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Friday, October 18, 2013

Best Young Adult Book I've Read this Semester

Fforde, Jasper (2010)  The Last Drogonslayer  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin

Jasper Fforde writes the Tuesday Next series  -- pretty much my favorite book series since the Hitchhiker's guide series.  The problem with the Tuesday Next books, though, is that besides wonderful humor, a gripping story, and tons of nerdy oddball unexplained references (Did you know that our universe got Aldi Supermarkets in an extra-dimensional trade for some classic rock music), it also has lots of clever literary references.  And even the brightest, most amazing high school English nerd has not had enough time to read all the classic literature that would allow them to get those references. 

And this has been frustrating to me, because I want to recommend Fforde's work to young readers, but I am afraid they will be turned off by all the literary references.  And then along comes this book and...oh, my word!  (That is pretty strong language for me, actually).

The main character, Jennifer Strange, is a fifteen year old Volkswagen bug-driving indentured maanger for the Kazam wizarding company. The world Jennifer lives in has been slowly losing its magic or decades.  Partly this is blamed on the dragons, who occupy lands separate from the humans -- and neither race stays into the other lands because of a treaty and some pretty powerful spells.  So Jennifer, her quarkbest (kind of a spikey dog) and her.....

Look, this isn't working, and here is why.  It isn't the plot that makes this book wonderful (though the plot is well crafted.)  It is actually the writing.  Okay, try this(this is the first page):

"Once, I was famous.  My face was seen on T-shirts, badges, commemorative mugs, and posters.  I made the front page news, appeared on TV, and was even a special guest on The Yogi Baird Daytime TV Show.  The Daily Clam called me "the year's most influential teenager," and I was the Mullusc on Sunday's Woman of the Year.  Two people tried to kill me.  I was threatened with jail, had fifty-eight offers of marriage, and was outlawed by King Snodd IV.  All that and more besides, and in less than a week.        My name is Jennifer Strange."

Okay, try this one.  This is from page 10:

"The phone bleeped.
'Jenny?  It's Perkins.'
The Youthful Perkins was one of the only young sorcerers at Kazam and was serving a loose apprenticeship.  His particular field of interest was Remote Suggestion, although he wasn't very good at it.  He'd once attempted to get us to like him by sending out a broad Am I cool or what?! suggestion on the wide subalpha, but he missed it up with the suggestion that he often cheated at Scabble, and then wondered why everyone stared at him and shook their heads sadly.  It had been very amusing until it wore off, but not to Perkins."

Look.  You are just going to have to trust me on this one.  If you like really clever and funny books that are page turners with a lot of action and twists and stuff -- pick this book up and give it a shot,  Then give it to a middle school or high school kid with a good sense of humor. 

Now if you will excuse me, when I was finding that picture up top there I found out the sequel, The Song of the Quarkbeast is apparently just out and I NEED to read it now. 

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