Last Year’s Mold-Breaking and Risk-Taking

Alison Morris -- January 30th, 2008

This seems to be my week of finding inspiration from alums of Wellesley Booksmith. On Monday I linked to a post written by our fleet-footed former bookseller Sarah Nixon. Today I want to point out a paragraph written by yet another uber-fabulous former colleague, Jill Saginario, whose talents now grace the children’s section of Powell’s Books (lucky ducks!). Jill wrote this paragraph for the most recent PowellsBooks.kids newsletter, which arrived in my inbox (and maybe yours?) last week:

Jill here. Sadly, 2007 has come and gone, but its passing has imbued a sense of hope for 2008. Personally, I’m thrilled at some of the recent trends in young adult literature, and I want to take this moment to cheer on those publishers that have taken risks and broken the mold. I’ve been seeing a lot of great, dynamic male characters: Sid Hite’s fantastically written novel I’m Exploding Now perfectly captures the deadpan humor of a typical ennui-filled sixteen-year-old. Hero by Perry Moore delivers the first gay superhero in a YA action-adventure. Most notably, however, is character James Sveck in Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron. We on the kids’ team unanimously love James Sveck, and I adore the way the author has constructed such a strong, relatable coming-of-age story with a gay character, whose gayness is almost incidental; it’s so matter-of-fact.

What risk-taking and mold-breaking did you observe in last year’s novels? Fallen in love with any great, dynamic characters of late? I’m with Jill — let’s take a moment to reflect on last year’s finest literary leaps and most memorable peeps.

I’ll start: Margaret McMullan’s beautiful novel When I Crossed No-Bob was bold in its honest exploration the emotional depression that choked the American South during the Reconstruction era. I can’t say that I’ve seen many books about this time period in American history — at least not ones narrated by kids whose parents are racist redneck scumbags. I would never have guessed that combination could yield a novel as beautiful as this one, but McMullan’s expert prose made it happen.

Now it’s your turn. Sing some of last year’s praises while this year is still young.

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