Meg Rosoff, the highly esteemed author of Young Adult novels such as How I Live Now, Just in Case, and The Bride’s Farewell, has just been awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the most prestigious oeuvre prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Recently Meg visited Boekhandel van Rossum to discuss her newly translated teen book, Picture Me Gone (Mij niet gezien), as well as her first adult novel Jonathan Unleashed (Jonathan gaat los), a hugely funny look at a quirky young man struggling to make it in his first job in New York City. In her work questions of body, identity, and gender, the confusions of falling in love, and the desire and sexuality of the young are addressed with clever humor.
In The Secret Chord, the latest book by Pulitizer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks (known for People of the Book), King David, the shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath and became the unifier of the 12 tribes, is the central figure. The Secret Chord is a passionate reinterpretation of the Books of Samuel, where David is God’s anointed, warlord, minstrel, sensualist, trickster, covenanted friend. The prophet and scribe, Natan, reviews David’s life with a view to bequeathing to posterity a full record: “Not just the deeds. The man.”
Growing older is no one’s cup of tea but Cathleen Schine (known for The Three Weissmans) has taken a wry look at intergenerational views on an aging mother in They may not mean to but they do. Joy Bergman is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her adult children would prefer. She won’t take their advice, and she won’t take an antidepressant. This is a new type of coming-of-age book about the intrusion of old age into three generations of family life. Warm and very funny!
The International Man Booker Prize has now been combined with The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the winner of the 2016 award has been announced on 16 May: The Vegetarian by Han Kang. But one of the other notable candidates is the Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan, whose novel Man Tiger has been widely praised for its colourful and richly textured depiction of village life. Anwar Sadat, a charming womanizer and failed artist, has been murdered by the young Margio, a skilled hunter whose sweet personality belies the fact that he has “something inside him”. That something is a white tiger. A lyrical and arresting book with an innovative structure. Another tip from the International Man Booker Prize is the lovely novella by Robert Seethaler, A Whole Life.
The Singapore based thriller author Shamini Flint is visiting international schools in the Low Lands in April to talk about her Inspector Singh-series. So I picked up her most recent book, Inspector Singh Investigates: A Frightfully English Execution, a tale tackling religion, terrorism, and a number of strands straight out of today’s headlines. Singh and his wife are terrific characters and the books are a delight to read if you are looking for a new twist on the traditional genre.
The Scottish (Young Adult) fantasy Riverkeep by Martin Stewart is a debut inspired by the rivermen of Glasgow and has already been compared to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Game of Thrones. Nearly sixteen, Wulliam is preparing to take on his father’s responsibilities as Riverkeep, tending the river and rescuing bodies from the watery deep. But when his father’s body is invaded by a sinister spirit, Wull sets out on a dangerous quest to find the great sea-monster, the mormorach, which may be able to save his father. This is a terrific debut, and has the feel of a future classic.
We all Looked Up, the debut Young Adult novel by Tommy Wallach of Brooklyn, NY tackles teen issues in a world in which the asteroid Ardor is expected to collide with Earth within two months. Four Seattle high school students try to determine the meaning of their lives in a society which begins to vacillate between anarchy and an emerging police state, between end-of-the-world partying and ethical dilemmas. Two months to discover what is really important in life.
The prestigious British Da Costa Award of 2015 went to The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. This brilliant Victorian fantasy with a gothic darkness takes place ten years after Darwin has announced his theory of evolution, throwing both religion and the study of natural sciences into turmoil. The bright but underestimated daughter of an esteemed Anglican minister and scientist comes into her own when her father mysteriously dies and she investigates his death and his legacy, the chimerical Lie Tree. An ingenious and exciting (young) adult thriller with supernatural elements.
Part cowboy Western and part Arabian Nights, Rebel of the Sands is a thrill of a read with elements of dynastic conflict, romance and mythical djinns. Alwyn Hamilton’s debut novel is terrific fun and it is, fortunately, the first in a planned series. Ideal adventure for 12+.
The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler is the first in a children’s series (10 to 13) but most fantasy readers of all ages will love the premise of Readers in the dangerous world of an extraordinary library. Alice is sent to be an apprentice to Uncle Geryon and discovers that when she is drawn into a book she is literally living the story – and needing to develop skills to fight off the dangers she encounters. The rip-roaring storytelling continues in the even faster-moving follow-up, The Mad Apprentice. And the author is far from finished with his tales!