The First Few Chapters

I recently took a much needed break from reading YA novels and dug into some adult fiction. I don’t really read non-fiction, it rarely appeals to me. I like an author’s license to do whatever he/she wants with characters. I realize there are tons of compelling non-fiction books out there (The Glass Castle will always remain one of my most favourite books) that would readily capture my attention, and I do browse them, but still find that I always end up gravitating towards the fiction section. And so I picked up Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, the first in a trilogy that feels an awful lot like Harry Potter meets Narnia meets Tom Wolfe. The language in harsh and academic, and the story focuses less on world creating than character development, but I couldn’t put it down. The characters are miserable and for the most part bad people, in a realistic, drunk with power and money sort of way. Overall, the story is really about what magic in the hands of the average person can do. This is Slytherin all grown up. I still managed to grow fond of the hero, mostly because he grows as a person and is realistically affected by everything that happens to him. I was going to save the next two books for summer vacation but ended up picking up the second this week. Oh well.

After powering through The Magicians, I picked up two YA novels from the school library- Ready Player One (Ernest Cline) and Althea and Oliver (Cristina Moracho). I didn’t make it much father than the first few chapters in either, but both are perfect YA reads. Ready Player One, soon to be a major motion picture, deals with a future where most people live in a virtual reality. The protagonist is a teenager, a gamer, whose real life is miserable but online life is compelling. For anyone interested in anything from John Hughes movies to Dungeons and Dragons to school sports, this is the book for you. It’s one of the novel study options here at school, and I can see it being a perfect book for a grade 8 or 9 class. I don’t want to say anything more, the concept is too interesting to give away, but I will say that the writing is simple and incredibly clever.

The next book I picked up was Althea and Oliver. The two main characters have been best friends since they were 6 years old and as Althea slowly falls in love with Oliver, he deals with a horrible syndrome that causes him to fall asleep for months at a time. I had to stop reading simply because the story and the writing was too painfully reminiscent of being a teenager. The author does an incredible job of capturing the raw, real, and intense emotions of teenagers, something nobody wants to relive but every teenager can relate to. The relationships portrayed are clearly flawed and bad, and even though I can see a teen rooting for A and O to get together, it would also be clear what needed to change for this to end up being a good match. I can see this book appealing to any gender and will definitely be recommending it.

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