February 22, 2016

The Age Gap in YA: When Is Young Too Young?

Hi my darlings...time for a philosophical debate (no, not really. I was only trying to impress you).

I was rereading And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky a few weeks ago, when it struck me that the protagonist is a 15 y.o. girl. Just like in Deadgirl by B.C. Johnson. And both books are among my favourites.
Now, I remember that, back when I was investigating Deadgirl in order to decide if it was worth a try, the lead's age caused me to wonder if I should commit to it. I was used to 16-17 y.o. main characters - who seem to be the standard material in YA novels. They're more mature (um, maybe...), or simply close enough to 18 without actually being that age. They have a driver's license, or are given more freedom by their parents, or are simply more resourceful when it comes to escape their supervision (well, um, one would assume). They are about to graduate and are figuring out what they want to do with their life. They're champing at the bit, defying authority and gravity - so to speak - at the same time...On the other hand, apparently, 14-15 is sort of a no-man's-land - too old to fit in the MG department, too young to be proper YA characters...or is it?

February 03, 2016

Christopher Pike: "Black Knight"

Title: Black Knight [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Witch World (2nd of ?? books)
Author: Christopher Pike [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Multiverse, Paranormal, Sci-Fi
Year: 2014
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Unique approach to witches and alternate universes. Faster pace and more cohesion than Book 1. Never a dull moment (with the possible exception of Ch. 1).
Cons: Heroine reads like a slightly different version of Sita (The Last Vampire/Thirst), this time with a penchant for being in love/lust with two men at a time. Most characters are unbelievably skilled for a bunch of newborn teen witches or witch wannabes. We don't get the explanations we need in the end (and it's unclear if we will, because there's no talk of a book 3 yet. I asked Pike himself and he said he wants to complete the series, but apparently his publishers have very little interest in it right now. Or - my take on the matter - maybe ever...).
WARNING! This one has blood and guts. Literally. Sex is mentioned/approached, but we don't really get to see it - only a would-be prelude.
Will appeal to: Those who like feisty female leads. Those who can tolerate some gore and suspend disbelief if a story draws them in. Those who don't necessarily need ALL the answers...

Blurb: Jessica Ralle thought the worst was over. The mindblowing revelations. The terrifying danger. The heartbreaking loss. Turns out, discovering Witch World was just the beginning. The riveting Witch World saga continues in a sequel packed with even more shocking twists and sexy suspense than Book One…(Amazon excerpt)
[BTW - I never comment in this section for obvious reasons but I HATE this blurb. It doesn't say anything about the story, and the "sexy suspense" is there for shock value only, so that this book can be lined out with a stream of supposedly successful and steamy novels (please notice the alliteration...it just popped up, and I decided to keep it...) that have nothing to do with it. Yes, there's sex - this is Christopher-friggin'-Pike after all, the one who was already incorporating sex into his books as far back as the '80s! - but "sexy suspense"? WTH? Someone at Simon & Schuster has obviously tried hard to market this book as something it wasn't in order to draw attention to it. And failed nonetheless...]

Review: As my review of Red Queen testifies, I liked the first installment of this series, but didn't unconditionally love it. I've reread it prior to tackling this sequel, and despite enjoying some bits a lot, I still was annoyed at some others. The main problem for me - apart from the heroine Jessica reading too much like an alternate version of Sita without 5,000 years of living under her belt, but sometimes acting like she did - was that the book was all over the place. So I was pleasantly surprised by Black Knight being, on the whole, much more cohesive than its predecessor (which I admit it's not easy for a book set in two different universes, and sporting the addition of a second almost-main character). Also, this novel's got action, blood and guts (not that the first installment didn't, but it was still a crossover between such things and your average high-school aftermath), not to mention a bunch of mysteries of different kinds to keep you enthralled. And curveballed. (Can you say "curveballed"?). Of course, Jessica is still too good to be true - a 18 year old girl who can take care of anything under the sun while barely flinching, and a newborn witch who can fight with the best of them. Because go figure, there are others like her. But once removed from the post-high-school/normal life setting, the fact that six half-dozens of teenagers can be catapulted in the middle of a godforsaken place to be pitted against one another, and adjust to it, doesn't sound that far-fetched anymore...Yes, actually "catapulted" and "pitted". Because six groups of six witches and latent witches each find themselves stranded on an off-the-map island, where they are supposed to fight until only one of them remains. In typical Highlander fashion... [...]