It seems like books classified as ‘Young Adult’ often get a bad rap. It is easy to dismiss young people as naive and idealistic, and sadly, many do, but I often find teenagers to be well informed, engaged, and that they offer an interesting perspective. And the stories written for, by, and about this age group, are no less meaningful and important. Here are a few of my favourite young adult novels:
#1. The Bartimaeus Trilogy – Jonathan Stroud:
I know this is a trilogy, not a stand-alone novel, but I just don’t care, because the whole trilogy is so good that I read the entire thing in two days. There are several interesting facets to this story; the first, is that there are three main POV’s used, and sometimes we get another secondary (or tertiary) character’s POV for a few tantalizing paragraphs. Jonathan does this in a very creative and illuminating way.
The second interesting facet of this story, is that the main character, Nathanial, is incredibly fallible. He is selfish, and arrogant, and believes himself to be uniquely talented and special. I found it fascinating to so thoroughly dislike the protagonist, and still root for his success (most times.)
My favourite aspect of the story by far though, is the character of Bartimaeus – a fourth level djinn who has just the right touch of acerbic wit. He is an absolutely delightful character, and Jonathan Stroud has written footnotes in all the Bartimaeus POV chapters, which read like asides to the audience. Bartimaeus is irreverent and hilarious, and plays beautifully off of Nathanial’s obnoxious condescension. Bartimaeus also carries with him the wisdom of his millennia of existence, which gives his words, and advice a certain profundity that I really enjoyed.
I also love Jonathan Stroud’s writing so much that his entire Lockwood & Co series is also on my 2017 ‘to-be-read’ list.
#2. Study Series – Maria V. Snyder:
Again, a series, but I don’t care, and just for good measure, I’m going to throw in Maria’s Glass Series, and her Soulfinder Series as well, cause they’re all just SO GOOD!
I love this series because it features an excellent female protagonist, who is intelligent, curious, and brave. I also find the system of magic in this series absolutely fascinating. The Glass Series is a continuation of this world, though with a different protagonist who is a secondary character in the Study Series. Maria has created a wonderfully rich world, in which multiple adjacent stories can be told! A must-read for fantasy lovers!
#3. Chronicles of Prydain – Lloyd Alexander:
Yet another series (I REALLY prefer reading series to standalone 😉 This series is sometimes called Middle Grade, but since such classification is still rather contentious, and since I read the series as a teenager, I’m sticking it in with the YA. This series is really lovely because of the characters, and the beautiful descriptions of scenery and landscapes. It is an older fantasy than the other two series I’ve mentioned, and the prose at times felt a little antiquated (though to be clear, I found this to be a positive aspect of the storytelling.)
I also loved Eilonwy, particularly as an excellent example of a nuanced female character. Too often we demand that female characters be ‘strong’, which can be just as limiting as a literary trope. While Eilonwy is certainly snarky, and stubborn, and can put up an excellent fight when she needs to, she can also be vulnerable and self-absorbed, and throw childish temper tantrums – all of which she acknowledges, and tries to work on. This makes her a fully realized, and therefore fully relatable character.
What are your favourite Young Adult novels? Tell me in the comments below!
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