Young Adult – Old School

Carla gave me a poke the other day, and reminded me that I haven’t updated my blog.

Carla is very pro-blog.

Carla is also a magnificent troll, because whilst on a pro-blog promo, she encouraged me to pick a domain, then once I had made my choice and told her I would buy it in a week (after payday), she bought said domain. She is kindly using it to forward to my servers, but it can’t be transferred over while we’re in the 60 days after initial purchase. Troll best friend trolls on an epic level.

Anyway, she wanted me to blog. And I don’t think a blog post about how Carla wants me to blog more often is going to cut it.

So here, let’s talk young adult books. I would do a Fave Five, like Booker T, except I’m incredibly picky about books, and many fail to make the grade. Some books I love because of the ideas, but the execution is not what I’d hoped for; other times I like characters but am not keen on where the story goes; other times I worship the world but don’t connect with a single person involved in the world.

So I’m going to list my Fave Three young adult series from my youth.

1: Making Out by Katherine Applegate


“Zoey, Lucas, Jake, Nina, Benjamin, Claire, Christopher and Aisha have all grown up together on Chatham Island, just off the Maine coast. Zoey has been with Jake forever, but when Lucas returns to the island after two years away, following a fatal accident he caused, Zoey finds herself drawn to him. And Claire has a secret – a secret that will change everything. But will all be revealed before Zoey fools around?”

I swear that these books got me through my teenage years. I wasn’t the most social of teenagers. Some days I felt like the characters in this series were my only friends. Especially Nina. Although I wanted someone to drown Zoey in Big Bite Pond for her overreaction to everything. Also, Nina/Lucas was my OTP. When I met Carla, I recommended the series to her, and she too fell in love with them. We would compare notes on which books we were missing, and our endless hunt for the complete collection.

I liked these books because they were a bit more grown up than the nonsense I had been reading, these characters swore (very mildly and infrequently, but still, a lot more believable than seeing an eighteen year old say “gosh darn it to heck”), they had problems (Jake’s alcoholism was not a Very Special Episode, it carried through the whole series) and the continuity was there. Unlike other books I had read, this series kept track of what happened and applied it, unlike another series which has at least three books dedicated to someone’s first kiss, all with different guys. It was just smarter than a lot of teen fiction I had read up until that point. Oh, and it was funny. Not in that annoying “they all laughed” way, but everything Nina has to say is worthy of a smile – and her rant about what they should do to the opposing football team makes me laugh every time (“Forget football! Let’s bomb the bastards!”).

Note: I am aware that a ghostwriter took over after book 8, but they still continued to be awesome. I mean, there was a lot of angst and disasters for one small island, but I’m willing to overlook that because it was a damned entertaining read.

2: The Eventing Trilogy by Caroline Akrill


“Elaine’s dream is to become a top eventer, but when she starts working for the eccentric Fane family it leads to a difficult choice between ambition and loyalty.”

I was one of those horsey girls when I was younger. I read pretty much everything by the Pullein-Thompson sisters, the Jill books were memorised by about the age of nine, and Black Beauty was my bible. However, this series is still one of my favourites of all time.

As with Making Out, this series was just so much smarter than anything I’d read before. JK Rowling noted that she found it sinister that throughout the entire Famous Five series, none of the characters ever had any romantic notions (by the end of the series, the kids were aged 19-21), and the same was absolutely true for me in every horse series I read. By the end of the Jill series, Jill has left school and is working as a writer and still isn’t interested in anything but horses. I’m not saying that every character needs to find a boyfriend, I’m just saying that the absolute lack of interest in anything non-horse-related in every single series was a bit eye-poking. It left me feeling like horse books were only about horses, and non-horse books were about romance, and the two could never combine.

This series does this. Romance is a low priority, but it’s far more believable that an eighteen year old who regularly interacts with males, may find herself the subject of someone’s romantic notions or might get a bit wibbly over one of the guys. It’s only background, and I didn’t need some epic romance cluttering up the plot, I just like the realism of Elaine juggling money, love, horses, and her dreams.

But most appealingly, these books are funny as hell. It’s pretty much impossible to find a character I don’t love, and two of my favourites are the horses, The Comet and The Bad Tempered Chestnut are amazing. As for the people, Nigella and Henrietta Fane, Elaine’s employers, are a wonderful combination of pragmatic and whimsical (if you can imagine such a thing).

I just cannot say enough great things to put this series over. Go, locate a copy now.

3: Fly By Night and The Team by K. M. Peyton


“Fly-by-Night” was not the best choice for an eleven-year-old girl who had never ridden before; but as soon as Ruth Hollis saw the sturdy, lively pony, she knew that he was the one she wanted. All her life Ruth had longed to own a pony and now that her family had moved from London to a new housing estate in East Anglia, she had persuaded her father to let her spend her savings on a pony. But having taken possession of Fly-by-Night, Ruth found that her troubles had only just begun.

As above, horsey books are only about horses. Except this one isn’t. In the first book, Fly By Night, Ruth is too young to really want a romantic entanglement, but by the second, she’s interested in a couple of boys, in different ways. Nothing is really done with the romance aspect, but it’s nice to see it there. Just one of those crushes you live with and do nothing about when you’re young.

I liked the way this series was written, there was an air of weary cynicism that just wasn’t usually present in similar works, which were basically Blyton on horseback.  Also, the characters were a bit more real than the usual jolly hockeysticks fare.  Peter was a foster kid, wanting nothing to do with his over-bearing dad; Jonathan was more sarcastic than you would expect; and everyone is likable, but not sickeningly so.

It’s a damned shame none of these books are available on Kindle.  She says pointedly.  Every week I click the link on Amazon, telling them that “I’d love to read this book on Kindle”.  One day.

One day.