Books have always been a huge part of my life. If you’re looking for me, you’ll usually find me with my head in one. My dad, who passed away five years ago, had a huge library. He was a keen reader of everything, from sci-fi to Latin poetry to Russian literature, and all in between. As bedtime stories, he used to read to me extracts from The Lord Of The Rings, Jewish mystic texts, classic Italian literature, Pearl S. Buck and the Japanese masterpiece Genji Monogatari. Needless to say, I grew up with a vivid imagination! For my thirteenth birthday, I asked for the Kalevala (Finnish epic poem) – that says it all I suppose. My love for books though, and a tendency to daydream constantly, made me an outsider in many circumstances, so that I often felt like I didn’t really belong anywhere but myself and my little world – like many of us writers, I suppose. And guess where I found refuge, when the world got a bit much? Yes. Books.
So here’s a list of my favourite YA books from back then, and from now – a bookish child has grown to be a bookish Mum, who still daydreams a lot.
1) Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy M. Montgomery. I probably read this book a hundred times! It’s the story of Anne Shirley, an orphan girl who builds herself a new life in Avonlea, on Prince Edward Island. Anne is very emotional, she has a temper and she’s longing to belong – wonder why I liked her so much! Anne’s story continues in a total of six books, which I loved – it meant I could follow her whole life, from a little girl to a married woman and a mother.
2) Emily of New Moon, by Lucy M. Montgomery. This is supposed to be the anti-Anne: where Anne is cheerful and sunny, Emily is quite dark and a lot more autobiographical. In fact, Emily Murray, an aspiring writer, is Lucy Montgomery, in a way. My copy of Emily of New Moon is worn, highlighted and full of post-its, to mark my favourite bits. I see myself in Emily a lot, and her obstinacy in pursuing her dream of becoming a writer has always been an inspiration to me.
3) Under The Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi. I only read this book a few weeks ago, but it’s a firm favourite already. It’s sci-fi meets dystopian meets romance, written very creatively and with a use of language that will make you do a double take/double read! The main characters, Aria and Perry, are so three-dimensional, so real, and both so lovable (but not in a mushy way). You’ll remember them forever.
4) Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare. The reason why I included this book in my list is because Cassie did something amazing: she created a whole world, with its history, its mythology, its rules. A world that is complex, multi-layered and full of mystery. She plays so well with a multitude of characters, making them all real and vivid and individual – she weaves a tapestry with many, many threads and keeps track of them all. And I love the way she writes.
5) Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto. This book was a revelation to me. A dreamy, visual, poetic Japanese novel about a young girl, Mikage, who’s left alone in the world. She finds comfort in food and cooking, and in the hesitant romance with Yuichi, who’s also alone. Banana’s writing is beautiful, and the story is as vivid and as poetic as an anime. The ultimate Young Adult.
So check them out, and if you’d like to chat about these books, do give me a shout!