Janni Lee Simner
Taking the Icelandic myths as a jumping-off place, Simner weaves a tale of enchantment about a contemporary teen separated from her father, searching for her missing mother. Helped along the way by a raven, a fox and a shape-shifting bear, Haley braves danger to find out the truth and her way back.
I really liked the fox character and wished he had more of a role to play in her search, but he was there when it mattered.
I once wrote a historical novel. It was August in Tucson, and I was stuck in town. So I did second best. I chose a place far, far away. I set my novel in Maine in winter. At least I could mentally escape. Simnel, a fellow Tucsonan, may have felt a similar urge to escape by choosing Iceland for her setting, far away from the desert heat.
Robert A. Heinlein
Before the genre of Young Adult existed we had juveniles. Heinlein’s juveniles are an a class by themselves. Designed for younger readers, they feature teens who are faced with problems they have to solve for themselves. That doesn’t mean they can’t be read and enjoyed by adults, too.
I first started reading Heinlein as an adolescent, and I still enjoy reading him. He never talked down to his readers and the problems they faced are a challenge to adults, too.
This story has a little too much hard science in it to be one of my favorites. How a torch ship is powered, how faster-than-light travel works, for example, arnn’t deeply interesting to me. More interesting is the situation of one twin who is cheated out of an opportunity to travel to the stars by his manipulative twin. When his twin Pat is injured in a skiing accident, Tom suddenly has the chance of a lifetime.
This book lacks the humor of Star Beast and the social commentary of Citizen of the Galaxy, but it’s still a good read.
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I never seem to catch the first story in a series by Hoffman, but her writing is so engaging it doesn’t seem to matter. Who cares about what these people are, why they are where they are, and what their relationships are. It’s what happens next that is important.
Nick Verrou has to help his father run a small convenience store and a handful of tourist cabins near a lake. He enjoys watching the people in the cabins, not in a creepy way, but a curious boy way. His attention is caught by the people in the Lacey cabin. There’s something strange about them.
While Nick and we find out about just how strange they are, we discover Nick’s own strangeness. We see him develop from a boy to a man, and are intrigued enough to boy the previous book just to find out more about those Lacey people and what they are up to in that cabin.
Jane Yolen uses three voices to tell the story of the white-haired child, Jenna, who is found by the warriors of the Hame: straight-forward story telling, folk songs, and academic analysis. Among the three sources emerges a world in transition, awaiting the white leader who is to take their world through a disruptive time to a new world order.
Jenna, also called Jo-ann-enna, learns that she is this white warrior. Her growth into the prophecy is rocky, resisted by the leaders of her world, accepted by some. The calling forth of her dark sister, Skalda, visible only by moonlight and candle light, helps her to accept her fate.
Jane Yolen has a gift for world building that creates an articulate, believable world for Jenna to come into her powers. This book, the first of three, is a solid introduction to her life and surroundings.
I really like Andre Norton. I started reading her in high school and never stopped. I even remember the first book by her I ever read—Time Traders. I reread that recently and found it held up pretty well. Today my favorites are stories of High Hallack. They feature heroines who have agency, intelligence and courage. This book is no exception. Gillan opts for adventure over security and nearly loses her life when she trades places with a young women, one of twelve plus one promised to men who came to the aid of her country in time of war. Their bargain is women for wives in exchange for their help. Gillan sees the distress of the young women, and offers to take her place. She finds more than she bargained for in the man she she is matched with.
If I had one complaint, it would be that the book finished too soon. Since it is part of a series, I hope to meet Gillan and Herrel again.