Friday, November 9, 2007

Move Over, Harry Potter

This afternoon I read Ellen Klages's YA novel, THE GREEN GLASS SEA. This book, which won the prestigious Scott O'Dell award for young adult literature, is about two eleven-year-old girls who live at Los Alamos with their scientist fathers during the Manhattan Project. Both girls are social misfits, very bright, and imaginative -- not unlike many of us SF fans as children. It's a terrific book, ending with the atom bomb detonations at Trinity and then Hiroshima, as only half-understood through the eyes of children.

What I noticed about the book, quite apart from enoying it, is how much it differs from the fantasies that are read by all the 12-16-year-old I know. The Harry Potter books and their clones are all fast-paced, fantastical, full of dangerous and wild adventures. GREEN GLASS SEA is very slow-paced, quiet, focussed on things like building a crystal radio and learning to trust a friend. All the drama concening the bomb happens off-stage -- way off-stage. So as I finished the book, I had to wonder -- do kids like this book as much as I do? Maybe they do. If not, do adults then give awards to books they think kids ought to like?

I have no answers to this. But I'm going to give GREEN GLASS SEA to a 15-year-old I know and see what she thinks.


Steven Francis Murphy said...

I remember when I was in school we read endless "award winning" stories for one assignment or another that were immediately forgetable. Yet the teachers frowned when you picked up "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" or "The Martian Chronicles" or the Ramona Quimby novels.

I suspect the awards go to what adults think kids should be reading. The kids, very much like your enemy in any given war, have a vote in the situation and they invariably pick something else.

I know I did.

S. F. Murphy

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Again, Nancy, guys and girls are different. A young lady would be interested in the genesis and development of relationships. A young fella, "A bomb! Cool! How did we make it? How did we use it?"

Robert Heinlein--my hero!--wrote 2 female first-person novels--PODKAYNE OF MARS and FRIDAY.

Do they ring true?