Is YA Fantasy Really YA?

Within the past couple years I’ve made it a point to read more YA fantasy since I have so many avid fantasy readers in my classroom. For the past week or so I’ve been listening to the audio of Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood & Starlight (the sequel to Daughter of Smoke & Bone) since the third book in the series, Dreams of Gods & Monsters, released this week. As I’ve been listening to this book I’ve found myself questioning whether it’s truly YA.

I adore Laini Taylor’s series and her writing. My students adore it as well. What exactly about this series qualifies it as YA though? Karou’s a teenager, but is she going through any sort of specific teenage struggle? Karou’s major conflict, especially as the series progresses, is about past lives and how she fits those past lives currently. (I don’t want to spoil the series for anyone.) So is it the questioning of identity that qualifies Karou’s story as YA? The Daughter of Smoke & Bone series could easily appeal to an adult audience, especially when I consider Taylor’s lush writing style and how layered the story is. Some adults unfortunately dismiss YA because of the angst and many other reasons, but I wonder if a non-YA reading adult would realize that this series has been published as YA after having read it.

I’ve started thinking about this about many of the YA fantasies I’ve read. Besides the age of the character, what makes those books YA novels exactly? Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson are two other books that have made me question this. I don’t have a problem with these books; I think they’re fantastic. I love that my students love them. But some of the elements to these stories, like characters marrying adult men and taking on adult roles like protecting and ruling a kingdom, causes me to pause and think about this. Could these stories be marketed and published in the adult market and be as successful? Would teens still find them and love them? Would more violence and sex, like in The Game of Thrones series, push these novels into the adult market? I understand that many fantasies are set in feudalistic worlds where teen girls are getting married and teens are ruling realms/lands, but it still seems like some other young adult aspect is missing.

This series of questions crossed my mind briefly while reading Cinda Williams Chima’s The Seven Realms series, but I didn’t find myself reading  Han’s or Raisa’s characters as if they’re adults. Their voices still rang true as teenagers to me while I read their stories. While those characters are also worrying about kingdoms and arranged marriages and so on, many of their thoughts, discussions, and actions still fit those of a teenager’s.

I’d really love to get some opinions on this. Has anyone else found themselves thinking like this? I think this discussion could cross over into the dystopian genre as well. I hope we can get a discussion going through the comments!

Books I Thought I’d Like Less and More Than I Did

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

It’s always disappointing when I discover that a book I thought I was going to love ends up being a dud.  But it’s really exciting when I’m reading a book that I had minimal expectations for turns into a favorite.  Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about those books.

Books I thought I’d like more than I did:

Splintered by A.G. Howard (Goodreads): I was really enjoying this when I first started listening to the audio.  The entire premise was intriguing and I was drawn in.  But then it turned into a weird, way-too-emo for me story that I couldn’t enjoy.  There’s a really long list of things I really disliked about this debut.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Goodreads): I’m still disappointed that I didn’t like this book.  I didn’t even finish it!  It didn’t speak to me and I hated the footnotes.

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan (Goodreads): This debut had instant action and lots of promise, but ultimately it fizzled about half way through the book.  I never finished it.

Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins (Goodreads): I really expected to like this book.  I like the star-crossed lovers storyline, and I was looking forward to see how the story would play out with one of the characters being Amish.  Unfortunately, the story grew repetitive and stalled out.  I stopped reading it after I discovered that there would be more books.  If I was already bored half way through the first book, I couldn’t let myself invest in yet another series.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Goodreads): I love Lauren Oliver’s writing so I fully expected to love this one.  I was listening to the audio over the summer and made it as far as the second half of the audiobook before I gave up.  I grew bored with the story.  I wanted it to move along faster, and after a while Lauren Oliver’s flowery writing started to sound verbose.  Maybe one day I’ll come back to this one, but it won’t be any time soon.

SplinteredAn Abundance of KatherinesGlowTemptationDelirium

Books I thought I’d like less than I did:

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Goodreads): Two students told me about this during my first year teaching my YA elective.  I was really hesitant to read it because I thought I didn’t like science fiction.  After they told me how amazing it was I decided to give it a shot.  It’s one of my favorites and it even made me cry.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Goodreads): I remember when my high school best friend picked this up when we were in college.  She raved and raved about it, but I wasn’t interested.  One of my students gave me her copy to read during spring break a couple years ago, so I finally caved and read it.  I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner because it’s SO GOOD!  I didn’t want it to end.

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick (Goodreads): I remember seeing an ARC of this in my ALAN box in Chicago and thinking, “What is this?”  I had never heard of Jordan Sonnenblick, and I had never heard of this book.  I don’t know why I was so hesitant.  I can’t even remember how I ended up reading it last year, but I enjoyed every minute of it.  It’s funny and heart-warming.

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (Goodreads): I tried reading The Warrior Heir during my first year of teaching and really disliked it.  Last year I requested some titles to help me discover more fantasy and this was recommended.  I figured I’d like it, but I had no idea I would love it.  I was completely absorbed in the story and the world.  It’s a long book, and I’m pretty sure I read it in just over a day.  This is a fabulous series.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Goodreads): I tried reading this in the traditional sense and then a year later I tried the audio.  Both times I had to set it aside.  I finally tried the audio for a second time and I was finally hooked.  I think this is one of those “I need to be in the right mood books” because I can’t believe I didn’t finish it the first time I tried reading it.  It’s such a fantastic book that’s beautifully written.  If you haven’t read it yet, I HIGHLY recommend listening to the audio.

The Knife of Never Letting GoWater for ElephantsCurveball The Year I Lost My GripThe Demon KingDaughter of Smoke and Bone

Audiobook Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone AudioTitle: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Author: Laini Taylor

Narrator: Khristine Hvam

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Audio)

Release Date: September 27th, 2011

Interest: Paranormal Fantasy / Fantasy

Source: Audiobook purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads):

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages – not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers – beautiful, haunted Akiva – fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Audiobook Review:

It took me some time to get into this book both physically (my first attempt at reading it) and aurally.  I’m so thankful I kept with the audio because it is one of my favorite audiobooks.  To put it simply, the narration is wonderful.  Khristine Hvam used a believable accent and differentiated between each character so well that I was never questioning which character was speaking.  I love listening to audiobooks when I’m getting ready for work, driving to and from work, and getting chores/cooking done.  I know I really love an audiobook when I find myself making excuses to drive somewhere or to get more cleaning done, which is what I did while listening to Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Book Review:

The first thing I want to say about Daughter of Smoke and Bone is that I love Laini Taylor’s beautiful use of vocabulary.  Her writing is lush and vibrant.  I don’t know if I would have appreciated it as much if I wasn’t listening to the audio, but it’s seriously wonderful.  I’ve never read a book that uses vocabulary and description to the degree that Taylor does, at least not recently.

The story itself is layered and engrossing.  I love Karou and the incredible life she leads.  She’s feisty, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but she’s vulnerable as well.  I was a little lost during the Akiva back story, but when everything came together I was so impressed and excited.  I’ll admit that the back story was beginning to bother me since I didn’t know where it was going, but it did make me love Akiva that much more.

I’m not sure if any movie rights for Daughter of Smoke and Bone has been purchased, but I would love to see this story come to life on the big screen.  I know a movie wouldn’t do it justice (they rarely do), but I think I’d still enjoy it just the same.

If you decide to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I hope you, make sure you have a copy of Days of Blood & Starlight handy because you’ll want to start reading it as soon as you can!

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