August 10, 2014

Random Acts… Young Adult novels out of the ordinary

Posted in Books at 9:32 pm by dinaheng

Some may think that Young Adult (YA) novels are only for teenagers, but the best stories will capture the heart and imagination of readers of all ages.

One such book that should be required reading for all ages is “Say What You Will” by Cammie McGovern (Harper Teen, $17.99). This deeply insightful and beautifully written tale takes us into the world of Amy, a girl with cerebral palsy who must use a talking computer to speak, and who cannot walk or eat without assistance.Dinah Eng

For her senior year in high school, Amy persuades her parents to let her work with peer helpers, instead of professional assistants.

As she tells Matthew, one of those peer helpers, “Maybe you don’t know this, but when you’re disabled almost no one tells you the truth. They feel too awkward because the truth seems too sad, I guess. You are very brave to walk up to the crippled girl and say, essentially, wipe that sunny expression off your face and look at reality. That’s what I want you to do next year. Tell me the truth. That’s all.”

"Say What You Will" by Cammie McGovern. Book cover courtesy of HarperTeen.

“Say What You Will” by Cammie McGovern. Book cover courtesy of HarperTeen.

Matthew, who never expected to become friends with Amy, has his own secret, and as the two begin to share what’s in their hearts, she helps him to confront his own increasing fears and erratic behavior.

As the two fall in love, their thoughts and actions become a poignant reminder that no matter what we look like on the outside, on the inside, we all long for the same thing – to be loved for who we are, faults and all.

McGovern, the mother of a teenage son with autism and one of the founders of Whole Children, a resource center that runs programs for children with special needs, has written a powerfully honest tale about the struggle of forging real relationships in the non-disabled world.

McGovern’s book is exceptional reading — not because its characters are disabled, but because we come to see them as normal as everyone else in their humanity, their fears, their hopes, and their dreams.

While “Say What You Will” may be appreciated most by those 15 and older, younger teens (and older) will love “Death Sworn” by Leah Cypess (Greenwillow Books, $17.99).

"Death Sworn" by Leah Cypress. Book cover courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

“Death Sworn” by Leah Cypess. Book cover courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Set in a fantasy world of magic and murder, seventeen-year-old Ileni is a powerful sorceress with a bright future. But when her magic begins to fade, she is sent to the Assassins’ Cave, deep within the mountains, to fulfill an ancient agreement between the sorcerers and a secret clan of assassins, losing her place in society and the man she loved.

As Ileni begins to teach the assassins magic, she must use her wits to stay alive while she tries to discover why the last two sorcerer tutors sent to the clan died within weeks of each other.

Protecting her is Sorin, a potential successor to the Master who leads the assassins. When romance sparks between the two, each begins to question what they have been taught about who they are. As secrets are revealed, Ileni discovers herself in a larger world, learning that there are things worth killing for, and that the loss of magic may lead to a greater purpose after all.

As she notes, “I can’t just let myself believe what everyone else believes. I need to see for myself.”

Cypess weaves a suspenseful mystery that grows more complex as the story unfolds, showing that what we judge to be dangerous and wrong may also have grace and goodness in its nature. Can’t wait for the sequel.










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