More Teen Books

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I know. You think that with eight years of post high school education, I would enjoy a philosophical, though-provoking book. And it's not that I don't. It's just that I prefer something less strenuous. And something that is completely different than my life. It's what I call brain candy.

And I just finished the most delightful serving.

I admit that I hadn't heard of Libba Bray. And apparently neither have any of my friends, even the ones who actually read the Twilight series. But I think that this series could be easily as popular as Twilight. (Especially since they are making a movie!)

After I read the Twilight books, I found that I didn't have anything I wanted to read. I spent time on LibraryThing and Shelfari, looking for "what should I read next." And nothing stood out. Until I read a review about one of Libba Bray's books.

"This series will appeal to lovers of Jane Austen's novels,
along with older female readers of Harry Potter."

Okay, now I had to read it. I've never read a description that so accurately describes the books I loved.

The books are A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. Most of the titles are lines from classic poetry. And the cover art is some of the most beautiful I have seen.

I'm not going to give anything about the plot away, in case you were worried.

The triology, set in 1890s, features sixteen year old Gemma, who moves to London to attend finishing school. However, she is haunted by a secret that she doesn't understand and that threatens to destroy her and everyone she cares about.

These books explore not only the magic and power surrounding Gemma (yes they are fantasy), but also the twisting, complicated psyche of the female teenager. Although the writing is lacking in appropriate period figures of speech and language, the story not only explores the fantasy world, but the social pressures and expectations of females, at that time and today. Issues of race, class, and self-identity are discussed.

Libba Bray also brings to the surface a multitude of issues that young girls face, not just then, but today. She mixes these issues throughout her characters, and they alway come to surface just when you least expect it (and in the character you least expect.) And you realize: everyone has a secret.

Gemma, who desires to be her own person, still desires to be beautiful and wanted. She can be frustrating, doing things against her better judgment because of her friends. And then she can be amazing, turning against the most stringent social pressures. She can be very immature and the next second, make the best decision.

These books are a wonderful read for any girl that felt she didn't fit in, that there was something about her that made her different from the girls around her. For every girl that remembers how confusing being a teenager could be, and how hard it can be to separate out what you want and what everyone around you wants.