Let’s see, looking over my notes, it appears I’ve read eight YA or MG debuts this year:
- Amelia Anne
- The Wicked and the Just
- Three Times Lucky
And another eight adult debuts (all for the Adult Books 4 Teens blog):
We’ve talked about five of these to varying degrees on this blog already: Wonder, Seraphina, The Yellow Birds, Song of Achilles, Amelia Anne, Deck Z. And I really have no desire to say much about the atrocity that is Otherkin, or for that matter Demi-Monde, which I passed on for Adult Books 4 Teens, so I’ll confine my thoughts to the remaining titles.
Of the younger novels, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats is certainly the one that stands out (aside from Seraphina). It is a historical novel set in Wales just before and during the uprising of Madog ap Llywelyn. It’s told from the perspective of the daughter of the English lord installed by Edward I to oversee Caernarfon the town and castle where the uprising was eventually put down. Among the many things I love about this book is the fascinating piece of history it turns up. I said someone else (perhaps on Heavy Medal) that I am so tired of all the historical novels being set in the American Revolution, Civil War, World War II, Civil Rights Era, etc. — so it was really refreshing to get a historical novel in a totally new period. What’s more–it is a completely fascinating period. Many people have at least seen Braveheart and so know something of the struggle and resentment between the English and the Scottish. Practically everyone with a little bit of world knowledge knows about the continuing struggle between the English and the Irish. But very few people realize the similar struggles that went on between England and Wales (and which stretches back, mythically, to Arthurian times–ironically, of course, Arthur was on the Welsh side). In any case, the history is fascinating and Coats brings it to incredibly vivid life, and gives full due to both sides, even as her sympathies lie (correctly, in my opinion) with the oppressed Welsh.
Younger still are Crow, Three Times Lucky, and Remarkable. They’re talking about Three Times Lucky right now over on Heavy Medal, and I don’t have much to add. I thought it was a nice little novel, but it didn’t move me much. I thought better of Crow, which also addresses a somewhat neglected historical period – the period between the Reconstruction and the full onslaught of Jim Crow, when Southern Blacks still had a bit of power. For Those About to Mock has some good thoughts on this one. Unsurprisingly (to me), my favorite of this trio is Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley. This is a completely ridiculous novel about a town (like Lake Wobegon) where absolutely everyone is “remarkable” except for our heroine, Jane Doe. The town is even called Remarkable. This is a book that lives or dies on the reader’s appreciation for quirky, absurdist humor, and as you know, I love quirky, absurdist humor. I found it hilarious and sometimes quite moving.
As for what to make of these debut novels, I (like you) haven’t read enough of them to have a good read on them this year. I very much look forward to the Morris announcement, so I can see where some more of the good stuff is.