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Thursday 14 December 2017

Young adult books in time for the mid-term break

VENDETTA By Catherine Doyle Chicken House Ltd (2015) €9.99 HHHII

The continued growth of the young adult category is seriously breathtaking. Sure, young adults love to read, but the big surprise is the number of no-longer-young adults who are devoted to the genre.

Me, I love it, and reckon it's not only an appreciation for good writing, but also an opportunity to re-engage with narratives that I loved in bygone days. I think these stories talk to the youth in our hearts, which is a lovely notion.

Set in Chicago, we don't know what happened to Sophie's life, but we know that it is pretty much rubbish. Everything gets shaken up when a family featuring five smokin' hot brothers moves to town.

With her life mainly off the rails, can Sophie afford to get involved with any of them, much less Nic, who she fancies something rotten? Well, no, but that's what narrative drama is all about.

It takes an long time to get all the facts in place, which makes for slow going at the start. It's a knack for pacing that is missing here - how to engage the reader's attention with just the correct amount of information without giving it all away.

Irish author Catherine Doyle is 23, and is barely out of the YA category herself. This is her debut novel and there is much to look forward to as she develops.

GOODHOUSE

By Peyton Marshall Doubleday (2015) €15.99 HHHII

In a dystopian future - what a surprise - young boys who have the genetic tendency to become criminals are sent to reprogramming centres that masquerade as boarding schools. They are taken from their families once it is determined they are ticking time bombs and set on the road to redemption.

Human nature will out, however. Part of the process of rehabilitating these boys is to send them out into the real world in order for them to experience what life will be like after graduation - and equally, whether they are able for it.

James has only recently joined his present Goodhouse, as the one he lived in previously was infiltrated and destroyed by a group that would prefer to see all these potential lawbreakers dead. He's fairly strung out to begin with, and does his best to fit in and be helpful, but when he steals a girl's hair clip, to say it all goes pear-shaped is to understate the matter.

Marshall's writing is initially gripping and strong; she creates a plausible and terrifying future. Towards the end, it seems as though we are in an endless series of explosions and fights, strung together with cursory emotional moments. A promising author, for all that.

THE MORNING GIFT

By Eva Ibbotson Young Picador (2015) €7.24 eBook HHHHI

I've only just discovered Ibbotson, thanks to the new reading technology and the digital re-release of her YA titles. These are gentle (not at all explicit) romances for thoughtful girls who are also interested in exotic and historical places and eras.

This takes place in Austria during World War Two. Ruth lives in Vienna and can't get a passport to flee. Despite being in love with another, she agrees to marry Quin in order to escape to London.

Ibbotson is flawless when it comes to detail, and the emotional resonance she inspires in the reader is impressive.

Things tend to get long and drawn out towards the end, but otherwise, pure joy. If you partake and like this as much as I did, I can also recommend The Dragonfly Pool and Journey To The River Sea.

SEEKER

By Arwen Elys Dayton Corgi (2015) €6.49 HIIII

The first rule of world-building is to make it just that bit familiar enough to give the readers some touchstones, but with the necessary creativity to make it a new world

Dayton, unfortunately, doesn't do a good job of setting us in place, much less time, nor is the essence of the book itself - the job of seeker and what it means - explained well. Frankly, it's not explained at all.

Quin has been training to be a seeker since childhood; on official induction, she finds out she has been set up to become an assassin of sorts. I think.

I've never read a book that was so unclear about its intentions: even the time frame is confusing, starting out in what seems to be the Middle Ages but ending up in modern times - or future times? The writer was perhaps let down by the editor here.

A CRACK IN EVERYTHING: WELCOME TO THE OTHER SIDE

By Frances Rose Long The O'Brien Press (2014) €7.99 HHHII

Missed this in the autumn of last year: Long has created a fae world that is, as described in the book, a little to the left of our own.

When Izzy slips sideways into that world, she's exposed to all manner of beings, from fairies to angels, who don't behave in the ways we are used to (for example, angels aren't all that angelic.)

Set in Dublin, it's as entertaining as ever to be able to place oneself on the streets by landmarks. Long's concepts are clever; some of the writing seems rather abrupt, and many of the scenes take a long time to get to the point. I did enjoy this, though, and any fans of magical narratives will as well.

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