This week in YA

Just finished three YAish books (1 and 2 because the Older Kid said so, 3 voluntarily, because I liked the Old Chosen One idea). It’s really refreshing to read about characters that are very much not like myself (i. e. not city people, not Jewish) and at the same time are not fantasy characters, so even though I didn’t love-love any of the three the first two were, at least, interesting.

  1. This Might Get Awkward by Kara McDowell – it is a very model of the modern YA romance. Everyone is Battling Something. Misunderstandings are Conquered Through Open Discussion. Everyone is Actually a Good Person. Bonus points because I got to listen to country music I’d never have come across otherwise and for the author’s obvious love for Lake Powell which is in Arizona and very beautiful. I visited it once, I believe, and have the fondest memories.
  2. Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw – it is an illustrated novel in my least favorite format (busy black-and-white) about Teenagers Facing Difficult Facts, Testing Friendships, and Discovering Themselves. There’s a lot of angst. The comics are charming (even to me – and I’m very much not a comic person) every character a pleasure to see, and add significantly to the story (in one important passage the picture directly contradicts the text – a really powerful move). Imo the main heroine’s relationship with her mother is insufficiently explored and the change feels unrealistic. I also have a hard time believing that a lawyer’s widow has to wait tables for a living or that, if she does, she can easily spare $30K or that teens brought up to strict Catholicism will not so much as think about Jesus in 300 pages.
  3. The Remarkable Retirement of Edna Fisher by E. M. Anderson – it’s a book about the Chosen One, except the Chosen One is an old lady. Otherwise it’s about par for the course – Edna Fisher Makes Unexpected Friends Along The Way, discovers a surprising ability to wield weapons (badly, but well enough to last more than seconds against a well-trained military man less than half her age), has disabilities that disappear when the plot needs it etc. There are plenty of convenient coincidences -literally everywhere Mrs. Fisher goes there’s a bush with a symphony orchestra concealed inside. She is Chosen to stop mass dragon attacks by wizards that apparently couldn’t care less whether the attacks actually get stopped. It turns out that the attacks are led by former Knights (Knights are a military body that fights Dragons somewhere Out There) that object to what seems to be a level of hazing standard for the Russian army. Their objections include attacking both Knight bases and civilian towns indiscriminately because their Leader has Angst. Of course, when everyone reveals the levels of hazing the Good Leaders are Abhorred. That’s not how hazing was in Their Day. It’s Shameful. That said, approximately 90% of the way into the book the idea that killing unnamed characters is not quite nice begins to be thoroughly explored and the ending has a slight barely-there tint of realism that, unfortunately, prevents it from being fully satisfying to any of the characters. There’s a general feeling of a richer, fascinating world around the characters that the author probably expands in other books.

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