Welcome to Authorology, where authors talk about their favorite parts of YA books.
There are all sorts of worlds and settings in YA books: historical locations, dripping in gilded accuracy; contemporary settings, feeling so real that you could look up and see it before you; worlds of fantasy, bright and sparkling with magic; science fiction worlds gleaming with spaceships and futuristic technology. What are some of the best?
All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. This book is so important, you guys. It’s set today. Now. Right now when we need the hope in this book more than any other book, I think. We’re on the brink of something in this country, and this book gives us an important look into the people who are on the front lines of the battle no one wants to talk about.
– Joy N. Hensley, author of Rites of Passage
Perfectly suited for its boys in love.
In Seven Tears At High Tide, CB Lee builds a world that is whole, believable, and perfectly suited for its boys in love. Seven Tears tells the story of Kevin Luong, a heartbroken sixteen-year-old boy, and Morgan, the half-selkie who comes to land to fulfill his wish to be loved. This is a tale of first romance, family devotion, and the agonizing sense of being stuck between communities. Just as Morgan is neither fully human nor fully selkie, Kevin’s bisexuality places him in what can often feel like a no-man’s-land between here and there.
As a character, Morgan exudes innocent, un-ironic, kindness and, in a way, the world itself seems to mirror that sweetness, as if the entire narrative existed in a misty space between the water and the land. This isn’t to say that the novel doesn’t have real conflict or stakes, (it does) but rather that Lee creates a setting in which her characters— and their conflicts— feel perfectly at home.
Tortall, no question about it. Lady knights! Spies! Court intrigue! Adventure! The real world is great and all, but I would live there, if I could.
– Marieke Nijkamp, author of This Is Where It Ends
Most recently, a world that has stuck with me is Sara Benincasa’s updated view of the Hamptons in Great. Like many, The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels of all time, period. Even though I am completely unfamiliar with the world of the rich and famous (having grown up in the Midwest, like Nick in Fitzgerald’s novel and – more specifically in Chicago like Naomi in Benincasa’s), I appreciate books that provide commentary regarding social and economical inequities and the American lust for more, more, and more. Benincasa’s adaptation captures all of the extravagance of the original Jazz Age but hers serves as a pointed commentary on the kind of social climbing that exists today, one that is tied up in ideas about celebrity and fictitious online lives (as evidenced by the mother of the narrator, Naomi, and her desire to be part of the upper crust.) When Jacinta throws a carnival-themed party complete with a real Ferris Wheel and music à la “Boardwalk Empire,” it is both reminiscent of Jay Gatsby’s parties and uniquely modern and grotesque. The Midwesterner in me is at once intrigued and repulsed by the extravagance. Regardless, Benincasa’s reimagined world entranced me so much, I didn’t want to leave.
– E. Katherine Kottaras, author of How To Be Brave