Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Monthly Mini-Reviews: September - Young Adult Novel Special

Despite how it may look on this blog, I haven't simply spent the last two months watching the new series of Doctor Who non-stop (you have to do something in the time that it takes to load the next episode). I've also been reading, and the following post will focus on the Young Adult titles I have consumed of late. 
There's always something of a debate going on between literary people about whether adults should read Young Adult books or not. Personally, I'm a big advocate for the former as I have no idea why you would close yourself off to such an imaginative and all-consuming range of books. Something these mini-reviews will hopefully demonstrate...

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

There's always something especially alluring (at least for me) about books that are quirky and indefinable, and Ransom Rigg's hit début novel Miss Peregrine... definitely fits this bill - a light sci-fi/fantasy novel, it is inspired and illustrated by old photos of peculiar children. As fascinating as the images are - and the book itself is a beautiful thing to behold - the story is also engaging, featuring lots of great ideas. For a British reader, I noticed a few Americanisms slip through into the Wales-set story but that is not enough to detract from the well-disseminated mystery plot, with a brilliant monster and, on occasion, unexpected depth. Apparently, that old master of the macabre, Tim Burton is set to direct a film version and, after enjoying the book as I did, I'd say he could have something very good - but certainly peculiar - on his hands.

 Skulduggery Pleasant

Sometimes things in the world just don't make sense. When the first book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series - sporting the fabulous premise of an undead detective caught in a war against the forces of darkness - was released I was the perfect age to read it... but I didn't. Several, years later, I'm now playing catch-up. The first book is, as one would expect, a fun adventure with great snappy dialogue and a enjoyable apocalyptic plot. It's one that feels familiar but writer Derek Landy uses this to his advantage, to spend more time filling out the bare bones of the characters (and, yes, that pun was definitely intended), most notably the skeletal Skulduggery and his new teenage sidekick Stephanie (or Valkyrie, as is her preferred name). After the experience of reading this one, I look forward to the rest (I'm told that the latest, final, book is absolutely heart-breaking). As for why it took so long for it to occur to me to read the books, that is still a mystery. In fact, I might need the services of Skulduggery himself to investigate it...

A Monster Calls

Whereas the previous two books I've looked at have been popular series-starters, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is a very kind of book. From an idea by Siobhan Dowd, who sadly passed away before she could write it, this story sees Conor, whose mother suffers from cancer, being visited by a giant, story-telling monster every night. It's a very moving and heartfelt book and, again, supported by gorgeous illustrations from Jim Kay (I'm loving this trend for well-designed books - I wonder if it's a stand against the rise of ebooks?). Ness handles the sensitive material well, making the tale a very human story with elements of fantasy rather than the other way around. If a monster comes to your window tonight to tell you a story, you wouldn't go wrong if you asked it to tell you this one.

 11 Doctors 11 Stories

No, I can't go a whole post without mentioning Doctor Who. I'm well aware I have a condition and I'd thank you not to mention it. Harrumph.
For the 50th anniversary last year, BBC Books brought together eleven of Young Adult fiction's finest writers to pen a story for each of the eleven Doctors (aw bless, only eleven) and this chunky compendium is the result. As all anthologies do, the collection has its highs and lows. Some authors, sadly, while no doubt talented, do not quite connect with the world of Doctor Who enough to pen a proper Doctor Who tale. However, applause must be given to Malorie Blackman, Charlie Higson and our old friend Derek Landy for some of the best stories in the collection. Rather predictably, my favourite was Neil Gaiman's effort featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Amy fighting the chilling monsters, old enemies of the Time Lords, the Kin. If Mr Gaiman ever writes for the show again (and he'd bloody better do) here's hoping he brings the Kin with him to the smallscreen.
Typically, just as I have purchased this, the BBC are about to release the collection with an extra story starring the Twelfth Doctor. To make sure this doesn't happen again, I think I'll hop a few years into the future and grab the 25 Doctors 25 Stories version.

If you are interested in reading more, then please visit my run-down of the 10 Best Moments of Series 8 So Far. For every view it gets, one pound is given to the British Whovian Foundation, a charity dedicated to helping Doctor Who fans deal with their terrible life-long affliction. Thank you, every little helps.

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