Youth fiction without the whining

Mopey whining youth fiction got you down? Searching for books that don’t require young readers to stock up on anti-depressants, Jay Greene found Peak by Roland Smith and Among the Hidden, by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

There’s enough mopey whining to appeal to those feelings among adolescents, but there’s also action, politics, self-sacrifice, and triumph. That is, they’re good stories.

In Peak the protagonist is a 14 year-old child of famous mountain-climbers who gets into trouble for climbing sky-scrappers. He’s rescued from juvenile detention by being sent-abroad with his absentee dad who plans to get the 14 year-old to be the youngest person to summit Everest. But the plan is complicated by an intrusive reporter, Tibetan politics, and oppressive Chinese army officials — not to mention the harsh conditions of climbing the world’s highest peak. Along with the adventurous story of mountain-climbing, the book contains a fair dose of Tibetan-Chinese politics, and a strained father-son relationship.

Among the Hidden is the first of a 7 book series about a future dystopia in which the government has forbidden anyone from having more than two children to prevent famine and other overuse of resources. The protagonist is a third-child who was secretly born and raised on a remote farm.

In England, authors won’t be able to give school talks unless they register on a data base intended to screen out pedophiles. They’ll have to pay a fee of about $100. Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass (excellent!),  is leading the protest.

About Joanne


  1. linda seebach says:

    (Cross-posted to Jay’s blog)
    Young adult science fiction is a rich (and varied) mine of great reading.

    The 2009 Locus finalists for Young Adult Novel are:

    Little Brother, Cory Doctorow (Tor);
    The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, Bloomsbury);
    Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan (Knopf);
    Nation, Terry Pratchett (Doubleday UK, HarperCollins);
    Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi (Tor)

    The only one I’ve read is Little Brother, but I’m also a fan of Gaiman and Scalzi (and all three of those books are Hugo finalists as well).

    Nebula finalists for 2008 were:
    Graceling, by Kristin Cashore (Harcourt)

    Lamplighter, by D.M. Cornish (Putnam)

    Savvy, by Ingrid Law (Dial)

    The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt)

    Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room), by Ysabeau S. Wilce (Harcourt)

  2. Ragnarok says:

    “Weirdstone of Brisingamen” and “Moon of Gomrath” by Alan Garner; also “Sand Dune Pony”, beautiful writing.

    “Red Sky at Morning”, Richard Bradford.

  3. I loved Weirdstone of Brisingamen when I was a kid.

  4. Tracy W says:

    I’m going to recommend my cousin’s, Fleur Beale, book Red Dog in Bandit Country. This guy showed up at one of her writing classes, couldn’t write anything, but had some amazing stories so they wrote the book together. The guy, whose air-force call name was “Red Dog” gets a job flying payroll where the plane was hijacked the last few runs, then takes on explosives work in the same bandit-infested area.
    Lots of details about munitions, dodging bandits, etc.

  5. deirdremundy says:

    Don’t forget “The Hunger Games”—- I mean, sure it’s all post-apocalyptic-fight-for-the-death-reality TV like, but it’s actually MORE about triumph of the Human spirit… and the MC DOESN’T whine….

    Also, for the less sci-fi oriented Meg Cabot’s “Airhead” series is fun—think Peter Dickinson’s “Eva” but with a supermodel playing the role of chimpanzee…..

    And, for pure, non-angsty fun, give Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series a try.

    Honestly, I think most of these people complaining about YA must not READ any. If all the books in your daughter’s room are whiny and angst-ridden, it’s probably because that’s what she likes to read….

    (Like the people when we were young whose entire book collections consisted of those ‘someone I love died from cancer’ books…..)

  6. There’s also Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It’s definitely got very little whine!

  7. Tracy W says:

    Deirdre Mundy – my grandmother kept trying to get me to read those whiny, angst-ridden YA books, as a change from my fantasy and SF diet. She had some idea that I should be reading “literature”. I thought the books were about as remote from my life as the fantasy and SF anyway.

  8. Margo/Mom says:

    (Like the people when we were young whose entire book collections consisted of those ’someone I love died from cancer’ books…..)

    The one I never got was the fascination with horse stories–but I had several friends who went there.

  9. deirdremundy says:

    Tracy– I read very little YA in high school… because I was into Fantasyy/Sci Fi… I think it’s wonderful that FSF is finally a LEGIT teen genre…

    Oh, btw— Another awesome teen series is Scott Westerfield’s Uglies.

    And for the fantasy-minded, check out Jessica Day George’s – Dragon Slippers, Flight of Dragons, and Princess at the Midnight Ball.

    Also, Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Margaret Mahy, Dianne Wynne Jones, Jane Yolen and Patricia McKillip are still writing, and still good!