As a young adult, the genre targeted at me is usually, well, YA ("young adult") fiction. And surely there are YA books that I enjoy; The Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the Dragons' Bane series by Melody Jackson, and The Fire Rain Chronicles by Miranda Marie being examples of that.
However, I don't always, or even often, gravitate to YA books. Not for any particular reason. It's simply that when a book description or cover catches my eye, it's almost always for kids ranging from 8-14.
So, I thought it might be fun to go over some books, the age, and what I like about it in the age order of youngest to oldest.
The Five Kingdoms by Brandon Mull: Target age 8-12
I read this some years back, and though I've only read book one, Sky Raiders, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and still plan to get the other four in the series.
I'm seldom one for contemporary, and so when this story started off in the real world I wasn't overly interested in it. However, when it stepped into the world of fantasy, and how it stepped into the world of fantasy... it caught my attention.
This book is about a boy named Coal who finds himself in a world of fantasy after slave drivers come to his world and take quite a few kids from Coal's world. He goes in after them rather then fleeing, and the adventure commences.
It's a great adventure that isn't very childish and my only real gripe with it is a gripe I have with most books; young love. 12-13 year olds and romance just doesn't mix right. Granted, Coal is depicted really only as having a crush, and sure, that's fair for a kid his age, and also I don't know how that develops as the books progress. Maybe he grows out of it. And besides that, it's not even a leading part of the first book and is only occasionally mentioned.
It's a really fun book and I have good memories of reading it. With floating castles, swords, beasts, talking smiley faces, a resilient main character, and characters from many genres (due to the floating castles), seeing the fantasy world interact with modern things, and best of all, tying with the talking smiling face (named "Happy"), the dear character Liam, how could I not like it?
This book influenced one of my first stories, one that I've now been working on for many years and has since strayed from that influence. It still helped begin it, though. And thinking back on it, it seems to have accidentally inspired one of my other stories to some degree.
In any case, it's a great book, and I've begun to reread it and hope to get the other books soon, and it's a good example of kid's books being wonderful for all ages.
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine: Target age 8-14
(Not to be mistaken with Marissa Meyer's Fairest.)
This one I read a little over a year ago, I think. It's a really sweet story about a girl who is just horrible looking. She's downright ugly, and even mistaken for an ogre once or twice. Her one charm is her beautiful voice.
In a wonderful but one-in-a-million chance, she becomes a lady-in-waiting to the new, and very young, queen of Ayortha. Mischief, magic, and tragedy soon follow, making for a wonderful, upsetting, endearing, and good story, with quite a few songs in it, as well.
This story is one of the sweetest stories I've read in some time. I felt for the protagonist, Aza, through all the stress and frustration and fear and feeling. Sure, there were times where I wanted to scream at her for making a decision or two, but really it was just realistic, given the circumstances.
I honestly cannot think of anything in particular that I disliked about this book. It served as a very good summer escape for me, and it's really just a very dear story.
It is, in a large part, a love story, so if you're not fond of those, you may wish to pass this up.
Dear America: Target age 9-12
This is actually a series, one of which I haven't read every book in, but I have read and own a handful of them.
These books are all historical fiction taking place in various times and locations, but all having to do with America (thus the name). Everything I've read so far (and this series I did begin at a younger age) has been decent, but it is mainly on this list for two books in particular; "So Far From Home" and "Early Sunday Morning" by Barry Deneberg.
So Far From Home follows a Irish girl who comes to America to escape the Great Potato Famine that is plaguing her family and country. It shows her adjusting to the life of America, struggling to make money as she works in the mills, and having to let go of her family in many ways while never quite feeling like she belongs in this new land.
It's a interesting read and remains one of my favorites of the series.
Early Sunday Morning is follows a American girl whose family moves to Hawaii, which is a hard move for our protagonist because her family is constantly moving all over America, but they'd never moved somewhere so different before. But when they arrive, and just as they've settled in, comes the frightful event of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The story doesn't end there; it goes on to show the aftermath of it and how people were effected, and not just how the nation was effected.
Both books, and really every book in this series, has one specific thing that I do always love about them: they show you different cultures. And not just in the usual way, and not in a over-explained way. They are written in the form of diary entries from various walks of life in various times in various places, so it takes a more casual and realistic approach to showing the culture, and as far as I can tell, they're pretty accurate.
The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett: Target age 10-13
This one is another historical fiction book. It takes place in France during The Great War, and follows two young sisters who find a blind soldier in the woods. They bring him food and supplies daily, and he tells them many stories, and while some stories are more interesting than others, they all have an impact on the girls.
This story's setting is beautiful, and the story as a whole is just such a sweet one. I'll admit that it lost my interest at one or two parts, but it was still very good.
The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan: Target age +10
Now, how to talk about this one without it resulting me in going on a fangirl ramble about how much I love these books...
I'm on book three right now, and I love love love these books. When I read the first book, I actually started a review for this, as well as a review for the second, but the thing is I love these books so much that I can't find a way to do a constructive review. I may see about cleaning up the current written review and posting it another time, but this will have to do for now.
This series (so far) is just incredible. It's a prime example of "kids" books often being so much better than YA. This series, and each book, is faced paced without missing details, clean without being childish, epic without being gory, and just absolutely magical.
The main plot is really just Will's life as a Ranger, starting at Apprentice. The first two books are about war, and the third book I cannot tell you what it's about because of spoilers for the first two. But basically, I went in thinking that the main plot for the series was the war, and I was very wrong. The war is a important thing, but really the story isn't about the war, it's about Will. And what a wonderful story it is.
I am in dept to R.M. Archer for suggesting the first book in the series, among two other books, to the book club we were both in, and to the other members of said club for voting for it to be out next read. I've not been this emotionally invested in a book in a long time, but less a series. This is one of those books that I stayed up until 1:00 AM to finish reading, and then was too excited for the next book to sleep.
I just... ahh. I could gush about the first book alone for an eternity. There's so much I want to say about it but I really want you to just experience it for yourself. So please, even if you don't read the whole series, read at least the first book. It's worth your time.
The Last Dragon (or The Last Elf) by Silvana de Mari: Target age +10
Of course, it wouldn't be a true Bleeding Ink post if I didn't mention this darling book.
It's rated ten and up, and that seems appropriate to me. It's very good book with dark themes disguised as a childish adventure, because it is told through the view of our darling Yorsh, who is a child, and is also an elf, who has little understanding of humanity.
This book is just... it's amazing. The scenery is vivid, the characters are full and fun, the whole thing is just wonderful and I love it so, so much. It's made me laugh (and some parts still make me laugh to think of), it's made me cry, and it's made me feel the same misery that some of the characters experienced.
The setting often makes me feel cold and uncomfortable, because a fair amount of the book takes place in cold and wet settings and it's so vivid that you can practically feel it yourself.
So much credit is owed to the amazing translator, Shaun Whiteside for being able to capture Silvana's imagery and wording and just everything. It's a absolutely wonderfully book that all ages can enjoy, not just ten year olds. Honestly it didn't strike me as a child's story at all, because as I said, though it is told through the lens of a child, it is a heavy and dark world.
Through the entire book I have only two issues, and neither will make much sense if you don't first read it, and neither are very big. For one, there's just this rather odd instance that seemed out of place, and I have a feeling that the other books in this series (which haven't been translated to English) would explain it, so it's not a big deal.
For the other, it's just that there's one character whose perspective I don't enjoy reading very much, but that's mainly because I always feel weird when new characters are introduced.
But even with those two things, I strongly advise that you read it. It is, by far, my favorite book.
(P.S. To Silvana de Mari and Shaun Whiteside, should you ever happen to find this: please please please please translate The Last Ogre and My Name Is Yorsh and all of the other books in this franchise. I really, really, really want to read them.)
The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood: Target age 12-16
This one is quite the jump in age, just starting towards YA at its oldest and is a kid's book at its youngest.
This book is about an orphan boy who is well taught in shorthand and is thus hired (or, more of 'bought') by a man to steal the plays of Shakespeare by attending the plays and writing down all that happens as closely as possible.
He then ends up working with Shakespeare's theater team, all the while he's stealing the plays and reporting back to his master. Quite a lot of chaos ensues, and in the words of the book's reviews, "it's a good adventure".
It also has two other books in the series, but I've not read those as of yet.
This isn't a book that I became very invested in, but it is one that I enjoyed and now that I'm writing this, I'd like to reread it some time.
Well well, and here we are. This certainly isn't a list of all my favorite books, and not all of these on this list are my favorites, either. But they're good, and if you're exhausted from the YA or even the adult scene, they're a good alternative.
I tried to look for things that these books had in common to propose an idea of why these eight books are appealing, but the only thing I could find is this: they're all kids' books.
They don't have inappropriate content (though The Ranger's Apprentice third book makes a mild reference and has mild swears such as the D and H words), they aren't romance based, they aren't about a girl who "isn't like other girls", they don't hold political agenda, they aren't... well, they aren't adultish.
So my conclusion is this:
Something being made for children does not make it childish. And often times, it makes it even better. So next time to see a book and the premise sounds interesting, but the target-age is low, don't be afraid to pick it up anyways and give it a go.
I hope you enjoyed this, and should you decide to pick up any of these books, or if you've read them already, tell me what you think about them. I'd love to hear from you.
Until we meet again. I remain,
~ 𝓔𝓭𝓷𝓪 𝓟𝓮𝓵𝓵𝓮𝓷
P.S. You should really read The Last Dragon (or The Last Elf if you're in the UK) by Silvana de Mari! It's wonderful and it deserves more attention and love.