Free Ebooks by Randolph Lalonde

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Do I Have Suggestions For Young Teen Readers?

Recently I received an email congratulating me on writing a good book that could be read by adults and young teens. They were referring to Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins, and it wasn't the first such email. While I didn't write Origins as a YA novel, I'm happy that parents feel comfortable sharing that book with their kids. I never really had discussions with my parents about books when I was young, even though I had phases where I'd go through paperbacks like a young pup goes through chew toys.

What made this email different from the others about sharing Origins was the parent asking me if I had suggestions for other books that she might share. I immediately looked through my bookshelves and picked five that weren't intentionally written for the YA audience but I thought would be great picks. Here's the list:

The Chrysalids - John Wyndham

I was also invited to post about this on the Kindleboards, since she frequented the forums, so I did. No need to go looking for my post, which turned into an article, I'll just repost it below:

I normally read a young adult book every month or so, mixed in with the fiction and non-fiction I go through regularly. I started reading YA regularly when several readers contacted me to tell me how happy they were about being able to hand my work down to their young teens. I hadn't even realized that my work fit in that age group, to be honest, so I was curious.

Since then I've found that things have changed since I was a young lad. When I was ten or eleven, I started turning to family for recommendations of what I should be reading and over the next couple of years I found everything from Stephen King to Frank Herbert to J.D. Salinger or even Kurt Vonnegut in my growing hands.

Now, if a young reader asked me what they should be reading I'd have a whole stack of books to place in their hands that would feature characters like Harry Potter instead of Holden Caulfield. Young adult fiction has provided pleasant surprises as well as thorough disappointment. In adventure books like Halo: The Fall Of Reach, I've found a novel that could stand on its own outside of the franchise - not a massively impressive scifi yarn to be sure - but a good, simple adventure book that doesn't underestimate the reader's intelligence. On the other hand, books like Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice are condescending, flat, obvious and unpolished. For such a large, well funded franchise, those books should be more polished, and present more complex, if not challenging content. 

There are many non-franchise YA books out there, but in my small-ish city of Sudbury, the franchise books are stacked tallest and widest on the shelves. I also find that most books written for the YA audience take place in high school, which is great for teens who need to find characters who are very easy to relate to, but I can't help but think that it's not very challenging.

Almost ten years ago, my young cousin (who is now six foot four), asked me if I knew of any good books. I think he was fourteen. What did I put into his hands? From my own shelf I gave him my tattered copies of Lord of the Flies, the Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy and Druss The Legend. None of these are considered YA, but he loved them all (especially Hitchhiker's Guide), and everyone agreed with my choices.

What would I put in young hands if someone asked if I had anything good to read now? I have to be honest - I like challenging young minds, so I'd probably still hand them (this list comes from me glancing at my bookshelf right now), the Lord of the Flies, The Chrysalids and a copy of one of my own books, of course. They'll eventually find Harry Potter on their own, and as for high school dramas, well, they'll find plenty of those too.

So, I'm wondering: what would you recommend to parents who want to share a reading experience with their kids or teens?



Dan McGirt said...

Thanks for the recommendation of Hero Wanted! A Publisher's Weekly review of the book (in its original incarnation as Jason Cosmo) called it "harmless entertainment for nerdy adolescents." I'm not sure that was meant as a compliment.

My Jason Cosmo books are not written as YAs. They are suitable for immature readers of all ages.

That said, I am conscious that younger readers might be drawn to the series, so there is no strong language, no overt sexuality, and the violence, while sometimes gruesome, is not lurid or graphic.

So, without making any other claims, I can say as the author that reading Hero Wanted will most likely not damage young minds.

At least not permanently.

Elizabeth C. Mock said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Deih! <3

I've been reading YA voraciously over the last few years and would love to add some of my favorite reads. Below is a link to my recommended YA shelf on I have many, many more in my queue and as I make my way through them, the good ones will make their way onto this shelf. If anyone wants to see what's in my queue, the second link will take them simply to my YA shelf which contains both those I've read and those I plan to read. Hope this helps!

Recommended YA Goodreads Shelf

YA Goodreads Shelf

Randolph said...

My pleasure Dan, Elizabeth!

I actually do have a hard copy of Shatter on my shelf, and the early manuscript is sealed up somewhere around here.

As for your work, Dan, I have a copy of Jason Cosmo and I've managed to track down a copy of Royal Chaos. It should be here soon enough.

Hey, I'm allowed to be a fanboy too, right?

Thank you both for pressing fingers to keys and chasing a blinking cursor around. I think it's a great obsession!



MDF said...

I found the Helfort series by David Feintuch to be pretty good, even though I'm neither young nor an adult (by some measures).

Midshipman's Hope (1994)
Challenger's Hope (1995)
Prisoner's Hope (1995)
Fisherman's Hope (1996)
Voices of Hope (1996)
Patriarch's Hope (1999)
Children of Hope (2001)

Mike (Comkey)