December 19, 2012

Writing Club Wednesday: YA across the borders

Hello m'lovelies!

The books I grew up with came from all over the places. English classics, children's books translated from Swedish or Spanish, Dutch books, German book, French books... It seemed perfectly normal to read all across the world, because magical children's stories are magical children's stories no matter the language.

Peter Pan Sculpture. Photo credit Chris Scott
at the Scottish Book Trust.
When I started reading YA that... changed a bit. Although I'm lucky enough to be able to read several languages, my primary language for YA reads is English. Even more specifically: USYA. And you know what? That's such a shame. Because there is so much more.

There is a world of YA out there. UKYA, Aussie YA, books translated from so many foreign languages. (German, Japanese, French, to name just a few.) One blog post is not enough to tell you all there is to know about it. YA across the borders isn't just interesting for readers. You know reading is an integral part of writing, right? Right. Reading across the borders is a great way for us writers to broaden our horizons too. To learn about different cultures. To get to know different styles of writing. To focus on diversity from a truly different perspective.

Now I'm not saying there's anything wrong with only reading USYA, because there are so many fantastic books. And many fantastic books from other countries do make their way to the bookstores through the magic of foreign rights. But let me let you in on a little secret: those books you find that are actively marketed as translated YA, that's only the top of iceberg. (Surprising, no?)

And in this digital day and age, it's so easy to find and order books from all over the world. Books like these, to name just a few:
Janne Teller - Nothing (Denmark)
When Pierre-Anthon realizes there is no meaning to life, the seventh-grader leaves his classroom, climbs a tree, and stays there. His classmates cannot make him come down, not even by pelting him with rocks. So to prove to Pierre-Anthon that life has meaning, the children decide to give up things of importance. The pile starts with the superficial—a fishing rod, a new pair of shoes. But as the sacrifices become more extreme, the students grow increasingly desperate to get Pierre-Anthon down, to justify their belief in meaning.
Cat Clarke - Undone (UK)
Jem Halliday is in love with her gay best friend. Not exactly ideal, but she's learning to live with it. Then the unspeakable happens. Kai is outed online ... and he kills himself. Jem knows nothing she can say or do will bring him back. But she wants to know who was responsible. And she wants to take them down.
Antonia Michaelis - The Storyteller (Germany)
Anna and Abel couldn’t be more different. They are both seventeen and in their last year of school, but while Anna lives in a nice old town house and comes from a well-to-do family, Abel, the school drug dealer, lives in a big, prisonlike tower block at the edge of town. Anna is afraid of him until she realizes that he is caring for his six-year-old sister on his own. Fascinated, Anna follows the two and listens as Abel tells little Micha the story of a tiny queen assailed by dark forces. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that Anna comes to see has a basis in reality. Abel is in real danger of losing Micha to their abusive father and to his own inability to make ends meet. Anna gradually falls in love with Abel, but when his “enemies” begin to turn up dead, she fears she has fallen for a murderer. Has she?
Treasure Island Sculpture. Photo credit Chris Scott
at the Scottish Book Trust.
Leanne Hall - This is Shyness (Australia)
A guy who howls. A girl on a mission to forget. In the suburb of Shyness, where the sun doesn’t rise and the border crackles with a strange energy, Wolfboy meets a stranger at the Diabetic Hotel. She tells him her name is Wildgirl, and she dares him to be her guide through the endless night. But then they are mugged by the sugar-crazed Kidds. And what plays out is moving, reckless...dangerous. There are things that can only be said in the dark. And one long night is time enough to change your life.
Natsuo Kirino - Real World (Japan)
In a crowded residential suburb on the outskirts of Tokyo, four teenage girls indifferently wade their way through a hot, smoggy summer and endless “cram school” sessions meant to ensure entry into good colleges. There’s Toshi, the dependable one; Terauchi, the great student; Yuzan, the sad one, grieving over the death of her mother—and trying to hide her sexual orientation from her friends; and Kirarin, the sweet one, whose late nights and reckless behavior remain a secret from those around her. When Toshi’s next-door neighbor is found brutally murdered, the girls suspect the killer is the neighbor’s son, a high school boy they nickname Worm. But when he flees, taking Toshi’s bike and cell phone with him, the four girls get caught up in a tempest of dangers—dangers they never could have even imagined—that rises from within them as well as from the world around them.
Michael Morpurgo - Private Peaceful (UK)
"They've gone now, and I'm alone at last. I have the whole night ahead of me, and I won't waste a single moment of it . . . I want tonight to be long, as long as my life . . ." For young Private Peaceful, looking back over his childhood while he is on night watch in the battlefields of the First World War, his memories are full of family life deep in the countryside: his mother, Charlie, Big Joe, and Molly -- the love of his life. Too young to be enlisted, Thomas has followed his brother to war and now, every moment he spends thinking about his life, means another moment closer to danger.
Delphine de Vigan - No and Me (France)
Parisian teenager Lou has an IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life—and that of her parents—all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou bravely asks her parents if No can live with them, and is astonished when they agree. No’s presence forces Lou’s family to come to terms with a secret tragedy. But can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together when No’s own past comes back to haunt her?
For more information about YA across the borders, click the above links or have a look at the shortlists of the Batchelder Award as a starting point. (The Batchelder Award is given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.)

What about you, Misfits? Do you read translated or UK/Aussie YA? Do you have any favorites?

(The accompanying pictures are creations from the mysterious Edinburgh book sculptor. For more information, see here:


Caitlin R. O'Connell said...

Those sound really awesome!! I haven't read these (although I should really read some Michael Morpurgo because the War Horse play is the most beautiful thing ever). I am, however, a huge Cornelia Funke fan; all her stuff is translated from German (and mostly set in Italy, oddly enough).

Stephsco said...

Very cool! I think it's mostly a matter of knowing where to look, and where these books exist online to get a hold of them.

Carrie-Anne said...

I read two non-U.S. books for my final project in YA Lit class this semester, Paul Dowswell's The Ausländer and Anne C. Voorhoeve's My Family for the War. Earlier this year I also read Mal Peet's Tamar, though I felt the YA designation for that was a bit iffy, since over half of the story is about three adults in their twenties, with very adult concerns. Reading YA historicals like these, and comparing them to American offerings like The Luxe and Vixen, has made me feel that the best in YA historical these days is to be found in other countries. The books I read felt more like the historicals I grew up reading, with younger characters, not just fluffy period pieces that seemed to be YA first and historical a distant, minor second.

Marieke said...

Caitlin--yes, DEFINITELY read Morpurgo! I saw Private Peaceful on the West End earlier this year and it absolutely gutted me. SO good.

I agree about Funke. Love her stuff, but I keep postponing reading it since I want to read it in German and it makes it so much harder to find the books. #languagesnob

Steph--so true! Good thing about websites like Am*zon and the Book Depo is that they do make it so much easier to find these books. It'll always be a bit more difficult, but not impossibe anymore!

Carrie-Anne--I agree and I disagree. There are quite a few VERY strong YA historicals too, but I do agree some of them tend to be a bit more fluffy. (Nothing wrong with that, but not ideal if you're looking for gritty historical.)

Still, Elizabeth Wein's CODE NAME VERITY is *amazing* (UK/US). Same with Markus Zusak's THE BOOK THIEF and Ruta Sepetys's BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY. Katherine Marsh's JEPP, WHO DEFIED THE STARS, set at the Spanish court in the middle ages, is really quite exceptional too. I haven't read H.M. Castor's VIII (about a young Henry VIII) yet, but I've been hearing good things about that too :) There are actually quite a few strong, recent historicals out there, imo! :)

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