Quality Street, Roses, Celebrations, Heroes. Imagine a new chocolate selection was introduced. That’s how it feels to have a pile of samplers in my hands. These are the pre-releases the publishing industry wants me to know about. They’re all wrapped up in shiny covers, and I know I’m going to enjoy the pile in general, but I don’t know which sampler will be my special favourite. Here it is. My little taster of YALC, thanks to Rachy-Lou at Habitual Scribbler.
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart –
Jules precision trains. Everything from her body to her memory is trained for victory. Since she witnessed the murder of her parents, Jules’s education has been overseen by the mysterious ‘woman in black’, who claims to want revenge for the murder. Now something has happened, something Jules wishes she could reverse. While hiding in Mexico, someone catches up with Jules and trails her when she escapes.
The pose is spare. While the language is simple, the hooks are dropped in exactly the right place. This is the kind of book which you start in the afternoon, and finish in the small hours.
Will I buy it? Psychological drama isn’t my thing, but if blogging has taught be anything, it’s that you only learn about prose when you step outside your comfort zone.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao –
Xifeng’s aunt Guma says the cards suggest Xifeng will have a life inside the Imperial Palace. Guma insists her niece will live at the Emperor’s side. When Xifeng shows interest in local boy Wei, Guma whips her into obedience. Wei says the cards are a curse. He offers Xifeng a life away from Guma: away from daily beatings. Xifeng wants to believe she could live at Wei’s side, but she is jealous of little Ning, the hired girl who could so easily steal Wei’s heart. There’s also the cards. The cards say Xifeng is destined for a different life…
Set in an East-Asian inspired fantasy world, this is a feast of description, from the silks and needlework, to the forest beyond the village. I love fairy-tale reinterpretations. This rewrites the story of the stepmother from Snow White. I want to know Xifeng’s future, and I want to know what becomes of Wei and Ning. Officially hooked.
Firelines by Cara Thurlbourn –
Once there were four cities. Then Mahg the Dissenter divided the fire stone which kept the cities in peace. Three of the cities fell to chaos. The city of Nhatu knew magick was the source of the problem. They built a wall, and made magick a punishable offence. Mahg destroyed the three other cities, and so the wise city of Nhatu became the one city.
So goes the history of Nhatu. Since Dad was convicted, Émi and her mother have lived in the Red Quarter, where people are forced to recite the history every day. Émi is not certain it is true. Émi is hiding secrets which could have her arrested, and sent to the convict camps at the edge of the wall. She also has a power which could take down the wall…
Gripped. Totally gripped. The world is believable, and I love the relationships between the characters, particularly between Émi and Nor. Nor has watched over Émi since she arrived in red quarter, and sees her potential. I also liked Tsam, Émi’s childhood friend who was promoted to the Gold Quarter.
I’m on the Firelines blog tour in September. Check back: I can’t wait to tell you more.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. (Illustrated by Chris Priestly.)
Call me William. You won’t believe a word I say. My brother Shawn was shot dead the day before yesterday. The unspoken rules around here say nobody will speak up. It’s against the rules to cry. The rules say if someone you love is killed, you take revenge.
This is an unexpected favourite. Unexpected? I don’t do gritty urban violence. Psychological thrillers. Gun violence. Why did I love it? The story is told through prose poetry. The poems are free style. Apparently simple, they are deceptively clever. The story is made one point at a time. Feeling is conveyed not only through the words, but the shape of the poems, as in ‘I’ve Never Been’ where the poem splits down the middle to convey the sense of a chasm opening. The description which stuck with me was about grief being like a forced tooth extraction. After it happens, you can’t stop poking at the empty space with your tongue. It’s great to see prose poetry taken seriously in YA publishing.
Floored by Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Salisbury, Lisa Williamson and Eleanor Wood.
Six teenagers are thrown together in one situation. There’s Dawson, whose career as a child star ended when he hit puberty. Kaitlyn whose dreams of being a beautician ended when she became visually impaired. Sasha who goes unnoticed. Hugo, the politician’s son who thinks the non-wealthy are lazy coasters who deserve what they get. Velvet, who feels like a fraud because she comes from a working-class town. Then there’s Joe, the bright boy whose school and family have no higher aspiration for him than factory supervisor. Each day is told from seven perspectives, with an overarching third person narrator filling in the details.
Seven narrators? Sounded a bit much to me, but I trusted those author names. How good is this? What do you mean, I have to wait eleven months? It is difficult to do this justice in a short piece, but every voice is compelling, and it is possible to empathise with every perspective, (yup, even Hugo, the spoilt, sexist snob. He is awful, but I got a sense of the bright boy who was always written off as ‘so-and-so’s son’. He’s a total Draco Malfoy. He’s lived in this insulated little world, with no sense of how unusual his family wealth is.) There is a definite theme of social division, and it’s great to see the North/South divide highlighted in YA fiction.
The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
Asha lures dragons with forbidden stories. As a child, Asha caused the most powerful dragon in Firgard to storm the village. Since then she has been known as Iskari (the lifetaker). Her role as a dragon hunter saved her from punishment.
Cousin Safire says Asha hunts to avoid thoughts of her betrothal. Asha doesn’t want to marry the cruel commandant, but there seems to be no way out…
Some interesting discussion about our perceptions of a ‘hero’. In the old stories, female Iskari is the villain, and male Namesara the hero. In the current day, Asha slays dragons under the name of Iskari. I love the exploration of gender in a fantasy setting. The fairy tales remind me of Ink by Alice Broadway – there is great exploration of how words and characters shift and change over time.
Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
Once Orïsha was place of magick. The night the magick disappeared, people rounded on and killed the Maji. Their children were branded ‘diviners’. Since that day, diviners have been treated as second class citizens. The dark skin which used to be a source of pride can now get them killed. Trained in the art of the staff, Źelie has a chance to defend herself, and to bring the magick back to Orïsha.
The diviners are a distinct group of people I can’t get out of my mind. What a fabulous world. This is a great interpretation of magic. Like Rowling, Adeyemi explores racial supremacy through the inheritance of magical blood. I can’t wait to see this in a different setting.