Monday, October 15, 2007

Which Shall It Be?

Hello, I'm a very new member of the Slaves and so feel very privileged to be asked to take part in the choosing of the next book. I've spent the last far too many years of my life working with books for children, teens and young adults and as I think the best of these are often underrated I thought I would suggest five that are at the top end of the age range as possible reads for discussion starting November 30th. One of the big practical problems with this area of literature is that stuff goes out of print very quickly, but as far as I can see all of my suggestions are still available on both sides of the Atlantic. I don't know if there are any Slaves elsewhere, but if so, then I think The Book Depository will send abroad free.

So, to the books, in alphabetical order by author.

'Bloodtide' by Melvin Burgess.

Burgess is never less than controversial. The book that preceded this one, 'Junk' won the Carnegie Award, but also had librarians and teachers all over the country screaming blue murder about books that encouraged children to experiment with drugs, sex and goodness knows what else. 'Bloodtide' is set in a future riven by war and genetic experimentation. The great cities of the world are ruled over by family groups that echo the Mafia of earlier days. Outside of the cities the land is populated by those who have come off worse in the genetic experiments. In London one family tries to bind others to them by means of a political marriage. The results are disastrous. Burgess uses motifs from the Norse myths to encourage the reader to explore the dangers of current political and scientific practice.

"Postcards From No Man's Land' by Aidan Chambers.

Chambers is a fascinating man. Starting out as an Anglican Monk, he came out of the church to devote himself to teaching and encouraging reading. This novel, which won the Carnegie, is the fifth in a sequence intended to explore teenage life in the late twentieth/early twenty-first centuries. You don't need to have read the others, however. The only link is his concern for the issues that young men and women face in current society. "Postcards' tells two stories, that of a seventeen year old English boy visiting Holland at the time of the celebration of the anniversary of Arnhem and that of his grandfather fighting in that same battle fifty years earlier. At the same time it also uses the setting of Amsterdam to explore issues to do with drugs, sexuality and euthanasia.

'After The First Death' by Robert Cormier.

Cormier's death two or three years ago was a massive loss for quality children's literature and this is one of his books that I find still speaks to my students nearly thirty years after it was first published. A bus full of children is held hostage by terrorists just outside a small American town. The children's lives are threatened if the terrorists don't get what they want. The situation is explored from three points of view, that of one of the terrorists, of Kate, the bus-driver and of Ben, the son of a General, who is forced to act as a go-between. Too many modern day echoes to ever be a comfortable read.

'The Owl Service' by Alan Garner

'The Owl Service' is even older. It won the Carnegie Award in 1967 and yet it also still has things to say to a modern audience. Set in the Welsh valleys it uses a tale from Welsh Myth as the basis for an exploration into class and cultural differences that remain the same whatever generation they appear in. Three teenagers, Alison, Roger and Gwyn find themselves forced to relive the sequence of events that take place in the myth and in the course of the action discover truths about their backgrounds and heritage that are uncomfortable and ultimately, dangerous.

'Just In Case' by Meg Rosoff.

This year's winner of the Carnegie. I have to say that I wasn't one of those who went wild over Rosoff's first novel, 'How I Live Now', but I loved 'Just In Case'. David Case is a teenager who feels that fate really has it in for him. Nothing unusual there then. But David decides to try and trick fate by changing his name and his personna. He becomes Justin Case, changes his image, his way of living and challenges fate to do its worst. It can be very funny but also very bittersweet. There are times when you really want to shake David/Justin out of his self-obsessiveness but you know it wouldn't do any good whatsoever.

So, there you are; my five suggestions.

If you leave your comments and votes then I will count them all up and post again next week to let you know what the selection is. I hope there is something here that you can enjoy.


SFP said...

The university library here has all of the books except for the Burgess--Smack and Doing It are already on the shelves, so I think it'll wind up being ordered eventually.

So I'm in for anything but the Burgess. :)

Anonymous said...

I think The Owl Service sounds pretty good.

Anonymous said...

I think I'll have to vote for Owl Service as well (and my library even has a copy of it!).

Anonymous said...

These all sound great Ann. I think I'll go with The Owl Service as well.

Rebecca H. said...

I'm happy reading any of these, so I'll go with whatever everybody else decides.

Imani said...

Oooo, I was torn between Bloodtide and Owl Service and I see the tide is going to the latter. Dear, oh dear. I'll check back in later in the week to see how it's faring before I give my vote. :) (I love YA fantasy.)

Heather said...

Owl Service sounds good. I'll definitely try to participate this month regardless.

Imani said...

Ok, I'll go with Owl Service too. Looking forward to it!