I've been meaning to write a post about young adult novels for some time now. I just started reading them again last year, mostly because I tend to gravitate towards heavy literature with meandering narratives and I really needed something light for a change.
Two of those YA novels are Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, both I read in one sitting because it was almost impossible to put them down. Both are also first person narratives by female protagonists who are very intelligent, passionate, and brave. I really like that both of these young women were written as independent characters with a lot of inner strength as opposed to your damsel in distress that is so common in fantasy and romance novels.
Book of a Thousand Days is a story about a young maid named Dashti and her personal account of the years she spent locked inside a tower together with the lady that she was serving. I had no expectations before I started reading this novel and was so captivated by it right away. Shannon Hale's writing is very lyrical and she created a world that is both bleak and yet very enchanting at the same time. And as a narrator, Dashti may be one of the most unforgettable voices that I've read in awhile. She is such an inspiring character and you can't help but root for her as she fights to survive and help the ones she love.
Another aspect that I loved about Book of a Thousand Days is that the romance subplot is very believable and realistic. How Dashti fell in love with Khan Tegus without seeing his face first but by talking to him through a tower wall and sharing the same sense of humor. Their conversations and the way they relate to each other felt very real to me and I liked that the story focused on their friendship and how they can make each other laugh. These are the type of characters that you'd want to revisit every now and then or read the story out loud.
On the other hand, The Hunger Games is a plot-driven rather than a character-driven novel. The writing is straightforward and simple but what keeps you hooked is the element of suspense. I wasn't surprised when I found out later that Suzanne Collins was a television screenwriter before she started writing novels because The Hunger Games is very action oriented and fast-paced. And while I thought the plot started to fizzle towards the latter part of the novel, I still really enjoyed reading it.
Because of its upcoming movie adaptation, there's been a lot of comparison between The Hunger Games and the Twilight series but I can tell you right now that aside from having two boys falling for the same girl, the two novels are completely different. The latter is mainly focused on the love story while The Hunger Games is broader in scope and there is a lot more at stake than just the romance. Katniss, the novel's heroine, is so much more independent and kickass compared to a certain someone who is constantly whining and in need of a man to rescue her.
In fact, it is interesting how in both Book of a Thousand Days and The Hunger Games, there is somewhat of a role reversal in your typical male-female dynamic with strong heroines ending up having to protect or risk their lives for the people they care about, Dashti using her wit and healing songs and Katniss with her bow and arrow. In a genre recently dominated by sparkly vampires and weak female characters, this is very refreshing indeed.
Do any of you read young adult novels? Which ones are your favorite?
Image scanned from Fudge Magazine via clever nettle