I've just finished reviewing two books from Canadian publishers: The Mitochondrial Curiosities of Marcels 1-19 by Jocelyn Brown and A Very Fine Line by Julie Johnston. The only thing they have in common is teen girl protagonists but otherwise these two could not be more different. And yet they reveal a bit of a growing trend I've seen lately, that the YA novelists taking chances seem to be located north of the border and the Canadians, who I was always taught were deadly dull and really just a bunch of wanna be Americans (I should note I was taught this in school and most certainly not at home) are writing some books that I doubt would even be published down here.
Lately we seem to be on a major kick of liking our YA fiction either of an obviously fantasy kind or otherwise very very predictably angsty. I know I'm being absurdly general here but I have been losing my mind with the similarity of YA fiction lately. It's not just vamps (who are still everywhere and still not scary) but that really, a lot of it is lost in a blur of my parents don't understand me/my friends don't understand me/I don't understand me/what shall become of me dramarama. And romance. Lots and lots and lots of pining on the part of girls and confusion on the part of boys. I know there is a ton of good stuff out there (I write about it every month after all) but different styles or plots or just different circumstance is not that easy to come by. That is why Cara Hedley's Twenty Miles stood out for me so much last month - female hockey players! Huzzah!
In the case of these two recent reads you have a historical novel about family secrets, cross dressing and clairvoyance from Julie Johnston and a contemporary novel about 15 year old crafter/blogger Dree who is convinced her father left her money before he died so she could pursue her crafting dreams in Toronto but to find it she also uncovers a family secret and makes more than a few impulsive decisions that result in a lot of trouble. In both novels the teens in question move from denial to acceptance about a whole host of things which is certainly traditional coming-of-age territory, but the paths they walk are unusual and that's why both books have been refreshing reads for me.
Mitochondrial Curiosities is from Coach House Books - like Twenty Miles - and further proof of why this small press is moving way up the list on my favorite publishers. A Very Fine Line is from Tundra Books which does great work on picture books as well and a company whose titles I've looked forward to for several years. (My review of Johnston's earlier historical Susanna's Quill, also from Tundra, can be found here. Call it Little House on the Prairie if Ma Ingalls became a writer to help support the family through some horrific conditions - it's based completely on a real woman and real family.)
The pubs provided copies of both of these books - A Very Fine Line will be formally reviewed in my February column next year (can you believe that?!) and Mitochondrial will likely be in the December winter break reading column.