ONE OF THE THINGS I love about writing and reading YA is how damn odd it can be. Because there are very, very few people (especially among readers) who feel their high school years were ripe with normalcy, it makes sense for us YA writers to reflect this by creating a rather idiosyncratic body of characters, voices, and stories. Most of us honed our articulatory skills by (a) sticking our noses in a whole lot of books, (b) listening to a whole lot of music, and (c) standing on the margins while observing everyone else. This makes for a quirky set of authors writing a quirky canon of work.
The writers I love the most are the ones who never write the same book twice. In YA, this covers pretty much everyone. (Even series writers can bring a whole lot of variation to the same characters from book to book.) The quirks of being a wallflower at the Great Literature Party mean we can continually experiment – and we can be more honest in the ways we reflect life. Do you know why readers – both adults and teens – love YA? Because we writers assume they’re smart. We assume they can follow our flights of fancy. We know they are not afraid of emotional truth.
When I was in high school, one of my favorite words was random. In this respect, I have not changed much since high school, though I now have a more nuanced view of randomness – even when things seem completely unconnected, I know there’s a more general connectivity at work. It’s the difference between seeing the world as a series of facts and between seeing the world as a series of themes, I guess. When we, as writers, embrace idiosyncrasy, we are providing the story of a very individual navigation through a very interconnected world.
Fittingly, what’s below is a very idiosyncratic ist of some of my favorite idiosyncratic YA novels. Emphasis on the some of – there are dozens of others I could have included. These just happened to be the ones to come to mind at the present moment. (Disclaimer: Some of them are ones I’ve edited, but none of them are ones I’ve written.) Rather than give summaries, I shall list some of their idiosyncratic ingredients – or idiosyncredients, as it were.
AN IDIOSYNCRATIC LIST OF INDIOSYNCRATIC YA: (alphabetical by title)
ASK THE PASSENGERS by A.S. King
Idiosyncredients: planes passing overhead, label-defiant sexuality, Socrates
THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND by Margo Lanagan
Idiosyncredients: suicidal selkie brides, sea hearts, sons...read more