I was hoping to keep up a reading schedule of three books per week during NaNoReMo, but this week revisions for 'Little Sister', another writing project and the Day job have conspired to rob me of reading time, and I only finished two books: Shug by Jenny Han and My Candlelight Novel by Joanne Horniman.
I haven't read that many books about younger teens, but I thought Shug really captured the uncertainty of starting high school (or junior high, in Shug's case), and all the new social challenges that come with being 12-13.
As a reader, I loved Shug's candour, especially about her family. Having spent the past year writing about some of the baggage that comes with being a little sister, her relationship with her sister Celia struck a chord.
As a writer, I was impressed by Han's ability to draw me so completely into Shug's world, and make me feel 12 again. (A true talent considering how long ago that was!) I just read a review on Goodreads that compared Shug with Are You There God, it's Me, Margaret, which, on reflection, I think is pretty spot on (and a huge compliment).
I picked up Joanne Horniman's My Candlelight Novel in the teen fiction section of my local library, but I wouldn't classify it as YA.* Aside from the fact that the protagonist, Sophie, is 21 and has a baby, the main reason I think it's adult fiction that teens will equally enjoy, rather than YA, is that her experiences and concerns are very adult. I haven't read Secret Scribbled Notebooks, the precursor to MCN, written from the point of view of Sophie's younger sister, Kate, but I have a sneaking suspicion that that novel deals much more with being a young adult, and that MCN was automatically classified (or possibly marketed) as YA to appeal to fans of the first book.
Semantics aside, I really enjoyed it.
As a reader, I was swept up in the book's exploration of mothers and motherhood, fathers and fatherhood, and birth and death. It's beautifully written and wonderfully evocative of being in one's early 20s.**
As a writer, I really admire Horniman's lyrical writing style: there are some beautiful passages in this book. Sophie is a complex character, who I didn't expect to be drawn to, but who quickly gained (and kept) my interest through her view of her world.
So, even though I'm only halfway through book 3 of my NaNoRe adventure, I'd say it's off to a good start. If the other books in my pile are of the same standard as the first two, it's going to be a very good month indeed!
* Yes, classifying books is an arbitrary exercise; no, it's not relevant to whether young adults will enjoy a book. It's too big a can of worms to open here, but I think Alien Onion summed up the difference between YA and fiction in which the protagonist is a young person very well.
** she said, wistfully ;)