Monday, March 17, 2014

Loss Drives People and Makes For Excellent Books

Three exciting books!
1.Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi and Brendan Wenzel
A few of us giggled over this book then we decided who in the store was which bug. I'm the distressed looking bumblebee.

2.Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds
I have a major Peter Reynolds weakness. He just makes me so happy.

3. Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland
A girl is a harpy. How cool is that?

Every once in a while, for any number of reasons, I end up reading a book or two out of my usual comfort zone. My comfort zone/preference is the YA dystopian/urban fantasy/fantasy sort of area. I don't read too much realistic fiction, though I certainly have a couple of favorites in there too.

When I do step out of my usual preference I'm always surprised. Sometimes it's by how much I love a book I hadn't expected to. Sometimes it's the way an issue or topic will be handled. Sometimes it's how much a realistic fiction book will remind me of a less realistic book.

I recently read a pretty eclectic assortment of YA and I was amazed by how connected I found the books that are, on the surface, so different.

My crazy reading binge consisted of:
Mistwood and Death Sworn by Leah Cypess
Scarlet and Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
Send Me a Sign and Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt
Archived, Unbound, and The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

As I was reading the last book in this group I was sort of struck by just how much all of these very different books focus on the main character coping with a loss.

Loss isn't an uncommon theme in literature, not by any means, but all of these books deal with it so heavily and in such different ways that I was reminded of one of the many reasons that I adore literature. That as different as it all is, it's all about being human.

The losses in these books are people, innocence, magic, home, health, identity, memory. If there is something to lose it's lost and it's handled brilliantly in all of them.

In Mistwood, Isabel wakes up with no memory of who she is and what she's done. All she knows is that she's not human and that she has a mission to protect the prince. She spends so much of the book trying to figure how who she is and how that coincides with the legend of what she is. When everyone tells you that you are one thing how can you make yourself into something else?

In Death Sworn, Ileni once the most powerful sorcerer, has lost her magic. As a consequence she is sent to the training ground of assassins to find out just how and why their previous teachers were killed. Ileni loses who she always thought she was, and the thing that always made her what she was. And through the book we see her adapt to the change in her world in a way that surprises even her.

Losing your identity is such a big theme in YA and it's amazing to see how it's handled in a magical setting and how Cypess entwines the familiar trope into stories that are unfamiliar.

Scarlet and Lady Thief are the first two books in a Robin Hood retelling. Through her life, Scarlet loses her family, her identity, her innocence, her home. She hides who she is and uses what's happened to her as a way to help people who need it. Gaughen puts this girl through so much and never once does Scarlet's character fade beneath her decisions. She loses faith in the world but never in her own power to act and help herself.

Gaughen's Scarlet is a brilliant example of what can happen when you lose everything you thought mattered and how becoming something else can be the best thing for you. The extremity of her loss and her trauma don't lessen the impact that they have on the reader and Gaughen shows that there really is no 'right' way to cope.

Mia from Send Me a Sign finds out she has cancer and at her mother's insistence that she keep it a secret she distances herself from everyone in her life. A lie like that can only work for so long and everything comes crashing down.

In Bright Before Sunrise, Brighton is still dealing with the loss of her father, years after it's happened. Her family fell apart and she's the one who is attempting to hold everything together. The book is split point of view and the other character, Jonah, deals with his father's abandonment and the forced move to a new town. He's lost his old status, his home, his father. He deals with it by secluding himself.

Send Me a Sign a perfect example of how one loss so often leads directly to another and how impossible it can feel to rely on anyone when you feel like you're losing everything. While Mia's loss stems from her cancer the way she reacts can easily be connected to other loss and the need to pretend like everything is okay. Bright Before Sunrise shows how often feeling in control is the only way to feel like everything is okay, even if it's not. Both are excellent examples of how other people are often the only thing that will get you through.

Victoria Schwab's Archived and Unbound follow Mackenzie, a girl who hunts down the wakened memories of the dead. When Archived starts Mackenzie has just lost her little brother. Additionally the book flashes back to her relationship with her grandfather, the man who passed on this task of hunting before dying himself. She hasn't recovered from either loss and what she does keeps them both so firmly in her mind. In Unbound she is dealing with the loss of faith in who she serves and in her own abilities.

Near Witch reads much like a folktale. Lexi's family is still reeling from the loss of her father, the one who understood her interest in tracking and hunting. When a stranger comes to her village and children start to disappear she gets tangled in an old legend that's not what she thought. Lexi's loss of innocence is a little more subtle in this one. She loses faith in her village and that naïve belief that elders look for justice.

Schwab's books explore what it means to lose family and how that loss often makes you more determined. Both Mackenzie and Lexi fight harder in the memory of their loss. They continue with a stubbornness and a need to prove themselves as capable and in control of what happens to them.

The last book in my binge was Faking Normal, the story of Alexi recovering from an assault. She turns into herself before finding the comfort of another person she sees as damaged. Alexi loses her innocence with the attack and her herself. She no longer sees herself as the same person and at the same time loses the ability to confide in people. She isolates herself.

Faking Normal looks at how easy it is to turn on and blame ourselves when we try to cope with loss. And how much easier it is to face loss when we have someone to turn to. That's how people cope by relating to each other.

It's easy to lose sight of the importance of the losses when reading a less realistic book. There is so much else to catch your attention. But in all of these books it's the loss that keeps the story and the characters moving. It's the driving force in all of the plots, as different as they are.

I think they're all worth a read and I think they're especially interesting when read together.

There's something else all of these awesome books have in common, all of the authors will be here next Monday March 24th, at seven!

Guys, I'm so excited. I'm going to panic. You should come! Not to see me panic, but to see these awesome authors.

Monday. 24. 7 PM.


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