Aug 26, 09
Read in August, 2009
From the beginning, I have shied away from the YA shelves, mostly based on Twilight (which I enjoyed but didn’t love) and one failed attempt at reading a Sarah Dessen book. I don’t like vampires, I don’t like demons and I am really quite a few years past angst. Also, for the most part, I don’t really like love stories. In books, they’re too easy (or too hard due to aforementioned demons). In YA stories, the young women are painted as girls as opposed to strong people and I just don’t think that the right messages are being sent to our daughters.
That said, I would never ban a book based on content. I would, though, redirect.
Oh, look over here, I might say. Have you seen this book by Maureen Johnson? She’s fabulous. If I had a daughter, I would trade her in for Maureen. Wait no, I think that came out wrong. If I had a daughter, or a teen at all, I would, in a heart beat, send her right on over to Maureen. Yes, that was better. Why am I in love? Well, it really (really) is not based on the controversy surrounding The Bermudez Triangle but certainly the issue surrounding that conflict is part of the reason I dig her so much.
Here I am, getting to the point.
Take her book, Devilish. It’s the classic tale of Faust or Daniel Webster. Down and out character finds herself at the bottom of life and, oops, finds Satan or one of his minions, and there goes her soul in exchange for perceived happiness. I am a lifelong lover of Dorian Gray so this is a story I will never get tired of. While the myth and legend behind the story may not be batting a thousand on a truth scale, her teen ladies are real. They may have slight hang ups, there is obviously going to be some angst in any story but, the main concerns were academics, friends and demons, rather than boys. Sure there was an ex-boyfreind and an only occasionally reoccurring, adorable demon but it didn’t take the main focus. Boys in Devilish amounted to the way a sunset might be mentioned in another book. Jane, the protagonist, was smart but not gorgeous, witty but not popular. Sure, she was snarky and a bit of a rebel but that, in itself, is usually relegated to the male class clown rather than the female, for the most part. Even the evil demon, a beautiful, intelligent 200 year old high school student, put out a good name for female YA’s everywhere.
The storyline itself, followed the same vein. It was less focused on romance and more on calculus. Jane was interested in getting to Harvard where people were normal, rather than fitting in at high school where people were not. The writing is fantastic. I don’t think I’ve read anything that funny in a long time. The wit dropped a little bit in the end but I suppose it took a back seat when the action stepped in which is mildly understandable.
Needless to say, I could probably sit here and continue babbling on in a senseless way about how much I adore Johnson and her women but I will save that for the rest of her collection (which I may have purchased in its entirety, this past weekend).