Tag Archives: maggie stiefvater

Platonic relationships in YA

w14bouquetPosted this on the library blog last week but figured the books are still relevant even if the day itself has passed:

Living with a florist has its definite perks. A few months ago saw my long-suffering flatmate spending hours in our living room, surrounded by buckets of roses under an arctic flow of air-conditioning, patiently preparing buttonholes and flower arrangements for my wedding. Flatmate of the year award!

On the other hand, the closer it gets to certain holidays, the more stressed she gets. At the moment no one is allowed to mention the words Valentine’s Day for fear it’ll bring on a panic attack. Consumerism has a lot to answer for.

If you, too, feel a stab of panic every time you see a pink cut-out heart or a bunch of roses, maybe you should take my approach and ignore the day altogether. Let’s give Edward Cullen a disdainful eyeroll and have a night in or out with our friends, because, really, it’s time friendship stopped being considered a poor cousin of (or mutually exclusive with) romance.

Do you agree? If so, or even if you don’t, you might enjoy some of these fantastic books featuring strong friendships and family relationships with plots that don’t centre around whether the hottest vampire in school secretly wants to eat you.

Complicit, Stephanie Kuehn

Jamie’s mother was murdered when he was six; about seven years later his sister Cate was incarcerated for burning down a neighbour’s barn; and now Jamie, fifteen, learns that Cate has been released and is coming back for him, blaming him for all the bad things that led to her arrest.

The Raven Boys cycle, Maggie StiefvaterCover of The Raven Boys

This series has everything. Set in the small town of Henrietta, the books feature the strong but complicated friendship between Blue (daughter of a local pyschic) and a group of boys from the local private school (plus one ghost).
Their quest to find the tomb of ancient Welsh king Glendower in the foothills of Virginia is exciting but increasingly dangerous, as they aren’t the only ones on the trail. (Guns might be involved.) Plus a death was predicted at the start of the series and one of the main characters has a deadly allergy to insect stings. Such fun!

Sorrow’s Knot, Erin Bow

An interesting take on zombies and friendship. Otter is a girl of the Shadowed People, a tribe of women, and she is born to be a binder, a woman whose power it is to tie the knots that bind the dead but she is also destined to remake her world.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. LockhartCover of Code Name Verity

When Alabaster Prep sophomore Frankie Landau-Banks starts dating senior Matthew Livingston, Matthew refuses to talk about the Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds, his all-male secret society, so Frankie infiltrates the society to enliven the mediocre pranks for which the club is known.

Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein

Spies and lady pilots in World War II, what’s not to love? If you like books that make you chew off your own fingers while reading, these are for you.

Wildlife, Fiona Wood, which is just super lovely for a million different reasons and you should go out and read it right now.

What are your thoughts on romance in fiction? Love, hate, indifferent?

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Monthly roundup and recent reads

Reviewed this month:

  • Princess and the Hound, Mette Ivie Harrison
  • Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
  • The New Moon with the Old, Dodie Smith
  • Brother Cadfael’s Penance, Ellis Peters
  • (In a Sense) Lost and Found, Roman Muradov
  • Seconds, Bryan Lee O’Malley
  • Royal Airs, Sharon Shinn
  • Fleabrain loves Franny, Joanne Rocklin
  • Illusions of Fate, Kiersten White
  • Saga vol. 4, Brian K. Vaughan
  • Finder: Third World, Carla Speed McNeil
  • Tina’s Mouth, Keshni Kashyap
  • Crooked Heart, Lissa Evans
  • Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan
  • Gabi: A Girl in Pieces, Isabel Quintero
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Moon and the Face, Patricia McKillip
  • The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters

Darkbeast, Morgan Keyes

Keara’s darkbeast is Caw, a raven who has been her constant companion since birth, taking her faults and making them his own. Everyone has a darkbeast until the age of twelve — on their birthday, they must sacrifice their darkbeast and become an adult. But how can Keara kill her best friend?

I liked the worldbuilding in Darkbeast, the small details of religion and common phrases and family. I think Caw was my favourite — funny and wise and always hungry. But I feel the relationships could have been fleshed out more, and the end seemed a bit weak. I guess it was left hanging a bit in order to get people to read the next book? I don’t know. I’m still undecided on whether I want to read the sequel.

Deep Amber, C. J. Busby

Two pairs of protagonists (a sister and brother in our world, and an apprentice witch and castle troublemaker in another) set out to solve the mystery of objects being transferred across worlds. I read this because I saw a recommendation by Frances Hardinge on the sequel (Dragon Amber), and Frances Hardinge is amazing so I thought maybe this would be amazing too. Alas, I think I suffer from being too old for this book. It’s probably something that I would really enjoy as an eight to twelve year old, but it doesn’t have that deeper layer that authors like Diana Wynne Jones or Frances Hardinge create. I would still recommend Deep Amber for child fans of the above authors as a light read with a similar flavour.

The Motherless Oven, Rob Davis

I don’t even know what to say about this book. A world where it rains knives and children construct their parents out of spare parts and old machinery. Intriguing, but a frustratingly vague ending. Maybe I’m not smart enough? Sometimes comics seem to end just because the author has been working on it for a while and it seems like they should end it, rather than because the story makes sense/is satisfying to end that way. The art was interesting though.

Kingdom by the Sea, Robert Westall

I can’t remember who mentioned this. Elizabeth Wein, maybe? Whoever it was, I’m glad I took note of it because this is fantastic. I thought I’d read Westall before but looking at the books he’s written maybe I haven’t, which is ridiculous because he’s exactly the kind of writer I love. It was interesting reading this so soon after Crooked Heart, which also features an orphaned boy looking for a home but is shelved in adult fiction, whereas Kingdom by the Sea has some adult references (not stated outright, but it’s implied that one character is a paedophile) but is shelved in the children’s section. Not saying they shouldn’t be shelved where they are, but it goes to show that anyone who thinks kid’s books are simple or don’t deal with serious issues are reading the wrong books.

The Just City, Jo Walton

Very philosophical, which isn’t surprising given that it’s set in Plato’s Republic — or rather, the best approximation that its citizens can create. This isn’t something that would normally appeal to me. The narrative voice of the novel is incredibly passive to the point where I didn’t really feel any emotions even when awful things happened, and the characters didn’t seem to really feel emotions either. On the other hand I kept reading to the end, and I have a vague interest in learning what happens to the city.

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Recent reads

Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Maggie Stiefvater

I fell in love with Stiefvater’s books the way you fall asleep: slowly, then stealing a John Green quote. This was the book that tipped the scales for me — I liked the Scorpio Races, I liked Raven Boys and Dream Thieves, but I loved Blue Lily, Lily Blue. I don’t know why this one caught me when the others didn’t, but I’m now on the Steve-otter train with everyone else. This is both exciting (I have the rest of her books to read!) and frustrating (the last Raven Boys book isn’t out yet!).

Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan

I think I need to read the entire trilogy over again. The banter is fantastic as always, and I’m more on board with Jared as love interest now that he’s stopped being so much of an angry douchecanoe. Still not happy about mentally unhealthy psychic connections though. And as for a certain traumatic event, there are not enough sadfaces in the world to convey my distress. Curse you, Brennan!

Finder: Third World, Carla Speed McNeil

I never quite know what to make of the Finder books. I love the cities and the world-building, the mix of future technology and desperate poverty, and I love that there are distinct cultures and identities that aren’t all based on white Americans. Jaeger, the main character of Third World, is a great example. I would try to describe him but he’s a mystery even to himself, I think. The main plotline for Third World follows Jaeger getting a job at a courier company, leading to various interesting scenarios, and then somehow ending up in the middle of a desert to deal with problems in and around the titular town of Third World.

Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary, Keshni Kashyap

Pretty accurate depiction of high school life with added Sartre! Tina’s best friend suddenly drops her at the beginning of the book, because high school relationships are inexplicable. The rest of the book charts what she does in the absence of a best-friend safety net and also her thoughts on existentialism and what everything really means, who are we exactly, etc. Also deals with some unintended racism on the part of school colleagues. This makes it sound very dry but actually it’s very easy to read and Tina’s kindness and snarkiness balance out perfectly.

Crooked Heart, Lissa Evans

Full-length post forthcoming because I loved this book and my love needs more space than just one paragraph.

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