’m happy to report that my Young Adult Fiction Challenge is moving along as planned – I’ve been alternating one YA book/one“real” book for the past 2 months. So far I’ve read Island of the Blue Dolphins, My Side of the Mountain, Julie of the Wolves, and Redwall.

You can follow along in my spreadsheet.

I’ve always liked jumping from one type of book to another, so the fact that I read a 1930s romance, a non-fiction book about immigrants and the American medical system, a collection of essays, and a Darfuri refuges story as my between-YA reads was not a problem at all.

One thing I’ve noticed – and I don’t know if this is a characteristic of YA fiction in general, or just a characteristic of the YA fiction I like – is that all the books have main characters with a strong sense of justice. As a kid, my parents were always telling me that “life’s not fair.” But according to Mathias in Redwall and Sam in My Side of the Mountain, life should be fair and everyone should fight to make it so (Mathias literally fought, Sam just believed that everyone should be able to do what they want). As I mentioned in my first YA Fiction post, Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Julie in Julie of the Wolves have much more survival-type stories.  

As an adult(ish) person reading these books, here are some of my take-aways:

Redwall by Brian Jaques – I think my hopes were highest for this one, since all the Brian Jaques books were my favorites as a kid. Maybe my expectations were too high, because though Redwall is still good, it’s definitely not as amazing as it was when I was 10. I noticed the strong tyranny v. peace narrative, which is a huge theme in my life (I spend most of my professional time on Sudan/South Sudan issues). Also some racism (kind of)…as in some species are all evil (rats, stoats, foxes, snakes), and some are all good (mice, squirrels, badgers, etc.).
Sidenote: As always I LOVE the hares and moles and how they talk – my mama did a great job on them when reading aloud (bur oi and wot wot?).

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George – This book is a lot more REAL than I remembered. It addresses serious things, including environmental issues and social/cultural problems of native Alaskans. Plus, of course, [spoiler alert!] one of the main characters is brutally murdered. And does anyone remember the rape scene??? I totally forgot about that.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell – Much like Julie of the Wolves, a major theme of this book is survival and cultural clashes, namely native cultures resisting/adjusting to white American involvement. And it’s also pretty violent – death and murder to be specific.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George – The adult theme that popped out in this book was urbanization and peoples’ need for exercise and outside-time.

Next up is A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer.

Check out my spreadsheet of upcoming YA reads.