Saturday, October 31, 2009

Really Excellent YA Literature

While I must admit to having torn through the Twilight series at break-neck speed (although book #2 was slower and nearly a deal-breaker), it is not the best literature for young adults (or really anyone - it's like a large slice of chocolate cake). It's surely a good, suspenseful and angst-filled story, and Meyer knows how to draw out the tale, but let's face it—Bella is not a fabulous female role-model for young women. Rather, I want my daughter to read A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly when she's old enough.

Donnelly's story of 16-year old Mattie Gokey is set in 1906, and follows her from her family farm, to a summer get-away hotel resort (as an employee), and through her struggle to stay in school and get educated, while she struggles against the pull of her family and friends who want her to get married and have babies. She weighs her full-ride scholarship to Barnard College and her love for writing against for responsibility to her father and younger siblings.

The book deals with the aftermath of the loss of Mattie's mom to breast cancer, racism, feminism, poverty, elitism, and murder (among other plot lines) and Donnelly weaves a rich story full of beautiful writing and sharp observations. Mattie is an admirably strong, real young woman—a beautiful character, and this book is a marvelous example of the great Young Adult literature available. Historical fiction at its best! I highly recommend this one.

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