I’d heard a heap of good about this book, earning it a place in Swifty the caravan on my latest holiday.
I was not disappointed. This is classic YA.
It’s fab to see a debut book that is so polished. ‘Spark’ by Rachael Craw ticks all the YA boxes. Happily it does so without the sort of contrived staging that would drive me to make a list of all the ticks it ticks as I tick each off. If you get my drift.
Anyhoo… Let’s look at what I think worked for this one.
- Straight-into-it structure
- Super-solid world-building
- Intrigue with some good ol’ fashioned whodunnit
- Off-limits romance.
Phew! First semester is over, so it’s back to the (fun) books for me! I couldn’t resist reaching for a novel I’ve been aching to read since it first came out – ‘Valentine’ by Jodi McAlister.
Great cover (don’t you think??!), great premise. Four kids, all born on Valentine’s Day… but which one is the changeling? Add a dash of love-hate romance and you have the perfect recipe for YA enjoyment.
This book does truckloads of stuff right. The characters and location feel so real. The start is amazing. All those midnight animals creeping around keep building the suspense.
And whoa… because if there aren’t at least two Valentines who can trace their lineage back to a bit of fairy magic, then I’m not a madcap children’s writer. Unfortunately, I have to wait for the next book to find out if I’m right. Continue reading
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Considering the release of the third book in the Red Queen series was imminent (‘King’s Cage’ was released on Tuesday), I figured I ought to read the first and see what the fuss was all about. ‘Red Queen’ by Victoria Aveyard was a wildly successful debut. So how did she do it?
Maybe I’ve finally read too much dystopian YA (<gasp> is that even possible?)… or hey, maybe it’s simply the answer as to how she did it, but ‘Red Queen’ seemed to conveniently tick all the plot boxes that come up when you compare other successful dystopians. In my head I’ve got a list like this:
Dystopian YA a la ‘Hunger Games’, ‘The Selection’ and ‘Divergent’
- Poor girl
- Boy at home who likes her
- Whisked into new world
- Gets to dress up
- Becomes famous
- Is strong/special
- New world boy falls in love with her
- There’s a rebellion
- She gets involved
- Love triangle
- Open ending
And now I can include ‘Red Queen’ as another bestseller with these tropes. Except it’s got a love square-ish-kind-of-thing going on rather than a plain old boring triangle. Continue reading
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It’s about this point of the book that uber-hot Dimitri starts thinking Rose has a valid reason to be worried about Lissa. And it’s now we realise the same thing, too… I think it’s a pivotal moment.
Hence a fist-pump book quote! Go Rose!!
‘Vampire Academy’ by Richelle Mead is fun and enthralling. I avoided it for a while (the cover) (more vampires? really?) (and yeah, that cover…) but then a free book came my way. I read it, and finally I understood the hype. Action, kick-ass-ness (if that isn’t a word, it should be), strong world-building and romantic tension.
I’ll add a warning – this book involves cutting, I found those parts confronting. But they’re not in there for no reason, and they’re not glamourised.
Oh, and the cover. I’m almost embarrassed to have it on my bookshelf. But the book is fab, so I don’t care. There’s this saying about books and their covers, you might have heard it…
:o) Read on, people.
Books are like diamonds. You can give two jewelers the same rock, and at the end of all their cutting and polishing, one will spray rainbows among dancing sunbeams, and the other might as well be a shattered fragment of soap-scummed shower-screen.
Likewise you can have several books set in the same world with a similar premise, and one will stand out. This book is one such sparkling delight…
‘The Iron King’ by Julie Kagawa is set in a world shared with many other novels. It involves characters brought into life by others. It follows many expected tropes.
But Kagawa takes her world and lifts it to another level. She cuts a fine diamond!
This is a successful series, with a lot of avid followers. I can see why. I’ve read another of Kagawa’s series before, so I was ready to be impressed. Things that worked especially well in this book for me:
- Immersive world-building
- Clever humour throughout
- A tantalising romantic sub-plot.
If you don’t like spoilers, now is the time to nod sagely and stop reading… Otherwise, read on!
Beautiful face. Beautiful body. Horrible attitude. It was the holy trinity of hot boys.
This is Katy’s p27 take on Daemon Black, one of the most entertaining Love Interests I’ve met in a while. I’ve been reading ‘Obsidian’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and it’s got me thinking about how to create the perfect YA Book Boyfriend.
Adding romance elements to YA can make your book HOT. But this isn’t just about book sales – if you’re writing for teens you need to be considering their self-esteem, and modelling positive relationships.
I also see three elements to a great YA Book Boyfriend, but I think Katy got them wrong. As a character, she’s supposed to get it wrong. We, the readers, are the ones who need to see it right.
Elements of a hot-dayam Love Interest:
- Instant (mutual) attraction
- He acts like a jerk most of the time
- There is a good reason why, and we readers get hints about this early.
I’m not saying this is the only recipe for romantic tension, but it’s one that’s worked time and again. But don’t miss the important fourth element – your MC’s self-esteem.
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In the last few weeks, I’ve read two books that failed to hit the mark for me. And when I say failed, I don’t mean in a grand and epic fashion. I mean in a baffling and miserable sludge puddle.
Both books were fantasies, from bestselling authors. Fair share of hype. Great covers. Reputable publishers. Promising plots. Great writing. Rock solid world-building.
I tried, I really did. I’ve loved other books written by these authors. I read all the way through both of them, hoping to hit that point where the plot starts to consume me and the characters become real. And then the last pages came, and with them that sense of how many hours of my life I couldn’t get back.
Eager to salvage something from the mess, I pinpointed what I didn’t like about them. In my opinion, both books lemoned in two key ways:
- The main characters.
- The love interests.
And when I write it like that, it starts to make sense. So… what made these characters so unlikable?
If I was Kylie Fornasier, and this was my book, I would be so damn proud. ‘The Things I Didn’t Say‘ had me completely absorbed into the very heart of the narrator. When I put the book down I’d often feel like I couldn’t talk.
Just like Piper.
How did Fornasier do it? Sure, it’s written in first person present, which is a good start. I’ve been known to take a break from a book and be all jittery because somewhere out there Cato and half a dozen other tributes are lurking and all they want to do is knock my bow-and-arrow wielding self into oblivion. So, yes, first person present POV is a great way of immersing a reader.
But there’s more here. I was so taken by this thoughtful and clever book, once I finished and blew my nose a few more times, I analysed the innards out of it to try and pinpoint what made it work for me. Turns out Fornasier Saved the Cat. Don’t know if it was intentional, but it worked.
Books and a cup of tea… nice
Last week I talked about Cassandra Clare‘s characters, and why they appeal. If you missed it, here it is. Today is Part 2 of a Shadowhunting Deconstruction, looking at the other two areas that work really well. The books I reviewed were:
Cassandra Clare writes addictive and sexy YA full of plot twists and fab dialogue. ‘City of Bones’ was her debut, published in 2007. I just conducted a rough count, fragrant jasmine tea in one hand and 70% cocoa dark chocolate (four squares a night, please) in the other, and I think I can count 14 more books since then.
And a chocolate smear on my keyboard.
Clare is a writing machine, and I love her work.
So, what does she do to make her writing so clever? To make her into the mega-success she is? Today I focus on ‘City of Bones’, Book One of The Mortal Instruments series, as well as the first in The Infernal Devices prequel series: ‘Clockwork Angel‘. I found some recurring themes of awesomeness:
- Strong female leads and tortured love interests
- Easily accessible world
- Subtlety in voice.
The first point is so big in itself, I’m going to devote this entire post to it. And a Super-Supreme Spoiler warning on this one… seriously, if you want to read these series, don’t have me ruin the twists for you. Turn back now.