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I have been curious about this category of literature for some time. We all know about the enormous success of the Harry Potter series, which made JK Rowling the second richest woman in the United Kingdom.
Also, perhaps with a bit of envy on my part, Walter Myers, who was with me in a writer’s workshop at Columbia University, has gone on to great recognition as a Young Adult author.
As a publisher, the best selling book of all at Morton Books, Inc, was the Paperboy pre-teen series. We sold over 50,000 copies and are still selling the four book series.
But Paperboy was not a young adult book; this was a pre-teen book, written by a pre-teen. So what then is Young Adult Literature?
The best explanation I found on the internet was offered by Kay E. Vandergrift of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey:
“Young adult literature is often thought of as a great abyss between the wonderfully exciting and engaging materials for children and those for adults--just as young adults are often ignored in planning library facilities and services. There is, however, a wealth of fiction created especially for teens that deal with the possibilities and problems of contemporary life as experienced by this age group. These contemporary problem novels reflect the troubled times in which young readers are coming of age, but young people also need to laugh at themselves and at their world and to escape that world in flights of fancy.".
Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes—from Cleopatra to Camus, is not fiction. Instead, it is a book, where 50 historic persons, mixed with a few unknowns, or barely known, are profiled. From the provocative cover, with a barely nude woman lending it great dash, the book promises something that young adults, especially the males, have on their horny little minds all the time: sex.
As I read the book, some of the people author Kelly Murphy writes about did indeed have vigorous sex lives. Including a wily Cleopatra; and Lord Byron, who was said to be so handsome that women fainted when he walked into a room.
And who knew that a gloomy Gus such as Albert Camus, was such a ladies man
But what are we to make of including such a sexual skinflint as Gloria Steinem, while leaving out the two biggest womanizers of the 20th Century, JFK and Bill Clinton?
Also, for the majority of her subjects, their sex lives were pedestrian, if non-existent
The things that writer Murphy did have going for her in Historical Heartthrobs, is her inclusions of a wide variety of people, and her writer’s voice, which sounds a lot like the people she is writing to.
In the end, however, this book does not live up to its billing. There were few real “hotties,” “peccadilloes,” and “noteworthy liaison,” and much of what she wrote about her subject’s sex life was ho hum heaven.
But, Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes is classic bait and switch. There is some important information contained in this book, and some nice little history lessons, and an interesting way to try and teach history to young adults.
I get it completely.
Patti Davis’ book The Blue Hour is indeed a work of fiction, and it differs from Murphy’s book in not only the genre. There is no sex here. Nor is the language young adultish (if there is such a word). Davis clearly has a way with words, and she tells her young readers that they are just going to have to master it.
Davis puts this talent to great use in her novel. It is a ghost story, fulfilling Professor Kay E. Vandergrift words that “young people also need to laugh at themselves and at their world and to escape that world in flights of fancy.”
The Blue Hour is quite a fight of fancy, indeed. This is a classic ghost story: a kid comes to a small town and moves into a house where much mysterious trauma had occurred. No mistake about it, we had heard this one before.
But Davis adds something else, which is really the heart of her book: the loner, the daydreamer, the misfit. The kids who are her heroes and heroines, all at some point suffered from acute loneliness and misunderstanding, something many young adults can readily identify with
Davis also has going for The Blue Hour her great gift as a storyteller. She moves things around with such a natural gift; and just zips them along. And this is something that all of us editors and publishers love more than anything else, besides money.
With Patti, you just keep turning the pages.