Blown Away by YA

Sometimes strange things happen. I’ve been reading Young Adult novels, for a project I’m hoping to be chosen to work on and – to be blunt – it’s been a chore. Most of what I picked up seemed angsty and febrile, neither of them in a good way. I know young adults are angsty (I was one, possibly, emotionally, still am!) and I can remember back into the depths of history to when my life was one long fever dream of hope, expectation and despair. But still … my general reaction was a very young adult ‘meh’.

And then I got close to the bottom of my reading pile and found A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly and was entranced.

Okay, there were places where big issues (like racism) were dealt with in a way that I felt could have been more subtle, but within the limitations of theme imposed by YA writing (or at least YA writing for publication, which seems fairly strictly regimented) everything big and deep was handled deftly and with honesty and passion. Based on the true story of a murder, the novel contains issues of feminism, race, education, love and family breakdown, and the voice in which it is written is as clear and compelling as sitting down with a friend and listening to what she has to say.

I’m not often surprised by literature these days, if you read a novel a day it takes something really astonishing to make you look at the world differently, but A Gathering Light changed my view of what YA fiction can be like, and changed it for the better. And now I really hope to have a stab at the genre myself …

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