So a few weeks back I did this post on literary v. YA and I've been wanting since then to do a post on the crossing of the two genres. I've read a few great literary YA novels lately and I'm starting to feel that there's something really wonderful that happens when literary writing meets a YA novel.
I'm not a plot person. When I started writing my biggest problem was always that not only did I have absolutely no idea what was supposed to happen to these characters, I also didn't really get why anything had to. Couldn't I just write a bunch of kids sitting around shooting the breeze and throwing rocks at things? I mean, really. Now, of course, I realize that everything -- literary or not -- has to have a plot. I still don't quite like it, but I get it.
And though it sounds weird to say, some of my favorite books are still those that make it seem like there's no plot. Like things are just happening and this is the natural progression. Like people really are just throwing rocks at things, so to speak, just going on, living their lives, being whoever they are, loving and fighting and making up. I like when a book can pull me in so far that I feel like the characters are people I've known forever and their world is a place I've always known.
There are two YA novels that accomplish these things so well. One of them is Nova Ren Suma's Imaginary Girls which, despite me loving so so so very much, I still haven't written a review for. Maybe because I don't quite know how to write a review for this one. It's out of my normal range and I've found it difficult to formulate the right words. But Suma's world, populated by a girl with a magnetic personality, a little sister who practically worships her, and an underwater town, is incredible. I feel like I've been living above the town of Olive, like I've shopped at the gas station and seen the reservoir. The characters are fully YA and the writing is fully, beautifully literary. The best of both worlds, in my opinion.
The second book is John Corey Whaley's debut novel Where Things Come Back. As in Imaginary Girls, the setting here is so incredibly real and the characters feel like kids I've grown up with. Something about the voice of the narrator, a teenage boy whose incredible little brother has disappeared, strikes me as incredibly authentic in that even if people don't talk like that, they sure do feel like that. And sometimes, maybe a lot of times, that's what matters. The writing is a bit high brow and a bit stunted small town, which is a strange mix that works so well in this novel.
And there are others, of course. Some readers have suggested Lauren Oliver's Delirium and Kirsten Hubbard's Like Mandarin as literary novels. There's also Holly Goldberg Sloan's vignette-powered I'll Be There and Hannah Moskowitz's sophomore novel, Invincible Summer. So, what about you? What are your favorite Literary YA offerings?