Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm a retired teacher turned writer. Ferradiddledumday (my Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story) and Stuck (my middle grade paranormal novel) are available from Cedar Creek Publishing.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Coming of Age in YA

Over the last few months, I've read four good Young Adult books: What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay, by Amanda Cockrell (Flux, June 2011); Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson (reprinted May 2011); The DUFF, by Kody Keplinger (Poppy, June 2011): and Catcher, Caught, by Sarah Collins Honenberger (AmazonEncore, December 2010). All four deal with coming of age in one way or another.


All four are edgy, as contemporary YA novels are wont to be these days. Had these books been published back in the early 60s when I was in high school, they'd have been banned. (Did we even have YA when I was in high school?)

Had they been written during the years I taught public school (late 60s to 1997), I might have gotten fired for urging kids to read them. However, I did once lend my copy of The Catcher in the Rye to a 10th grade boy in 1967 (A reluctant reader, he was somewhat shocked but he enjoyed it). In the 70s, I lent my copy of Go Ask Alice (supposedly an autobiography, but actually a work of fiction) to a girl in 8th grade who needed to see where her errant ways might lead. I'd learned about Go Ask Alice from another student who'd insisted I should read it. But I digress.

The four books pictured above are ones YAs should read. Girls should read the ones by Cockrell, Anderson, and Keplinger. I think they'll be entertained by the books and will perhaps learn some things about life. Honenberger's book has a male protagonist, so it should appeal to boys—or to anyone who has ever read The Catcher in the Rye.

Plenty of info already exists online about these books and their authors, but here's a bit about the two books written by authors who are friends of mine: Amanda Cockrell and Sally Honenberger. Both skillfully use a first-person narrator; both write about mid-teen protagonists who face difficult choices; both make their protagonists believable.  Both books would be great for parents to read and discuss with their teenage children—or for adults who don't have kids to read.

What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay is a good choice for girls thirteen and up—especially those who believe that they can "fix" another person's problem or who are facing difficult choices.

Upset over her mother's disintegrating marriage, 15-year-old Angie has been talking to a statue of St. Felix in the church basement. One day the statue comes comes alive and gives Angie advice. Though St. Felix warns Angie against getting involved with Jesse—a 19-year-old veteran who has enrolled in her high school after returning from Afghanistan minus a leg—Angie falls for Jesse anyway and thinks she can fix his problems. Jesse's problems, however, are way more than Angie can deal with.

Angie is a likeable character and her voice rings true throughout the book. A discussion guide for What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay is here. (Edited to add that What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay has been named to the Boston Globe's "Best 10 Books for Children" list.)

Catcher, Caught should appeal both teenage boys and girls—especially if they have already read and enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye.

Daniel, a 16-year-old with leukemia, lives with his ex-hippie parents and younger brother on a houseboat in the Rappahanock River. His mother is into natural cures, so treating his condition with chemo isn't an option. Daniel, realizing he might not live long, finds comfort in reading and rereading The Catcher in the Rye. He wants to experience life, and—when twin sisters move into the area—soon has a girlfriend and loses his virginity. Eventually, like his hero Holden Caulfield, he takes off for New York City, but he finds a place very unlike Holden's city.

It has been decades since I read The Catcher in the Rye, so I might have missed a few references. However, I enjoyed the book and how Daniel dealt with his problems.  Honenberger's discussion guide for Catcher, Caught is here.

I kind of wish that Angie and Daniel could meet. They'd have a lot to talk about.

In a few days, I'll blog about the other two YA novels.
~

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