I love young adult novels. I crave them like air and chocolate. Yes, I realize I am far past young adult reading, but there is something in their simplicity that catches me suddenly in another dream world. They are not often mentally-challenging; there is no heightened language, but there is something stark in their nakedness: illustration. Not illustrations, although, yes, some of them have those, too. But illustration in their imagination. In order to capture the insane ADD attention of a kid, a young adult novel has to be daring, dangerous, breath-taking, imaginative, inventive, engrossing... no wait! I can still come up with more adjectives!
You get the picture. And in order to write and read a young adult novel, you have to be able to get the picture. So here is my latest that I just finished reading, James Collier's and Christopher Collier's My Brother Sam is Dead. Obviously the ending isn't a mystery or a shocker, as I'm sure you can tell what happens by the title. But what's engrossing is how you get to that point.
This particular book is a young young adult novel, although I will say it's got some fairly graphic moments for kids too young. The story takes place in the years leading up to and subsequently following the American Revolution in Colonial New England. Okay, I know, that's been beaten to death, but this one is different: it doesn't choose a side. The story revolves around the unrest within our own country, not so much with the British, but with the Continentals, Patriots, and Tories, and with their treatment of one another. Its historical accuracy is mind-blowing, but more so, the question it raises is important: who's right in war? Both sides are right and both sides are wrong here, each equally doing awful things and each equally raising good, valid points. No one wins, nothing gets resolved, and everyone loses. It's sad; I cried. Yet, there's a revolutionary feeling of empowerment and excitement running throughout the story that makes you a little excited yourself.