Young Adult Literature
As I read the novels for this year’s AML Young Adult literature award, I noticed a recurring theme. Nearly all of the authors had created teenage characters who were, in one way or another, experiencing a transformation of perspective. They were young men and women who were questioning everything they thought they knew about themselves, their world, and their place in that world. I don’t think that’s accidental. For many of us, adolescence is the time when the bottom falls out of our mental and emotional assurances, when what we thought we knew becomes far less clear.
The best of 2010’s crop of admirable young adult novels is Matched by Ally Condie. Condie places her protagonist, Cassia, in an uncomfortably comfortable spot. She is part of a manufactured utopia, the Society, where choice is severely limited to ensure a peaceful, uncomplicated existence for the majority of its citizens. Sixteen-year-old Cassia is thrilled to be matched to her childhood friend Xander, the arranged marriage further proof that the Society knows best. But when another young man’s face, an acquaintance named Ky, appears briefly on her match file, Cassia begins to question her carefully prescribed life. As she comes to know both Ky and the Society better, she is faced with a dilemma. Knowing both the cost and the reward of choice, Cassia must choose her own future.
Ally Condie has created a “perfect” society that is both convincing and disturbing, populated it with recognizable characters that one can’t help but care about, and whetted readers’ appetites for the next chapter of this riveting story. The only problem? Crossed, the next novel in this trilogy, won’t be published until this November.