So the world is weird right now, and we all know it. Even those who aren’t lucky enough to be able to stay out of the fray know it’s a weird world.
I had the good luck to have planned time off this past week, a rare commodity because I work in healthcare. I don’t know when that will happen again so I spent it teaching Psycho Mommy Homeschool complete with Bribery Friday, posted dating profiles for my chickens on Facebook, started and restarted and restarted a complicated lace scarf, read one of the comps I am using for my novel, worked on my query letter, researched agents, and harassed my husband into making a coop and a run.
AND I read down my YA so I could be completely intimidated by these authors, trying to throw my book into the same pool as these. The books I am reviewing today are stunning. They take real world, contemporary settings and bring them to life with teen voices.
The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson
Lennon, a gifted teenage musician, loses her sister in a tragic unexpected death that turns her and the world of her family around. She is drawn to her sister’s last boyfriend because he is the only one who sees her in her grief, but also meets a boy who is a ray of sun who falls hopelessly in love with her. She is caught between being close to her sister through the first boy and barreling into her first true love through the second, but even as she does so she feels guilty for this happiness to come at this time, and sad that she doesn’t have her sister to share it with.
Jandy Nelson is an artistic genius. This book is not super heavy on plot. It has enough to move things along, but what it has is gorgeous amounts of characterization, voice, and emotions. Relatable emotions from a child drowning in her feelings of loss. Lenny writes poems and leaves them all over to sum up where she is in her grief process through the book and this opens chapters. This is a love triangle, there is no magic in it, save for the magic that is her surviving family. This does a regular teen in the regular world in a regular time and she makes it completely magical with her writing. Wow. Even though this book was hard to get through in spots, with the sad and hopeless parts of it, it’s beautiful. I would love to be able to write like Ms. Nelson, with that much heart, that much humor and voice, and ability to breathe fresh life into a common plot (love triangle) and setting.
I’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson
Twins Noah and Jude lose their twin thing as they get to be teenagers, competing for their parents’ love and mounting secrets against the other that threaten to tear them apart. Relationship threatening assumptions get made. One gets into a coveted school that the other wanted, each is clearly favored by parents in a dissolving marriage, and you wonder the whole time, as the story spins out and before it all gets pulled back together, how everything got to be such a mess.
Jandy Nelson is like, the master of voice in YA. One of the masters. I can’t say better than John Green, so I would say right up there. This story is so intriguing with so many layers and unexpected moments, I alternated between being sucked in and needing a break. I know what lit agents mean when they want stories full of voice: they want something like this. These smart and funny kids who do and don’t fit in and who make hilarious observations. It’s so good. It comes full circle. Wow. I am glad I am reading down my YA stories. This has more actually happening in it than The Sky is Everywhere, and grief is only a part of it. Nelson does well with a contemporary story in a non fantasy setting and making it something dimensional and special.
Seriously, who has the balls to try to query into this genre when it will be in the same section as these books?
Does anyone else find themselves wondering how they will feel after such strange times? If they will want to go back to participating in regular life? I haven’t minded the way things have slowed down in some aspects. My son is more willing to walk the dog and do things other than his ipad on his downtime at home, because he is home more. Not that I don’t refuse him the Ipad, because I do, but it isn’t as hard to get him to involve himself with us. I have a beautiful home and I have enjoyed being here. I’m one of the so lucky ones.