Love YA? Try These Classic Alternatives to Your Favorite Novels

Happy Friday everyone!

My week off has flown by, and tomorrow I travel to NYC for one of the biggest tradeshows in the software industry. I’ll be much too busy with work to blog, so to leave you on a high note until I get back in October, I’ve created another vlog!

In this video, I take a look at a few insanely popular YA novels and recommend some classic alternatives. Given that the vast majority of book bloggers focus primarily on young-adult fiction, I wanted to encourage them to read outside their comfort zone.

Many readers may think that the Western canon is full of boring tales written by dead white people, and although I can’t deny its lack of diversity, I can speak for its merit. There are tons of reasons why we read these literary classics in school: the themes are timeless and the writing is superb.

If you’re a huge fan of YA like I am, then I highly recommend that you challenge yourself with these older novels. Sure, you might have to look up a tough piece of vocabulary or review the SparkNotes to get a better understanding, but it doesn’t hurt to exercise your brain every now and then! In fact, I believe that you’ll appreciate your reading experience more when you do.

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Top Ten Books Recommended to Me

Another edition of Top Ten Tuesday, a meme in which I sporadically participate that is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week it’s the books which have been recommended to me the most. This was actually difficult, since it seems people usually ask for my suggestions rather provide their own, but here are a few that stood out, in no particular order:

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

A Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Any novels by Ayn Rand

Some of these books are already on my to-read list, some I couldn’t care less about, and some are wasted recommendations because I’ll never read them. I’ll leave it to you to decipher which are which 🙂 But I’d love to hear your opinions on them!

Which books have been recommended to you the most? Are you simply procrastinating or are they never going to happen? Share the details!

Book Review: Reached

Image via Goodreads

Rating: 2 out of 5

BEWARE: Spoilers ahead!

Good lord, am I glad that I’m finally finished with this series. Ally Condie’s dystopian trilogy (Matched, Crossed, Reached) started off great, but I seriously have no idea why the finale is rating an average of four stars on Amazon and Goodreads.

The reason why it took me almost six weeks to complete this novel was that it was 512 pages of booorrrriiiinnnnnnggggg. I can summarize the entire saga like this: Protagonist Cassia Reyes, who lives in a totalitarian state where the Society decides everything for you–including who you marry and when you die, joins a rebellion called the Rising with her two love interests Ky and Xander. In the end, after a catastrophic plague, they realize that the Rising is just the Society with a different name and eventually learn how to rebuild their lives and make decisions for themselves.

Does this sound original at all to you?! Condie couldn’t even give her factions unique names! Unfortunately, The Hunger Games has unleashed the floodgates of mediocre young-adult dystopian fiction, and the Matched series is right up there with that of Divergent for being utterly disappointing. At least Mockingjay elicited anger out of me! Reached definitely went out with a whimper rather than a bang.

And don’t get me started on the so-called love triangle. I have never witnessed a duller character than Xander. The poor boy never had a chance, and anyone who thinks otherwise is probably one of those girls who can manufacture an entire pseudo-relationship with a crush with whom she’s had only one conversation.

In fact, all three of Condie’s main characters are total squares. They’re so bland that when I was reading each chapter, I often couldn’t tell whose point-of-view it was.That’s one of the top sins of writing: if a reader can’t even differentiate between your characters’ perspectives, then you need to go back to your sub-par MFA program and demand your money back.

I know that I’m harsh, but I’m just sick and tired of these dystopian books gaining a bunch of unwarranted hype. The problem is that it feels like a bait and switch: the debut novels start off just strong enough to get a bandwagon going, so even if the sequels are lackluster and the finales are absolute crap, well too bad because you’re already too invested in the stories and feel obligated to finish them.

I think that another reason why Condie particularly rubbed me the wrong way was that it was obvious that she was trying SO hard to be deep. In the beginning, I appreciated the allusions to poetry, especially since I love Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night.” But I honestly lost count of how many times I rolled my eyes trudging through this saccharine prose.

Instead of being subtle, the symbolism hits you so hard in the face it gives you whiplash. The navel-gazing over the “morals” of the story just came off simplistic and self-righteous: the way Condie tells you what to think rather than letting you interpret the message for yourself makes her almost a meta-Society official taking away your autonomy.

More importantly, it means that she still has a long way to go before becoming a renowned novelist. Given how she’d yammer on about the loss of culture and the destruction of the environment, I thought it was only a matter of time before she burst out of the pages screaming, “But what about the children?!”

So let’s do ourselves a favor and let this genre take a breather. Dystopian literature has reached full saturation, and now it’s all starting to suck. If you can’t get enough of big governments doing bad things, go read 1984 and Orwell will show you how’s it’s done!

Literary News of the Week: Tolkien, Divergent, and The Giver

Hey everyone!

While I’m on the last half of Reached by Ally Condie, I’d thought I would share some interesting tidbits of literary news that I heard this week. Feel free to share your opinions or post news of your own!

JRR Tolkien at Oxford in 1955. Photograph: Haywood Magee/Getty Images (Image via The Guardian)

The Guardian announced that J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of the epic poem Beowulf has finally been published, 90 years after its completion. This is one work of literature that I have never read, and I believe that I had subconsciously been waiting for this moment! Who better of a translator to read than the master of fantasy himself? If you’ve read Beowulf, please let me know whether you liked it, and why!

Image via The Frisky

In movie adaptation news, everyone is making a fuss over “Divergent,” which is out in theaters now, and although I haven’t read it (it looks like a convoluted knockoff of The Hunger Games to me), I’m curious to what makes this series so popular. The Frisky believes that there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and paints it as “a bible-thumping disaster.” I wasn’t aware of Veronica Roth’s spiritual leanings, and was surprised to hear this interpretation of Christian symbolism. For fans of Divergent, does this theory hold any weight?

And lastly, the official movie trailer of “The Giver” was released! I absolutely adore Lois Lowry’s novel; in 1993, it was a dystopian tale way ahead of the current trend. Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, it is now a staple in most middle school curricula. However, this story is so well-written and powerful that people of all ages should read it!

That being said, although I love Meryl Streep, I don’t believe even she could save this movie, which will be in theaters August 15. All her critical acclaim means nothing when someone like Taylor Swift is also on the cast list (yes, really). Unfortunately, I think this adaptation will get lost in the shuffle of sub-par dystopians like “Divergent,” and viewers won’t understand the profundity of its message. Not to mention, would it have killed them to have shot it in black and white?!

Well, that’s all my news for the week. I’m looking forward to celebrating a friend’s birthday tonight, and I wish you all fun weekends as well!