Atonement by Ian McEwan
While this book does have an inappropriate scene, and all the conflict comes about through inappropriate means, the book is beautifully written, and hauntingly sad. It is one of the few well done book-to-movie adaptations. It tells a story of star-crossed lovers, but is really a story about a women spending her whole life in search for forgiveness and redemption against those she wronged as a foolish little girl. I can’t say enough about the prose of this book. It was wonderful. Plus, it can count as a WW2 historical fiction because it gives you a wonderful sense of the retreat of the British early on in the war, and the hospitals and staff life of the time. This book is sadly beautiful and I wanted to share as a Quote of the Weekend every other paragraph.
Rated R: Sex and Adult Situations
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
This book caught me off guard. The idea of seeing the one you love, or the one you will kill snagged me, but the characters are what held me fast. The best way I can describe this book is like Veronica Mars with magic. It follows a girl named Blue who is poor and tied to magic as she meets four wealthy boys and joins them on their adventure. At first I wanted to groan out loud. It was so cliché. She’s poor and hates the boys that go to the wealthy school, but then ends up dating one of them and helping them. Been there, read that, watched that. This is a story that gets told over and over and over. Yet, I kept reading because the four rich boys are so interesting. Their characters are really well developed, their friendship is so well done, and Blue getting thrown in the mix works well.
This book is proof that it is not the idea but how you go about telling it that’s important. Cliché isn’t bad as long as it is done well. I’m excited to read the rest of the series.
Rated PG-13: Fairly clean of sex, just hand holding and mild crushes, but does have some cussing and some of the boys have some pretty intense problems. Good for the middle to higher end of YA. Not a Christian story by any means, but does have some interesting historical fiction elements.
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
This is one of those books that I would argue against labeling as YA. Mostly, because I feel like the story and the themes, as an armchair WWII historian, speak to all ages. This book is not just for teens. It is well written and deep. I think any adult will enjoy it, especially if you enjoy WWII oriented stories.
Using the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty and the history of the Holocaust creates a haunting and beautiful story. It’s also just plain clever. I love the familiarity of both things being brought together. This story held me in suspense every step of the way.
But, I think for the majority of my readers and audience this book would only qualify as the oldest of YA literature. A large section of the story is narrated by a homosexual man who talks, not in great detail, about his string of lovers over the years before he’s thrown in a Nazi work camp. I don’t think this is a part of history that should be ignored or whitewashed, but I do think parents should know about it going into it. So… now you know.
This is a story any adult can read and enjoy. I think it is well written and well told. If you enjoy sad love stories, or just sad stories in general, you should read this book. If you love anything WWII related, you should read this book. It’s not very long, and is worth your time.
Rated PG-13: Holocaust, Homosexuality, Brutality
The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff
Oh, how I loved this book.
It was interesting to read it after having spent the earlier part of the year working through the first half of Bernard Cornwall’s Saxon series, as this book covers the Britons being attacked by the Saxons. It was like switching sides in the middle of a football game.
This book was so beautiful.
Because it’s an older book, it does a lot more telling and less showing like more modern stories. It is more like reading say the Silmarillian than the Lord of the Rings. But, since it tracks only one young man’s life, it’s not as long or confusing as the Silmarillian. It just tells you there was a battle instead of shows you there was a battle.
It took me a while to get into the book. I didn’t read it all in one day, but every time I picked it up, I fell in love with it. Sutcliff’s descriptions were short but beautiful. Her characters are powerful and honorable and full of struggles. The war is long and heroes are lost. Foes come. Friends betray friends. Love is found. It is one of those great stories.
This is a true young adult book amongst young adult books and I wish we read things like this in our schools today. I think young men would especially enjoy it since the hero is a man going off to war.
As is true for most tales in this time period, families are ripped apart, love comes slow, death is found in the shield wall. But, much of that is shown in the right way, not in a bathe-in-sin sort of way.
I truly can’t speak highly enough of this book. Just thinking about it makes me want to read it again. I hope to share it with my nephews when they get a little older.
This would also be a great book to read if you’re studying the history of England, the Saxons, or Vikings.
Rated PG: Adult themes and war