Sunday, 3 October 2010

Two books of two weeks

I have now read two more YA books that Marilyn recommended at the conference last month and that I am sure I would never have discovered on my own. In fact, both covers would have efficiently put me off, even though I see how they might be attractive for the target audience.

After I had read a page and a half of Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, I knew I would enjoy every page of it, no matter the subject. It was so beautifully written. And the subject is still darker than Forbidden. The book starts with incest and rape, and you just wonder where it can go from there. Yet there is no explicit language; but it is told in a way that makes you understand what is happening and how abominable it is. Multiple narrators and multiple perspective, and you never quite know who is speaking. Many intertwined stories to keep track of. Subtle boundaries between dream and reality (and the reality itself is unreal), ambivalent human-animal metamorphosis, and all the time you think: all right, this is the ending, what is going to happen on the remaining 200 pages? And, when you have reconciled with the idea that the ultimate ending will be conventional, everything is suddenly put upside down again. A book full of surprises. A book full of allusions. A masterpiece all the way through.

Kevin Brooks' iBoy also starts with rape. I don't mind as long as it is not “a book about rape”, which it isn't. Actually its aboutness (fascinating jargon, isn't it) is irrelevant. But it is of being human, in the best sense of the notion. Crafted skilfully as a thriller – I literally couldn't put it away, kept reading well beyond midnight, which is exceptionally rare with me. Making use of something indispensible for today's young readers (three years from now, its sci-fi premise may either feel outdated or a horrifying truth). Posing all the BIG questions recognisable from YA fiction, but in a new angle. The question that kept coming to me was: How is the author going to manage the ending? I was disappointed because it was too neat for the unendurable tension of the story. Yes, I know all about not leaving young readers without hope, but it felt too easy. The BIG questions are not resolved.

Still, reading two excellent books within two weeks is more than I can remember.

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