The beauty of YA books is that they are usually positive. However, when a YA author writes about history, especially a difficult part of history, through the lens of a teen the result can be especially riveting. Here are a few titles that balance the positive nature of the YA genre with the reality and trials of history.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
If you only need to know one thing about Code Name Verity it’s this – it’s about girls flying planes in World War II. The humanity in Code Name Verity leaks out around the edges of a story about two best friends who flew giant airplanes to secretive places in war during a time when they weren’t supposed to.
The first half of the book is a little bit confusing. There are names, terms, locations and wonderful vernacular that is befuddling but also alluring. At least until you reach the section of the book where suddenly find the key and the brilliance of Code Name Verity shines through.
I loved how the characters each had their own vernacular depending on where they were from, who they were around and what they had experienced. It’s a detail that Elizabeth Wein nailed so nicely. It really gives you the perspective of how people cope with war, loss, pain and turmoil. How, eventually the fight becomes tiring, the blaming wears you down, and in the end humanity turns back to fix the wrongs.
Each and every character is complex, unique and flawed in a way that only someone with great insight into humanity can write about. The real wonderment of Code Name Verity is its commentary on relationships. Yes, PEOPLE are important, FRIENDSHIP is important and human interaction is important. Every person inevitably touches the lives of those around them. Like Maddie says, “Those ripples in the pond again – it just doesn’t stop in one place. All those lives that have touched mine so briefly – most of them I don’t even know their real names.”
Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
I find the idea 1849 gold rush in America very romantic, but Rae Carson made me care. Carson first wrote a fantasy fiction series called The Girl of Fire and Thorns, which is really right up my ally. So when she published Walk on Earth a Stranger I figured I would give it a try.
Be aware that Walk on Earth a Stranger is not an overly action-packed novel. Although the time period is a different and interesting part of the story, the characters are really what drives this book. Lee is another dynamite female character! Carson has a knack for writing women as strong and talented. Lee fits that mold entirely. Carson’s writing also does a nice job of addressing issues such as poverty and racism. It’s interesting to see how the relationships from this book continue to evolve throughout the series.
If you liked playing Oregon Trail as a kid, enjoy your historical fiction gritty and don’t mind a bit of folksy magic, you will enjoy this book.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Monty is a rouge in all the ways you can imagine a young man born into 1700’s gentry can be. He also knows that his life of vice is probably coming to an end as he approaches his Grand Tour of Europe. Knowing this, he makes his year of travel one he will never forget. Along with his sister, Felicity, and crush, Percy, he embarks on an unforgettable journey across Europe.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is packed full of adventure, danger and romance. Somehow in the middle of the frivolity and gallivanting, Lee sneaks in some pretty heavy topics including abuse, racism and disability.
If regency era romance featuring gay characters and well developed storytelling is your thing then this book is too.