Preparing for this week’s installation of Reading on the Rails reverted me to my early years, when devouring a novel featuring a feisty heroine was a completely acceptable way to spend a Friday night. If you’ve noticed (or partaken in) the recent buzz surrounding young adult fiction (Twilight or The Hunger Games, anyone?), then check out these young-adult-friendly picks this week.
On Your Kindle
Ten Miles Past Normal, by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Ah, high school. A time of group projects, fascinating (or heartbreaking) boys, girl-on-girl drama, and, if you’re Janie Gorman, the pressure of living down your reputation as “Farm Girl:” the off-beat freshman who lives on a farm and runs the perpetual risk of smelling like goats.
Janie is a sweet and hilarious narrator whose relatably dry humor adds zest to her ultimately normal story. Dowell’s novel does a masterful job of blending the old and the new in young adult themes: Janie is kind of quiet and kind of nerdy, wants to be normal, and struggles with defining herself in conjunction with her family and with her best friend, Sarah. These old-school themes (and literally old-school settings: i.e., the family farm) intersect sporadically with expertly-narrated modernity: references to Zappos shoes and Google abound, and, what’s more, Janie’s endearing yet frustrating mother is a prolific blogger. Breeze through this heartwarming coming-of-age novel on your commute this week.
On Your Smartphone
The recent upsurge in adults reading—and loving—young adult literature is underscored in the recent cultish fascination (of which I’m totally a part) surrounding The Hunger Games trilogy. This Atlantic Wire article begins by parsing the character of that series’ heroine: the indomitable, multi-faceted Katniss Everdeen. Doll explains the myriad qualities that make Katniss such a beloved heroine for the modern every-woman: she is strong, she is athletic, she is selfless, and she’s never a pushover—she’s literally everything a girl could want to be. And she’s not alone in her genre—in this fun, nostalgia-inducing piece, Doll culls together a list of 11 other spunky, inspiring literary ladies. Weigh in: who’s your favorite YA girl?
On a Podcast
Katie Davis is a children’s book author and illustrator, and her delightful podcast series (which features a truly catchy opening jingle) tells you all you need to know about children’s book publishing. In her podcasts, which typically run about an hour long, Davis conducts interviews with bigwigs in children’s book publishing, offers marketing tips, interviews authors, and provides reviews of children’s books, all with a dash of humor and quite a lot of intelligence. Check it out on your commute this week!
Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman
Catherine—called, believe it or not, Birdy—is a typical 14-year-old girl. She keeps a diary, she keeps pets (yes, birds), and her parents just don’t understand her. She’s also growing up in England in the year 1290, and she’s desperately trying to avoid marriage to the old, gross suitors her father has lined up for her. In this, Karen Cushman’s first foray into young adult fiction, Catherine is a hilarious, nearly-modern heroine who uses salty medieval language (her favorite exclamatory is “corpus bones!”) and lives a lifestyle that is truly ahead of her time. If you loved this book when you were growing up, examine it with fresh (dare I say “adult?”) eyes on this week’s commute.