As adults there seems to be two schools of thought of YA literature (that’s Young Adult for those not in the know). Some love it as an easy read but with a bit of substance and with the young adult perspective. Others think there are just far to many great adult fiction books to read to bother with YA books. I slot somewhere in the middle I think (does that mean there are really three schools, or perhaps the schools are on a spectrum?). I’ve always read YA because I’m an secondary English teacher so it’s par for the course. I read them with my students – kids of all ages love being read to, so if you’re a parent keep doing it for as long as your young ones will let you, it is enormously beneficial for literacy development all the way through adolescence – and I read them myself so I could keep up with the trends, recommend good books to my students and try to foster a love of reading in them. What’s that saying? Those that don’t like reading just haven’t found the right book yet. That’s the attitude I took with my students, those that claimed to hate reading were just challenging me to get them onto the right books.
Anyway, I have digressed before I even started. My point is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a YA novel. I read this for book club, one of the members being a particular fan of good YA books – I’m sure one day we’ll see her name on a published YA book. She suggested this book a couple of months ago and given that the film was also recently released it seemed good timing. And as YA books go, this is a good one. I’m sure Year 9 and 10 students (girls mainly I would assume) are tearing up all over the country reading this.
The story centers around Hazel, August Waters and to a lesser extent Isaac, all teenagers at various stages of their battles with various types of cancer. They meet in a support group, literally in the heart of Jesus (that will make more sense if you read the book) and the story builds from there into one of love and the making of a dream. The ending is sad, tearfully so even for a grown woman, but not perhaps in the way you might at first suspect.
So is it worth reading THIS YA book. I would say a resounding yes, but be prepared for the teenage angsty bits and cringe-worthy moments and a narrative that will have you channeling your former 16 year old self. I wouldn’t or couldn’t do YA back to back, but for the best ones out there I definitely think it’s worth the trip to Teen World.
Hi Barbara, no offence taken with my other comment in Losing yourself – just it has always been a universal problem I feel, and finding yourself again – that is Barbara, as opposed to someone’s wife/mother – is an ongoing quest, and one I’m sure you will win!!! On another note, I also haven’t been a fan of YA fiction, probably for the reason you stated being too much good adult reading to bother – however I have read a couple of books that were recommended by Stephanie (yes that Steph!!), books that she was reading for her studies, and the very best of these was The Book Thief. I hadn’t seen the film, I usually prefer to read the book as watch the movie, like to get ALL the story – anyway it is the most beautifully written book I have read, one of the most poignant, also quite sad, but a really good read, although the ending was quite abrupt. It’s setting of course is not the least glamorous, but with the author’s writing you could feel, touch, see everything. It was a book truly worth reading.
Steph has great taste in fiction by the sounds of it. I read the book thief quite a long time ago now and I haven’t seen the film either…. I’m scared it won’t do justice to such a masterpiece of writing. However if you (and Steph) enjoyed this Markus Zusak novel try The Messenger (same author). It’s very different, for a start it’s set in Australia but it’s that same wonderful writing. Another YA about a similar topic to The Book Thief is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It is pretty dark and the end will leave you reeling. I would hesitate to recommend it to some more sensitive ‘young adults’ so you might want to read first and see what you think before suggesting it to Steph.
I am also a secondary English teacher and read YA for all the reasons you have mentioned. Additionally, I find that most YA has something that a lot of modern adult fiction lacks – substance! Personally, I loved ‘The Fault in our Stars’ and also John Green’s ‘Looking for Alaska’. I am yet to read his other novels though my Year 10s have been encouraging me to try them.
Zusak is also a wonderful writer, I have loved all of his novels so far and have taught ‘The Messenger’ successfully to disillusioned Year 11s. But I disagree with your recommendation of ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’. I find the novel patronising, condescending and historically inaccurate. Young people are more intelligent, more competent, and far more capable than Boyne perceives them to be. It is a Year 9 text at my school, but I don’t teach it. Instead I teach Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ and have a fabulous time introducing students to the glories of allegorical fiction.
I really enjoy your Wednesday Reads. I just wish I had more time to read some of them myself 🙂
Apparently will Grayson, will Grayson is very good too (by Green) though I haven’t read it yet either. But we’ll have to agree to disagree on the striped pj book, while definitely not historically accurate (a fault of many, many historic fiction books) I didn’t find it condescending at all. Though having said that I would probably much rather teach animal farm too (from a purely teacher perspective a much more interesting and complex set of themes).
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