Sunday, February 28, 2016

Matchmaking: Novels that Belong Together

With several book festival appearances coming up in March and April, I've been reading lots of new young adult novels written by authors I know and others I don't (yet). When I'm on a book panel, I like to have read the work of my fellow panelists because a) it makes listening to them talk about their books more fun, and b) it saves me from sticking my foot in my mouth. Most of the time.

So, I've been studying up, and I've noticed something. While each novel is a distinct work with distinct characters and plotlines, there are echoes between certain pairs of books, like a call and response effect in my mind. One book reminding me of another, one main character saying something that I know the protagonist of another book would find hilarious or moving. Here are a few examples:

Julie Murpy's DUMPLIN' is like the big sister of Shelley Sackier's DEAR OPL. Both are novels with intense heart and humor, and both are about girls who are under a considerable amount of pressure to change and manage to not only stand their ground but win readers over completely on their own terms.

Kelly Fiore Stultz's THICKER THAN WATER and Meg Wolitzer's BELZHAR are about secrets, about dark and guilty pasts, about teens who are far from home and desperate for connection. They're also heartbreaking, suspenseful, and beautifully written.

Kat Spears' SWAY and Robert Cormier's CHOCOLATE WAR might seem like an odd pairing on its face, but they both feature smart, incisive, unapologetic narration. And they both put their main characters (and thus, their readers) in uncomfortable but inevitable moments that make us confront our preconceptions about what it means to be a teenaged boy.
So, sure, you could spend tonight watching the Oscars. Or you could take my advice, skip the movies, and catch up on your reading.


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