What We’re Reading: Young Adult Fantasy & Sci-Fi
I’ve been under the weather this last week (fever, sore throat, ear infection, you name it), and in order to give my body time to recuperate, I’ve had to do the thing I fear most: nothing. To keep myself from going bonkers, I, of course, fell back on books to save me. However, instead of my usual reading, I turned to my bookshelves with a nostalgic yearning for my younger years of fantasy and sci-fi novels. I re-read some old favorites, and ventured into some new territories, with an enthusiasm and pleasure that can only come from un-apologetically immersing oneself completely into these alternate worlds teeming with ancient languages, magical spells, and speaking animals.
While today’s genre is seeing a healthy resurgence of these young adult fantasy and sci-fi (the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini, Rick Riordan of the Olympian series and Kane Chronicles, and yes, The Hunger Games trilogy that is all the rave right now from Suzanne Collins), I found myself remembering my personal favorites as a young adult. (Note: since everyone and their brother have read both the Narnia books and Lord of the Rings, I’m going to omit those—but believe me, they belong on any fantasy/sci-fi list.)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: You remember, the three Mrs. W’s who help Meg, her brilliant little brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin find Meg’s father (who disappeared while working for the government), by transporting them through the tesseract (i.e. the wrinkle in time)? Ah yes, how could you forget? A beautifully imagined book, this was a delight to read. I read somewhere that L’Engle’s manuscript was rejected many times, due to the fact that she inserted a female heroine into a sci-fi novel in a time when that was simply not done (the book was eventually published in 1962).
Abhorsen series by Garth Nix: This series was possibly my favorite, with its deeply intricate history and layers of background information built up through the trilogy, forming the magical setting the author created. The main characters throughout (Sabriel, Lirael) are necromancers that, instead of raising the dead, put the dead to rest, through a belt of magical bells, an ancient language, with the help of other magical creatures. I always enjoy novels or series that develop over generations of families or successions, and this book does that. I also reveled in the strong female heroines in the series in the otherwise largely testosterone-filled fantasy/sci-fi world.
Redwall series by Brian Jacques: My two older siblings (Hazel included) were OBSESSED with this anthropomorphic animal series, and passed that appreciation down to us younger siblings. There are a bagillion books now, but I mostly read the early books, which followed different heroes in different periods of time, including mice (Martin the Warrior being the most memorable for me), badgers, rats, foxes, and more. Centered around Redwall Abbey and the Mossflower Woods, one of my favorite part of these books was devouring all the mouth-watering, paragraph-upon-paragraph descriptions of the feasts these animals partook of. Jacques’ in-depth, lavish sensory word choices made acorns, seeds, and other wares gathered from the woods sound like a delectable delicacy bathed in honey and toasted to perfection.
What were some of your favorite young adult fantasy or sci-fi novels? Have any of the new ones piqued your appetite?