Friday, January 13, 2012

Diamonds in the Rough

by Michelle Gagnon

I love discovering books by new authors, especially when those books turn out to be part of a new series. Don't get me wrong, I usually read the hottest new releases, series like The Hunger Games that get everyone talking (speaking of which, I CANNOT WAIT for that movie! If you haven't seen the trailer yet, you need to, because it looks amazing).

But at a book fair a few weeks ago, the YA buyer handed me a copy of BLOOD RED ROAD by Moira Young, and said, "Read this. You'll love it."

For the first few pages, I had my doubts. The book is written entirely in dialect, and that's a tough thing to do well. Usually I find it gimmicky, and feel like it detracts from the narrative more than it adds to it. (Almost coincidentally, the lead in The Hunger Games movie is Jennifer Lawrence, who stared in the film adaptation of another dialect-heavy book that I loved, WINTER'S BONE.)

Not in this case, however. Wow, I loved this book. Kind of THE ROAD meets GLADIATOR, with a teenage girl fighting in the ring. I've been on kind of a post-apocalyptic binge lately anyway, and this met all my requirements. It had a strong, amazing heroine on a quest to save her twin brother; a great supporting cast of characters, including a group of other teenage girls who are all great with bows and arrows; and a really amazing love story underpinning all of it.

And best of all, the ending was satisfying, but also held the promise of more books to come.

But that leaves me with an open TBR pile, and I'm hungry for more (no pun intended). So tell me--have any of you discovered books lately that might not be on the bestsellers' lists, but deserve to be there? And what about them resonated with you?


Wendy Corsi Staub said...

Michelle, glad this blog had a positive ending! :-) Friends and family members are always handing me books (well, sometimes, forcing them into my hands) that they loved and just KNOW I'll love--then I feel both disappointed and guilty when I don't. Can't tell you how many of those I still have sitting on my TBR pile, along with books I chose myself that I still haven't found time to read--but I'll be interested to see what is recommended here by others.

Jordan Dane said...

Omg, Michelle, another book to try. It sounds great. And I loved Jennifer Lawrence in Winters Bones & can't wait for the Hunger Games movie. The whole cast looks strong & since the books are so well constructed, I have high hopes for a decent screenplay.

At the risk of plugging one of our own, I'd recommend Ilsa Bick's ASHES if you've been reading post-apocalyptic YAs. It's the start of a series. Her main girl character is strong & smart, very likeable, in desperate survival mode. The non-gimmicky ending of book#1 has me anxious to keep reading. Solid worldbuilding with characters you care about.

Another popular YA series I LOVED & can't wait for the first movie is Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series. Great world building & strong story arcs for every amazing character. I hope the movies do the books justice. Characterization made these books for me.

I also recommend Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why about a girl who commits suicide & sends audio recordings to the 13 people who contributed to her making that decision. The story is told thru one sweet boy who gets a recording. How Asher moves the plot & flashes back using a current narrator mixed with audio is simple yet effective.

And a book I can't get out of my head--and don't want to--is THE BOOK THIEF--by Marcus Suzak. A period piece about a 14 yr old girl during the time of the Holocaust, narrated by Death. Havent found a YA book yet that can top how memorable that book was for me.

Nice post, Michelle. Can't wait to see other reading recommendations.

Anita Grace Howard said...

Great post, Michelle, and so glad you ended up having fun on your book blinde date. ;)

A really different (and older) post apoc book is Alice Hoffman's GREEN ANGEL. It's smaller scale than most, isolated to one city instead of the entire world, and very poetic. It's a quick read and beautiful, if you like lush prose.

Michelle said...

Thanks for the recommendations, everyone!

Jordan Dane said...

Anita--I love Alice Hoffman. Lush prose is right.

Jennifer Archer said...

These aren't post-apocalyptic and they're older releases, but I loved DOUBLE HELIX, a YA mystery by Edgar Award winning author Nancy Werlin. I also really love a very old book (2000) by the remarkable Phyllis Reynolds Naylor called SANG SPELL. I read this many years ago and still think about it. I've never read anything like it before or since. The PW review sums it up better than I can. It said, "combines elements of Brigadoon and Lost Horizon with little-known historical lore to create a haunting story of a youth's journey from dissolution to wholeness."

Michelle said...

Awesome, everyone- keep 'em coming!

Jordan Dane said...

Jenny's suggestions reminded me of a book I read by S E Hinton called Hawkes Harbor. It was Hinton's first book written for adults, a departure from her YAs. A friend recommended it & after I started the book, I wondered about my friend.

It was a VERY strange book, but Hinton's books are very character driven and the plot structure dealt with past, present, and even future in flashes that would've been complicated to write yet were effortless to read. Amazing. It also had a strange mix of genres--vampires, pirates, coming of age, adventure. Oddly weird yet so addictive.

Its masterfully written and inspired me to try flashbacks in my YA debut-IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS. In theory, Hinton's novel wasnt my usual book, but I got sucked into the character's life & became enthralled by Hinton's craft & inventiveness. If you read it, you'll wonder about me too, but it is a book I've never forgotten. Talk about tapping into your imagination!