Right now I’m reading lots of YA (young adult) novels. Because I like the transformative teen years and because the novels I write are about that tumultuous time of life.
I just finished Libba Bray’s Going Bovine which was hilarious beyond belief and heartbreaking at the same time. And Scott Westerfeld’s Behemoth, the jaunty sequel to his Leviathan, is so incredibly imaginative, with Darwinists warring against Clankers in an alternate WWI world, that my head aches wondering how he came up with such fantastic notions.
But my favorite of the past week is literary-agent-turned-author Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere. It’s a contemporary story of epic grief and self-discovery and love. The characters are all wonderfully wrought and so dimensional they leap right off the page. It’s one of those books where I want the boyfriend to be my boyfriend and the grandma to be my grandma, etc. They’re all broken, but they learn how to live around the cracks and do it full out. The story made me laugh and cry and swell with love all in perfect rhythm. And it ends with hopefulness and a slew of possibilities.
You should read it.
I often wondered why literary agents and editors don’t write instead of wearing business suits and negotiating. Now I’m glad they don’t. And Jandy Nelson says she did have to query and all that and now has an agent who is not herself. Yeah, she knew people, but says she received some rejections. Just like the rest of us.
But unlike wildly original Going Bovine and Leviathan, The Sky is Everywhere isn’t what I’d call ‘high concept’. It’s simply an expertly crafted plot with memorable characters, aphrodisiacal flowers, excellent trumpet playing and an outdoor bedroom.
You’ll just have to read it.