I love novels. I have eight bookcases overflowing with fiction books, alphabetized by author. And I'm no book snob--I embrace all genres equally, from the cheesy romance to sci-fi.
As much as I love every category equally there will always be a special place in my heart for juvenile fiction.
Part of it comes from teaching middle school reading. Part of it comes from my love of books and how much I enjoy the honesty and uniqueness of juvie fiction. You can get away with more in juvenile books--more cheesiness, more angst, more imagination.
I am slightly ashamed to admit that I have the first edition now-out-of-print editions of "The Vampire Diaries" by L.J. Smith. I adored them as a preteen and was considered geeky--now they're considered hip vampire literature.
One of my favorite juvenile fiction genres is the dystopian novel. With the exception of a few hardcore literature types, the adult dystopian novels feel forced. Fake. Too loaded up with it's own self-importance. Juvie fiction doesn't strive that hard, instead going for a good story that makes a teenager think. Teachers love them because they usually have their own lingo and make students actually figure out the meaning of words using context clues.
Nancy Farmer's House of the Scorpion is one of my favorite. My students in south Texas loved it because it was set along the futeristic Mexico/U.S. border. The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick is also great. Do I even need to mention Gathering Blue, the companion to Lois Lowry's The Giver? While I prefer the Abhorsen Trilogy, Shade's Children by Garth Nix was also good. Uglies and Pretties had an interesting premise but merely okay writing.
I bought The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins on Saturday. By 6pm, I had finished with it and had my husband go to Barnes and Noble to buy the sequel, Catching Fire.
Basic premise: The U.S. is divided into 13 different territories. The ruling Capitol demands tribute in the form of teenager gladiators chosen by lot and the resulting death match is televised for all to see.
Why do I like it so much? It's raw. It's dirty (in the mud and poverty sort of way, not in the sexual way.) The main character, Katniss, reads as genuine. It's doesn't pick the easy-happy-ever-endings that wouldn't work in a book like this. Katniss is fierce, guarded, only slightly political savvy, and pragmatic. The author doesn't put her on a pedestal and have her solve all the problems of the world--instead she merely has to do her best to play what role she can.
I can't wait for the last book in the series to come out.