Tag Archives: dystopia

Bookends: Five YA Lit Trends I’d Like to See in 2012

Falling Books Bookend by Art Ori Design

Happy New Year!  It’s been a while, but with the last of my vacation coming to an end, it’s finally time to get back to the swing of things. For those interested in some reflection on the year past, I’ve posted my Top 10 Favorite (Best?) Reads of 2011 on my personal Tumblr.

For those who are excited and ready to look ahead, here is a list of five things I’d love to see more of in young adult literature during the coming year:

01. Stand Alone Novels. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always loved books that make up a series—in many cases, the longer the series, the better. But these days, it feels as thought every single new release is the first in a trilogy, and it’s become exhausting. In fact, it’s become so exhausting that there are interesting books I’m actively avoiding because I don’t want to find myself one or two books deep in yet another series. I want a complete, self-contained reading experience, and if that means a book needs to be 450 pages vs. 300 pages, then so be it.

02. Pre-Dystopias. Dystopia was big—very big—in 2011, and I doubt that will change in the new year, especially with the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games to be released in March. However, with every new dystopia I read, I grow increasingly frustrated by how formulaic they all feel. To help alleviate this frustration, I’d love to read books that take place not however many years after something happened to upend society, but in that turbulent and frightening time when that something actually took place. I think there’s a lot to explore in this direction, and I’m very curious to know where authors would take us.

03. More Science Fiction! Along a similar line, one of my favorite reads of the year, Beth Revis’s Across the Universe, reminded me that I really enjoy science fiction. It also made me realize that I haven’t encountered many sci-fi books written specifically for a young adult audience. While reading about the end of life as I know it is all well and good, I could really go for some more books set in space, focused on exploration, and featuring fun science! and gadgets.

04. Slow Burn Romances. I’m less annoyed by InstaLove™ than some of my fellow bloggers, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying to read book after book after book in which two impossibly beautiful people fall in love the second they see each other for the first time. Give me two people who are companions before they’re in love, who know something about each other other than that one has piercing eyes and the other lustrous hair. Life is complicated, relationships are complicated, and it’s a disservice not only to readers, but also the abilities of many authors to perpetuate tired formulas.

05. Illustrated Cover Art. I’ve been reading young adult books for a long time, and it’s only in the past ten years that I’ve noticed more and more books being published with photographs as cover art. Many of my childhood favorites are being reissued with new covers, and while, OK, that makes some sense, since publishers want to make them look fresh, the trend includes brand new books, too. For example Gayle Forman’s had one (beautiful) illustrated cover when it was released in hardcopy, and another (less beautiful) photographic cover for its paperback run, the style of which was carried over to the sequel’s cover.

I’m not sure how likely we are to see any of these trends develop in 2012, but they’re five things I’ll definitely keep an eye out for as I read throughout the year. What about you? Is there anything you’d like to see more or less of as you read?

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Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

The Story: Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy. 

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love. [Goodreads]

My Response: Delirium is the second of Lauren Oliver’s books that I’ve picked up with cautious optimism. Now that I’m done, I think it’s time to admit that she’s one of those special writers who can take a risky, possibly tired conceit and remake it delightful and fresh, and that as such, she deserves more trust than she does caution.

In her 2010 debut, Before I Fall, Oliver managed to make the same day described six times in a row emotional and engrossing (yes, I cried at the end), and in Delirium, she adds to the already crowded market for YA dystopian fiction. On the surface, her contribution isn’t particularly unique: a normal-yet-special heroine falls in love with a boy, realizes that she lives under the thumb of an oppressive government, and ends up a rebel on the run. [See Also: Incarceron, Divergent, and Matched, just to name those that I’ve read this year.]

However, Delirium stands out, and for much the same reason that Before I Fall succeeded: Oliver’s prose is rich and textured, heavy with metaphors and similes that are poetic without pretension. She takes her time, world building slowly and methodically in defiance of the break-neck pace popularized by The Hunger Games. Just as importantly, she goes out of her way to capture and develop the voice of her teen protagonist and to let her be, you know, a teenager. I particularly love Lena’s interactions with her best friend, Hana, because they are so similar to my own memories of high school friendships.

I also appreciate that Lena has reasons other than pure ignorance to embrace the status quo. When Lena is 8-years-old, her mother, who could not (or would not) be cured of her love for Lena’s father, commits suicide. Not only does this event permanently mark Lena as different within her community, it also makes her fear of amor deliria nervosa that much more personal. She, like so many teenage girls, is afraid that she’ll grow up to be just like her mother.

Of course, Lena’s fear begins to dissipate once she’s met Alex, a predictably beautiful boy who, for whatever reason, has chosen her to be the one whose eyes he opens. Whatever. The romance between the two of them is sweet, but it exists more to jumpstart the story forward than to be the story itself—and even then, it’s Hana who originally challenges Lena to step outside her comfort zone. In this way, Delirium is again a welcome change from standard YA dystopian fare, in that Lena has a close female friend from the start, rather than only after her world has been turned inside out.

My Recommendation: Of the new dystopian series that I’ve read so far, Delirium begins one of the most promising, and fans of the genre would do well to pick up a copy sooner rather than later. There are some genuinely horrifying scenes that may be overly violent for younger readers, but I don’t think any were gratuitous. Perhaps this is because there are also genuinely happy scenes to give the story balance.

Book two of the series, Pandemonium, is scheduled to be released on March 6, 2012. Based on what I’ve read about it so far, Lauren Oliver could take her story in a number of unexpected directions. Personally, I’m hoping for more background on the government and its discovery and implementation of the cure, and [spoiler alert—highlight the following to read] exploration of the fact that love doesn’t just happen once, that a person can fall in love again after suffering a great loss. [/spoiler alert]

My Rating: ✶ ✶ ✶
(out of a possible 4)

Delirium (Delirium #1) / Lauren Oliver. HarperTeen, 2011. US $17.99 (hardcover).