Monday, April 30, 2012

Guest Post by Popular Book Blogger Marjolein Balm

About Reading and YA Books

I am very honored to be the first guest on your blog. Thank you, Stewart!! 

Very often I get the question why I love to read and review Young Adult books so much. Maybe it is because I remember my own teenage years so vividly like it was yesterday and I have loved reading ever since I can remember. I was always seen with just one accessory: a book. 

I’ve been reading since I was four, there were always books in the house (although my parents didn’t  read that much, but somehow, there were books around!) and I remember that I learned my first words from a children’s book I always carried around with me (I still wonder sometimes which book this was, I still know what it looks like but I can’t remember the title anymore) so I could read a few words before I entered school. Reading was always widely promoted when I was in primary school. We always had huge projects around the Children’s Book Week and my twin brother and I were always allowed to select two books from the book store when that week came around, we had to do a book speech about a book every month In front of the entire class and I am still very thankful that we visited the library almost every week since I can remember. We also had a huge library at my primary school and before we could leave to go home, our teacher read to us every day, and we also had to write about the books we read for the school paper. What I remember reading in my childhood years were: ballet books (I was also into ballet during that time) Astrid Lindgren (Lotta, The Children of Noisy Village) and from Dutch book I remember Madelief en Het Zakmes, which was quite a hype at my school when the film came out.

During my teen years, I don’t remember there being books categorized as YA. Remember, we had to read books for English but YA? It just didn’t exist. Roald Dahl was as popular as Harry Potter and his books are the only ones that come to mind when I recall reading in my teen years. How times have changed for the better!! Young Adult is more popular than ever, and is the fastest growing market in the book industry. Young adult, or YA, has become popular not merely among tweens and teens, but among adults as well. Bestsellers like the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games series have fallen into the hands of many adults and have found a welcoming audience. You can walk into any book store, locate the YA section, and have at your fingertips historicals, paranormals, romances, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, contemporary, steam punk, poetry, fairy tales, myths, and biographies. You name it, it’s there.

Teens want to read books about other teens who they can identify with and that deal with the same issues they themselves have to cope with. Young adult novels changed the world for me. I could never have guessed when picking up a Princess Diaries book (the first YA book I picked up..) that I would be reviewing YA books two years later. I just celebrated my 4 year blogaversary recently! So yes, books can really change your world!
Most ‘’adult readers’’ still think that YA fiction is set in a high school (think of the Sweet Valley High books) but that is history as most YA books nowadays are set in the most diverse settings, here a few recommendations if you never have read YA in your life (something I find truly hard to imagine). Some are not specifically marked as YA but are more crossover.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok: moves with her mother from Hong Kong to the USA, with the help of their aunt, they settle in a rattled apartment with no heating or windows in Brooklyn. A very impressing coming-of-age story between the Chinese and American cultures.
Red Glass by Laura Resau: Red Glass is an outstanding and amazing YA novel 'between cultures''.The book is set in the USA, Mexico and Guatamala. The story is about Sophie and a little Mexican refugee, Pablo. Because Pablo’s parents have died during harsh conditions, while trying to illegally cross the Mexican-American border, Sophie travels with Pablo to Mexico to locate his family and overcomes her fears.
Shadow of the Dragon by Sherry Garland: A very original YA novel about a Vietnamese-American teen. Danny grows up amongst gangs and American/ Vietnamese culture. Danny is dating Tiffany Marie, a girl from his high school, but rumors are that Tiffany's brother Frank is a skinhead with racist actions against Vietnamese people in particular, and soon enough these rumors seem to be true, and Danny Sang Le's (Danny’s cousin who spent years in a Vietnamese re-education camp and who is living with Danny now)  are in danger. The book just gives an amazing look in the life of the Vietnamese community in the United States and a peek into Vietnamese family traditions.
Far from Home by Na’ima B Robert: a gripping story about two girls Tariro and Katie living in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, both living in different time periods, 1967 and 2001. While Katie is a rich western girl living on a farm, Tariro and her family have to fight against white settlers who crash into town. In 2001 the opposite happens with Katie, people are attacking her family’s farm and claiming their land back. Without being aware of it, both girls share a horrible secret.

I’d like to end off with a question: What books have you read recently that really captured the YA voice and pulled you into the story?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Marjolein, for this great post! Readers, if you have a moment, check out Marjolein's blog at