Tag Archives: Young Adult Fiction

Hollow Pike – James Dawson

I have always been a little wary of young adult fiction, well since I was a young adult, and reading it as a grown up. I admit I loved Harry Potter but I did start that series when it came out in my late teens and so of course I carried on with the series, how could I not. I have dabbled in ‘Twilight’ to mixed results (I like the films more) and just didn’t get ‘The Hunger Games’. Odd then that I thought James Dawson’s debut novel ‘Hollow Pike’ was a bit of a corker, yet I think it’s because it is everything I would have liked in a young adult novel when I was one (and my sister, who is fourteen, love it – more on that later) and never got. I will explain…

Indigo Books, paperback, 2012, young adult fiction, 320 pages, kindly sent by the publishers

Lis London (brilliant lead name for a YA character) leaves her home in Wales for the small Yorkshire town of Hollow Pike after the bullying that she has endured at school simply becomes too much and hopes for a new start. However new starts are always tricky, will you make any new friends, will you end up in the right crowd, could history repeat itself? Prior to moving Lis has been having nightmares of someone trying to kill her each night, before she arrives at Hollow Pike she believes that this could be due to stress yet why is it when she goes through the local woods (which have a history of witchcraft) everything looks so familiar? Throw in the murder of one of her fellow school mates and soon it looks like Lis is set to be the killer’s next target.

I will admit that on paper the idea of ‘Hollow Pike’ as a story does look slightly like your average supernatural teen thriller fare, yet there is so much more to it when you read it. First of all there is Lis, she literally (cliché alert) walks off the page. The story of how she was bullied at school and then tries so hard to fit in with the right, and then the delightfully wrong, crowd will without a doubt have you looking back at your own school days. I remember having a Laura Rigg (popular, beautiful but ultimately a complete bullying power controlling bitch) or three in my school, I also remember the slightly kooky, or some people might say odd, group which you kind of wanted to be a part of and where also rather scared by and so all these characters came vividly to life. I thought that fact that he made three of the lead characters gay and lesbian was also a very brave thing to do and something I don’t think is really written about for that age group, brilliantly its very much part of who the characters are yet it isn’t the only thing that defines them – like life.

Secondly there is the style and nature of the book. From the outside (cover and blurb) this book looks set to be a witch-fest, it is far more clever than that. I actually think at its heart ‘Hollow Pike’ is a crime novel, with hints of witchcraft thrown in for good measure, where the moral of the story is friendship. The book has the fast paced thrilling nature of a good crime though never at the expense of the writing or the atmosphere, which I really liked. Oh and I couldn’t guess who the killer or killers were and was second guessing all the way to the denouement.

Thirdly, as an adult reading this, I loved the sense of nostalgia it had. I am of the generation (as is James Dawson it would seem) that had the Spice Girls blasting on the radio, watched ‘The Craft’, ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Scream’ at the cinema and devoured Point Horror novels all weekend (I didn’t even care that they regurgitated the same plot over and over). This combines all those things, except switches regurgitated ideas for originality, and creates a book and a world in young adult fiction that is familiar yet new. I was charmed by it.

I did have the odd wobble or two with ‘Hollow Pike’ I will admit. Occasionally bits of it felt overly familiar and I think I was expecting something with more witchcraft. But I am a thirty year old critiquing a book that isn’t for me, and I really enjoyed it overall, so I will leave you with the thoughts of my little sister Miriam (who joined me and Gavin on The Readers Book Club to discuss it – and do listen as she is brilliant on it) who said, to paraphrase, that…

‘Hollow Pike’ was actually all the more clever for what James Dawson does with the witchcraft elements and  that I shouldn’t expect the obvious – which told me frankly. She found it scary (I did a few times but didn’t want to admit it – oops), thrilling, realistic, original and different from other books in its field.. At fourteen she is the idea reader for this book and she LOVED it. I am not its target market and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so rave reviews from both of us really.

Who else had read ‘Hollow Pike’ and what did you think of it? What are your thoughts on adults reading young adult fiction? If you like them yourself then which would you recommend, apart from ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Hunger Games’?

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Filed under James Dawson, Orion Publishing, Review, Young Adult Fiction

War Horse – Michael Morpurgo

I should open today’s post with a disclaimer right from that start that books about WWI or WWII are something I feel over saturate the market. If done well they can be incredibly emotive and powerful but all too often they fall into the ‘man and woman fall in love, he goes off to war, its horrific, she hears he is dead but actually it was a mistaken telegram and they get back together, the end’. I should also mention that I don’t really like horses (much to the dismay of one of my closest friends) be they real or fictional ones. Why on earth read ‘War Horse’ then? Actually not because of the movie, which I was slightly aware was being released soon, but because I saw DogEarDiscs rate it five stars on Good Reads and had been contemplating reading more YA so it seemed like a good idea.

Egmont Books, paperback, 1982, fiction, 182 pages, borrowed from the library

I didn’t think I was going to like ‘War Horse’ when I started it, not because war books are so hit and miss with me or because I don’t like horses, both facts are true yet I knew this was coming from the title so was ready, but because I didn’t expect the novel to be narrated by the horse, Joey, himself. As soon as I realised this I thought something a little ruder than ‘oh no’ because my saccharine alert had been switched on. Like child narrators, animal narration can kill a book with one out of place word or description. Interestingly ‘War Horse’ both excels and in some ways fails because of this device.

Joey is a half bred foal when he is separated from his mother at an auction, ‘little I was worth’, and bought by an alcoholic farmer at a market in Devon who doesn’t actually want him but buys him as he is so cheap. On the farm he meets Albert and the two form an instant bond, slowly but surely Joey becomes one of the finest horses around, something Albert’s father never believed possible, yet when war is declared Albert’s father sees an opportunity of financial gain and the fates of Joey and Albert are changed, especially as Albert is not old enough to fight. Despite the fact I know you can all imagine what happens with the novel I don’t want to give too much more away but we do from this point see the war through the eyes of a horse.

In some ways Joey narrating this is a really interesting idea. It gives a very different spin on the whole war idea, a different angle in many ways. This is also probably much more effective on its intended audience as this book is aimed at a younger market and so in a way makes this more accessible, we all like animals on the whole when we are younger don’t we?  Yet as an adult reading this it added a certain distance, it was emotive and I could imagine as a kid this book hitting home but as an adult it really wasn’t. As the story plays out further characters, it is a war after all, might not be around for all that long and so characters are never quite feel fully developed. Great to illustrate to children the effects of war and quite shocking, as an adult I wanted further character development before I could really feel losses as and when they came, even in the case of Emilie which should have been much more effecting.

This isn’t all negative I promise. There are some very successful moments for example when Joey crosses no man’s, interestingly when it is just Joey describing his surrounding and the atmosphere, was very eerie indeed. I also thought Morpurgo did something that was particularly clever, and that was to not create any major villains. In fact all the ‘baddies’, apart from the war itself, are offstage really. Morpurgo doesn’t make the British soldiers ‘good’ and the German’s ‘bad’ instead he illustrates two sides of a war and how innocent men were brought into it from both sides because they had no choice/felt it was right for their country but didn’t want the war in the first place. That I thought was very powerful.

As you can see it’s a mixed bag of feeling for me with ‘War Horse’. I am glad that I have read it, but it didn’t hit all the buttons I had hoped it would, thankfully though it wasn’t saccharine in the slightest, it moved me, just not as much as I was expecting it was going to. I do think that I should mention that the book was originally published in 1982, it’s as old as me can you believe it, and I think naturally all books, not just children’s, have developed with a society that isn’t as easy to shock so that needs to be taken into account too.

I would be interested to see how it has been adapted though; my uncle and cousin came back from the movies and had clearly had a good cry. Who else has read it? Who has seen the play or the film? What did you think?

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Filed under Egmont Books, Michael Morpurgo, Review, Young Adult Fiction

Could This Be My Year for YA?

Yesterday I told you about the incredible novel that was ‘A Monster Calls’ and now I want to try his Chaos Walking series, at the same time the book that is currently highest on my wish list at the moment (and this has come completely out the blue as I don’t really like horses or war in real life or books) is ‘War Horse’ by Michael Morpurgo. ‘Erm, and, so what?’ I can hear you cry. Well, the thing that these two books have in common is that they are YA novels. What makes that all the more interesting is that I will admit that I have been somewhat of a YA snob, hey honesty is the best policy, in the past. So I am wondering if 2012, and oddly the year I go into my thirties, might be the year that I start to become a convert to YA novels.

I got talking about this rather a lot on twitter the other day and there were several novels discussed that came from that stable. One was ‘The Hunger Games’ which I have tried (loathed) and failed with and sadly got a bit cross and bored with everyone talking about when it came out, the next were the ‘Twilight’ series  which I tried and read some of but then decided the films were better. The two titles that came up that I fancied were ‘My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece’ by Annabel Pitcher which I was sent last year and have yet to read and the other was ‘Life: An Exploded Diagram’ by Mal Peet about the Cold War which The Book Boy has read and really enjoyed.

  

Naturally I thought I would ask you all for recommendations as people aren’t on twitter 24/7 (not that I am saying any of you are on Savidge Reads all day either, ha) and your thoughts on adult dipping their toes into YA. I should note I was asking my 13 year old sister for some recommendations at Xmas but she was re-reading SJ Watson’s ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ though will be reading ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ by Patrick Ness next, as might her big brother. So what say you, which titles modern or classics have you loved and would recommend giving a whirl?

We will be discussing this on The Readers in a few weeks too.

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Young Adult, Teen & Crossover Fiction…

I think it’s quite well documented here on Savidge Reads that I have a few little glitches in my personal reading taste; the last one I mentioned was of course audio books. Non-Fiction used to be a real issue, yet in the last year I really worked at it and by the end of the year quite a few of the books I really loved were that very genre. The next genre or category on my hit list is Young Adult Fiction… or Teen Fiction… or Crossover Fiction whichever one you want to call it. I might have just come up with a new way of getting my head around it, but I will need your suggestions so do read on and recommend.

I have been talking this who conundrum over with The Bookboy lately, he did after all suggest I read ‘Just William’ and lend me it. He of course is coming up to the teen market age (he’s 12), though having said that he has just recently finished ‘Wuthering Heights’ a book I didn’t read until fairly recently, and reads widely. The ‘Harry Potter’ novels are the only books that we have both read, and so we came up with an idea. As well as me doing the blog as normal and him doing his collective posts every now and again, wouldn’t it be interesting if we both read the same book and reported back together?

Now of course we have the issue of which titles should we head for? As we all know this is a huge, huge market…

…And one which neither of us feels we fully know enough to pick a prime title or three from to try out. It needs to be something new to both of us, though he is itching to read ‘The Graveyard Book’ and I did mention he read the first three Twilight books and then we could do ‘Breaking Dawn’ but I think that’s too old at the moment for him, plus he gave a very outward groan. We know there are some perfect books out there for us both to get our teeth into. I can almost hear you all screaming ‘The Hunger Games’ before I have even asked for suggestions, its one I think we would consider, but what else is there out there?

So which fairly recent ‘young adult/teen/crossover’ novels would you recommend? What is it about the genre that you love, or indeed that you don’t? Do you think a joint blog from me and The Bookboy every now and again would work?

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Filed under Book Thoughts