Angie Tally, children’s manager at the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, N.C. (which is celebrating its 60th year in business), is eager to introduce three YA novels to customers in the new year.
I do my best to never judge a book by its cover, but must admit that I am sometimes swayed by a clever or intriguing title. I recently found three new galleys especially intriguing: Noggin by John Corey Whaley (S&S/Atheneum), Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle (Dutton), and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Delacorte).
Fans of Libba Bray’s Going Bovine will enjoy the unconventional Noggin. After Travis Coates was diagnosed with cancer, he chose to have his head cryogenically preserved until the day sometime in the distant future when it could be reattached to a healthy body. Only the future in which Travis is “revived” isn’t so terribly distant. When he rises from the deep freeze a mere five years later, his family, friends, and girlfriend have progressed though the five steps of loss and have moved on, leaving Travis to wonder where he fits in. The story of his life and death and life is at once silly, soulful, and sad.
I do love an outrageous YA novel, and coming-of-age/science fiction/faux memoir Grasshopper Jungle sets high the bar for outrageousness. If Holden Caulfield had been the main character in a dystopian fantasy, the resulting novel may have very well been a predecessor to this wild adventure that stars Austin and Robby, two teenage boys with a complicated relationship. Their story also involves a large glass glove containing a mass of blue photoluminescent mold, genetically modified corn, little blue kayaks, six-foot-tall praying mantis-type creatures, quite a few references to sperm, a secret memoir, and one patient teenage girl who lives next to a secret underground bunker. Add to the mix the explanation for how a dying bull in Tsarist Russia brought about the end of the world in Ealing, Iowa, and you have Grasshopper Jungle. Outrageous.
On a totally different note, the world described in We Were Liars is absolutely perfect. No one is an addict. No one is a criminal. No one is a failure. Everything is unquestionably perfect during the 15th summer of Mirren, Johnny, Gat, and Cadence, the oldest of the youth on Beechwood Island. Readers of John Green’s Paper Towns will devour this mesmerizing novel in reverse that slowly unwinds while defying genre classification. Not a mystery, not a psychological thriller, not realistic fiction – yet all three nonetheless. We Were Liars offers a glimpse beneath the façade of perfection into the depths of the truths the liars carefully ignore. I read this one in one sitting, and immediately turned back to page one to begin again.
The new year in YA certainly is worth waiting for.