Wednesday, May 4, 2016

YA Guy Reads... YA Contemporary (plus a giveaway)!

As you know, YA Guy’s mostly into speculative fiction: sci-fi, fantasy, horror, you name it. But from time to time I pick up something outside my comfort zone—not too far, mind you, because I can’t see myself reading a book about kissing or vampires (or kissing vampires). Over the past several weeks, however, I’ve read two YA Contemporary novels, and both were excellent.

First was THE TRUTH by Jeffry W. Johnston. This YA thriller concerns a teenage boy, Chris, who wakes up from a chloroform-induced sleep to find himself duct-taped to a chair in an unidentified location, with the brother of the runaway Chris shot in his kitchen threatening to maim him if Chris doesn’t tell the truth about what happened that night. From there, the novel bounces back and forth between the present and Chris’s memories of the events leading up to the shooting. The son of a police officer who died in the line of duty and the older brother of a ten-year-old he suspects was always his father’s favorite son, Chris tells himself he’s done everything to protect his younger brother—including on the night of the shooting. But how can he tell his abductor the truth when he’s hiding it from himself?

THE TRUTH is an intense, fast-paced read, with incredible tension but, given the set-up, relatively little overt violence (for which I was thankful). The story is really about relationships: between Chris and his father, Chris and his brother, and, ultimately, Chris and his abductor. And though I found some of the revelations late in the book less shocking than they were likely intended to be, I was totally hooked by the story of Chris’s coming to terms with his father, his family, and himself.

After reading THE TRUTH, I turned to Pittsburgh YA writer Siobhan Vivian’s latest, THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD. Given that title, you might think this is a post-apocalyptic tale, but it’s actually a realistic story about a high school junior, Keeley, whose Pennsylvania town has suffered severe flooding and is fighting to stop a riverfront real estate deal that will submerge the town for good. Meanwhile, the boy of Keeley’s dreams has finally started to show some interest in her, and her father, injured years ago in a work accident, has finally found a cause to rouse him from his passivity. But while Keeley becomes drawn into the excitement of these new romantic and familial developments, her lifetime friendships suffer.

What I liked most about LAST BOY AND GIRL is that it’s not only—or even mostly—a love story. Or it is, but as Keely herself discovers, it’s less about her love for a boy than about her love for her family, her town, and her best friend. Vivian’s pacing is totally unlike Johnston’s; where THE TRUTH grabs you at once and never lets go, LAST BOY AND GIRL lets events unfold gradually, revealing ever deeper layers in Keeley’s personal relationships and in the drama of her failing town. I could wish some of the environmental implications of this scenario had been drawn out more explicitly, but that’s not the story Vivian wants to tell. What she does want to tell is a story of the difficult choices one teenager faces as she tries to keep her life from going under, literally and symbolically, and Vivian tells that story simply and beautifully.

Chances are I’ll return to science fiction soon (in fact, I’ve got a manuscript due on my editor’s desk, so I’ll probably be doing more writing than reading in the next month or so). But I’m glad I took a detour and discovered these two great books!

Bonus! Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a SIGNED hardcover copy of THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD! (U.S. only.)

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9 comments:

  1. The most recent YA novel that I've read and enjoyed is Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse.

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  2. The most recent YA novel that I've read and enjoyed was The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett. - Hutton

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  3. The most recent YA novel that I read and enjoyed was Romancing the Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

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  4. I read The Neverland Wars. Excellent Peter Pan retelling.

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  5. haven't read any recently

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  6. I was a children's librarian for 8 years, but retired several years ago. I read so many good YA books then. It has been a while since I read one. I am currently working on a YA anthology THIS SUMMER STORM put out by Tornado Alley Publications.

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  7. My last wonderful YA was Spy Stuff by Matthew J. Metzger at the beginning of this month.

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  8. The last YA I read was Dust Lands. So good.

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  9. The last YA I read was Dust Lands. So good.

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