Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Realistic YA Fiction: The Firehorse Girl, The Tragedy Paper, Lovely, Dark and Deep,

I am excited to say I just published the latest revision of What's New in Young Adult Novels? and Ideas for Classroom Use.  It includes over 120 new titles from 2012 and is available at You can access it by clicking on the icon in the upper right hand corner of this blog.   Now that I have finished my 2012 reviews, I am ready to jump into reviewing books for 2013.  I have already read ten new titles and would like to recommend three new realistic fiction offerings.  The Firehorse Girl by Kay Honeyman is a riveting tale about Chinese immigration in the early twentieth century. The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban chronicles the tale of two boys who attend a private boarding school and struggle with relationships, as well as their senior thesis. Finally, poet Amy McNamara's debut novel Lovely, Dark and Deep lyrically explores the grieving process.
Jade Moon, a 17-year-old Chinese girl born in 1906, the year of The Firehorse, is willful, stubborn and impetuous, all signs of a Firehorse Girl. She agrees to emigrate with her father, after her cousin Sterling Promise proposes a plan to use false "paper son" documents to enter America. After the interminable boat ride, she is detained on Angel Island. She ultimately disguises herself as a boy and escapes to a life of homelessness and involvement with the tong, a Chinese crime syndicate. The author's detailed research of the history of Angel Island and turn-of-the-century San Francisco is evident throughout the story. Filled with danger and suspense, this historical romance is a must read for fans of the genre.
The Tragedy Paper is a story within a story, told from alternating points of view.  On his way to enroll at the prestigious Irving School, Tim Macbeth, a 17-year-old albino, meets Vanessa Sheller, the girlfriend of Irving's King Bee. To his dismay, she befriends him and they begin a clandestine relationship.  As Tim searches for a topic for his tragedy paper, Irving's version of a senior thesis, he records his story and the tragedy that waits him on CDs.  Tim's story is told by Duncan, the new Irving senior, who finds the CDs in his room, which Tim inhabited the year before.  Duncan has his own intrigues and their alternating stories make for a compelling read. 
Lovely, Dark and Deep introduces Wren Wells, after she survives a car accident that killed her boyfriend and retreats to the Maine Woods to live with her artist father, rather than begin college with her best friend. Her self-imposed isolation is threatened when she meets Cal Owens, who has troubles of his own.  Their mutual need for support and the chemistry between them, just may bring Wren to terms with her broken heart and help Cal deal with challenges ahead. Like the Frost poem alluded to in the title, the story is lovely, dark and deep and I would highly recommend it.