Literary Challenge 2017 #4 Young Adult fiction


V0049050 A young man sketching with a reclining woman reading

After having revisited their favourite novels as teenagers, Hillingdon Library Staff were asked to read some Young Adult fiction, fiction written for teenagers. Young Adult fiction can cover a surprising range of genres and there is something for everyone.

We read and review a fiction book on a set theme every month, for you.

1. Moth Girls by Anne Cassidy

27766357Five years ago three 12 year old girls were intrigued by a dilapidated house, drawn to it like ‘moths to a flame’. They dare each other to enter the house but one, Mandy, turns back; the other two go in but are never seen again. As the anniversary of their disappearance approaches, the house is being demolished and Mandy is still trying to come to terms with the guilt that she has felt ever since that day. This thriller by established Young Adult writer Anne Cassidy deals with teenage friendships and loyalties, and family relationships. The narrative switches between past and present, the plot is intriguing with a few unexpected twists, but I found the style of writing very basic and feel that it is aimed at the younger teenage reader.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Carol – Northwood Library

2. The Complete Rainbow Orchid (Julius Chancer) by Garen Ewing

96419.jpg.square-true_maxheight-285_size-285 (1)This is a graphic novel described by one reviewer as the ‘British Tintin’, in which dashing young historical research assistant Julius Chancer sets out on an expedition to discover the Rainbow Orchid. It might also remind you of Indiana Jones as he crosses continents, chased by dastardly villains intent on stopping him, and is joined by a silent movie star, retainers from obscure cultures and aided by a French flying ace. I would say this was at the young end of the Young Adult genre, with the peril being very mild and the eventual success of the mission never being in doubt. Things don’t go exactly as you might predict, and it ends with several unresolved plot threads – therefore, expect Julius Chancer to be back with another adventure. Will I be back to follow it? Probably, as this was good fun and a break from some heavier reading. The artwork looks great and it does capture the spirit of action comics. I suspect this would be great reading material for reluctant young male readers.

3 out of 5 stars. Darren – Uxbridge Library

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Peter Chbosky

51Nam+nXVuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Perks of Being a Wallflower has entered the list of my favourite Young Adult novels. When I read it I immediately wanted to watch the film made out of it, as if I needed more of the characters’ stories. I almost missed Charlie and his friends and their 90s small world. I think that this book possesses a literary quality not often found in books targeted to teenagers, and it can be considered as a very good novel in its own right. The pages are filled with references to music, films and books as elements in the construction of a young person’s identity, the kind of book where you can discover films and songs you didn’t know and which you will forever associate to that particular reading experience. Themes such as drugs, suicide, sexuality, and mental illness are treated with a light touch and the story is consistently entertaining. Another interesting aspect is the epistolary form of this novel, used with particular success as a way of making the story more intimate and real. I would say this is a potential good read for everybody.

4 out of 5 stars. Federico – Northwood Library

4. The Fault in our Stars by John Green

81N-m6WpExLThis is a book that has been hyped to the hilt and proclaimed as the most romantic love story since Romeo & Juliet. So when I decided to read the book I was expecting teenage angst mixed with most probably a death of some sort and that’s kind of what I got. Hazel Grace and Augustus are teenagers that have both been affected by chronic illness and death and I liked the way that they interacted together. The story was ‘cute’ and at times slightly contrived but I enjoyed the romance between them and their love of books and the written word. Their trip to Amsterdam was beautiful and I found myself growing to like them very much, probably due to the fact that neither one of them was perfect. One of the wonderful things about this book is the dreamy and poetic prose. My favourite line is: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” The language evoked incredibly strong emotions and I bawled like a baby at the end. I would definitely recommend this book but it didn’t change my life.

4 out of 5 stars. Lara – Harefield Library

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The-Hunger-Games-Movie-Tie-In-Edition-210I’d been meaning to read The Hunger Games for ages to find out what all the fuss was about, so this was the perfect opportunity. The appeal to teenagers is clear enough; a resourceful, independent young girl battles against an oppressive system and the deadly antagonism of her peers. This feels like a melodramatic version of the average teen’s take on school. Does it work for adults? I think it does. The narrative is pacey, the language appropriate and vivid, the empathy palpable. There are enough plot twists to hold the attention, and the futuristic world is fully imagined, though the concept of youngsters fighting to the death is hardly original. I could happily return to the series at some point, despite being well outside the target demographic…

4 out of 5 stars. Mike – Eastcote Library

Have you read any of these? Are you reading some good Young Adult fiction? You can borrow all these books from our catalogue. Thanks for reading!


Staff Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Image result for paula hawkins into the waterFans of The Girl on the Train will be eagerly awaiting this second stand alone thriller and wanting it to be equally successful for author Paula Hawkins. Psychological thriller is really not the genre to pick if you are going to be a one hit wonder! Having read it I would say we can all relax – it’s not going to disappoint!
Hawkins has chosen to use the rotating narration style again but this time we have a broader cast of main characters rather than one heroine and this in my view gives the novel a more rounded plot.
To summarise without giving away more than you need to know, the book opens with the death of single mother Nel (Danielle) Abbott whose body is found in the river running through  the small town of Beckford. She leaves behind her fifteen year old daughter Lena and estranged sister Juliet (Jules) who is forced back to the town to care for her niece and try to uncover the circumstances surrounding her sister’s death. In the process this exposes other secrets of the town and it’s notorious river which has previously claimed the lives of other women in it’s sinister history. The novel exposes the interwoven relationships in this small town with big secrets.

The timescale of events is quite short over just a few months with the main storyline building over a 2 week period in August. However the chapters are interspersed with extracts from Nel’s book about the history of the river and the women who have drowned in it. This gives the main story more depth (pardon the pun!) and helps to build up a picture of the more recent tragedies giving us more clues as to how these tragic deaths might be linked.
The multiple viewpoints help us to build up a picture and question the various accounts of the same events. Some of the characters are not very well developed but they all serve a purpose in moving us towards the reveal. Through each of them we gain insights into the same events from the different viewpoints and we gradually learn the true histories of each character.

What Hawkins does so well is capture the psychology of relationships, both those stretching back years and newfound friendships. It also explores the idea that memories and emotion can conspire to deceive us.
The twists and turns keep the reader engaged and the number of possible suspects is a plus. It is clear that Hawkins has improved her writing skills since Girl On A Train  and produced a much more rounded, slick and stylish read.

The theme of water and the river are constant and provide a moody, cinematically atmospheric feel to the story. Like The Girl on the Train it could easily be transferred to the big screen but please not another US adaptation !

A very enjoyable read. 8 out 10.

Tracy – Northwood Hills Library