Two-Book Thursday by Katherine

Katherine Longshore Reply Thursday, October 07, 2010
My original plan was to post a review of a recently released book.  But the books I wanted to read were either unavailable in this country (Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin), unavailable at my library (Wildthorn by Jane Eagland) or not yet processed by my library (Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart).  Now, I can hear you saying, forget the library and go buy the darned book.  But if I bought every book I read, I’d be dead broke.  And also, I support my local library (despite its obvious deficiencies) because I think libraries and kids should go together like summer and watermelon or campfires and s’mores.  Naturally.

So, instead of reviewing one mostly brand new YA historical, I’m going to review two books.  One contemporary YA that’s been out for a while.  And one historical written for an adult market.  I’m kind of infamous in my house for reading several books at once.  But in this instance, it was a little like self-flagellation because the books I chose truly represented what I love most about historical fiction and books written for young adults.

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory is so full of such rich history as to make me want to weep.  I am so glad that Ms. Gregory wrote about Margaret Beaufort, in part because it has given me a reprieve.  This woman is fascinating.  Sold into marriage at 12, she nearly died in childbirth at age 13.  Shortly after, her husband died.  So she was remarried.  Not “she remarried”, but “she was remarried”.  In the 15th century, it was not the woman’s (or in this case, child’s) choice.  She lived in an era of civil war.  Imagine the Civil War of the United States, brother against brother, played out on Medieval battlefields and you’ll get a tiny sense of the Wars of the Roses.  It went on for decades.  This era and these experiences forged one of the strongest, most opinionated (and controlling) women in history.  The mother of Henry Tudor – Henry VII – foundress of the Tudor dynasty.

The book itself is not for the faint-hearted.  The history is bad and bloody.  But brilliant.  Philippa Gregory gets all of her facts straight.  She makes the life and times real and tangible.  You feel them in your gut.  You come away from this book knowing what Margaret Beaufort lived.

John Green and David Levithan also made me want to cry from the very beginning of Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  Full characters, well-drawn settings, glorious plot, truth and beauty and love.  But the voices, the unique, quirky voices of the two Wills are what catch the reader on fire. 

It’s the story of two boys, both named Will Grayson, both of whom live in or near Chicago, both of whom have trouble with love and friendship.  Both of whom are drawn into the orbit of Tiny Cooper, who really does change lives.  These characters leap from the pages and truly live.  Reading Green and Levithan makes me wonder what I’m doing trying to write for teenagers, when there are writers like these on the shelves already. Seriously, it’s one you want kids to read to fall in love with character, with language, with thinking.  That’s a gift.  Go out and learn more about Shrodinger’s cat, people.  Or musicals, Gay Pride, depression, love.  It’s all there.  

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