By Fiona Ross
Young Adult novels, affectionately referred to as YA, are aimed at the 12-17 age group and will usually have protagonists of a similar age. They can be any of the genres included adult writing and can offer many similar themes and conflicts, but tend to be explored in a different way. One of the ongoing “debates” I have seen is can adults read and enjoy YA? Well, I am here to tell you that YA continues to be one of my favourite reading experiences and I am well past the intended demographic! Here are four selections for the FOLD May Challenge. We encourage teen readers to pick up any of these recommended reads, and if you are a little older than most teens, don’t worry, we won’t tell! Happy Reading!
As an adult I have read, and enjoyed, Farah Heron’s rom coms, particularly her most recent publication Accidentally Engaged. Her first foray into YA is Tahira In Bloom which feels like it could be set in my small, Ontario town. “When seventeen-year-old aspiring designer Tahira Janmohammad’s coveted fashion internship falls through, her parents have a Plan B. Tahira will work in her aunt’s boutique in the small town of Bakewell, the flower capital of Ontario. It’s only for the summer, and she’ll get the experience she needs for her college application. Plus her best friend is coming along. It won’t be that bad.
But she just can’t deal with Rowan Johnston, the rude, totally obsessive garden-nerd next door with frayed cutoffs and terrible shoes. Not to mention his sharp jawline, smoldering eyes, and soft lips. So irritating. Rowan is also just the plant-boy Tahira needs to help win the Bakewell flower-arranging contest—an event that carries clout in New York City, of all places. And with designers, of all people. Connections that she needs!”
In true Rom-Com fashion Tahira and Rowan hate each other, like each other, love each other and then break up, but that is not where their story ends. Rowan is a moody heart-throb, and Tahira is a driven young woman. Very flawed, but imminently likeable teen protagonists on the cusp of adulthood.
The protagonist of Iron Widow, Zetian, a Steampunk fantasy by Xiran Jay Zhao, is definitely less than likeable. After all, she is focused entirely on revenge. “When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labelled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead of the girls who are more commonly sacrificed.
To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.
In contrast to the fantastical realm of Iron Widow is the realism of Wrong Side Of The Court, released last month by Penguin Random House and written by H.N. Khan. “Fifteen-year-old Fawad Chaudhry loves two things: basketball and his mother’s potato and ground beef stuffed parathas. Both are round and both help him forget about things like his father, who died two years ago, his mother’s desire to arrange a marriage to his first cousin, Nusrat, back home in Pakistan, and the tiny apartment in Regent Park he shares with his mom and sister. Not to mention his estranged best friend Yousuf, who’s coping with the shooting death of his older brother.
But Fawad has plans: like, asking out Ashley, even though she lives on the other, wealthier side of the tracks, and saving his friend Arif from being beaten into a pulp for being the school flirt, and making the school basketball team and dreaming of being the world’s first Pakistani to be drafted into the NBA. All he has to do now is convince his mother to let him try out for the basketball team. And let him date girls from his school. Not to mention somehow get Omar, the neighbourhood bully, to leave him alone . . .
4) The Summer of Bitter and Sweet, by Jen Ferguson (Available on Audible Canada)
Our final YA to be highlighted is Summer of Bitter and Sweet which releases May 10 by debut Metis author, Jen Ferguson.
Lou has enough confusion in front of her this summer. She’ll be working in her family’s ice-cream shack with her newly ex-boyfriend—whose kisses never made her feel desire, only discomfort—and her former best friend, King, who is back in their Canadian prairie town after disappearing three years ago without a word.
But when she gets a letter from her biological father—a man she hoped would stay behind bars for the rest of his life—Lou immediately knows that she cannot meet him, no matter how much he insists.
While King’s friendship makes Lou feel safer and warmer than she would have thought possible, when her family’s business comes under threat, she soon realizes that she can’t ignore her father forever.