First, just wanted to say a short word about YA Saves. I'm so proud of the entire YA community. The quick, organized, and earnest response was something I don't think any other genre of literature (or any other medium of art, really) could have mustered. I love how YA readers and writers can so succinctly express their allegiance to and appreciation of the genre. One wonderful thing I read over and over from aspiring authors was "I can't wait to be a YA author." I couldn't agree more. For a great compile of YA Saves tweets, head here. Now for the main event.
Three summers ago, I volunteered at a library in Superior, Montana. This was the summer between my first and second years in the MFA program, and I'd just been awakened to the magic of YA and children's literature again. While working at the library, my eye kept catching on a book called Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge--the cover especially drew me in (shouldn't be surprising, since the cover illustrator is one of my favorite children's book artists, Brett Helquist, of Lemony Snicket fame). Here's the Goodreads description:
Twelve-year-old Mosca Mye hasn't got much. Her parents are dead, her cruel uncle keeps her locked away, and her only friend is her pet goose. But she does have one small, rare thing: the ability to read. In a world where books are dangerous things, this gift will change her life—but it may also be the death of her.
The book is gnarly, and that's one of the highest compliments I can pay a book. It's complex and funky and dark and not easily digested. One of the things I loved the most was the world-building. At the center of this fantasized version of 18th century England is a complex, vibrant religious subculture (you guys know how I love a well-done religious subplot). The gnarliest part is the language. I so appreciate when an author makes not only characters and plot interesting, but the language, too.
This was Frances Hardinge's first novel, and sometimes it runs away with itself. But, what was amazing and admirable and wonderful was her uncensored ambition. She had a big, big story to tell in a big, big world. Not everything's entirely successful, but man is it fascinating and fun to go along for the ride. Hardinge has since written many other novels, including her most recent, The Lost Conspiracy, which was widely acclaimed by critics.
The sequel, Fly Trap, just came out. A sequel was completely unexpected, and I was so excited to learn of it. It's been three years since I read Fly By Night, but it made a deep impression and I remember it often.
If Fly By Night sounds like your kind of book, I really hope you check it out, and any other books buy this under-appreciated author.