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Books for the Kid in All of Us: Harry Potter’s Literary Legacy

Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor

ImageIt’s funny: when I was young, I couldn’t wait to start reading “adult” books. When I was about 12, I gave up on the teen book section altogether. And yet here I am, legitimately an adult, and I find myself reading teen books again.

I blame Harry Potter.

Yes, that Harry Potter, the bespectacled wizard who became a literary sensation. Sure, the Harry Potter books might have been located on the children’s bookshelf. But these were not just children’s books. The Harry Potter series became so popular that it became socially acceptable for adults to read them. And read them I did.

But I didn’t stop there.  Lately, I’ve been reading teen books just as often—if not more—than adult books.  Why?  Maybe these books have allowed me to rediscover my lost youth.  Maybe it’s because, as a somewhat volatile person myself, I can relate to the everything-is-life-or-death mentality of teenage characters.  Or maybe it’s because teen-oriented novels seem to break the boundaries of genre more than more adult-oriented books.

The only drawback of books featuring teenage protagonists is that they make me feel, at the ripe old age of 25, rather over-the-hill.  So if anyone has any suggestions of compelling, genre-bending books I can read that feature characters over the age of 16, let me know.  Until then, I’m going to keep enjoying my teen novels.  Here are a few of the best I’ve read recently:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins—Katniss Everdeen is 16-year-old girl living in the District 12 of Panem, the country that used to be known as the United States.  Every year, the Capitol—as a symbol of their dominance over the districts—sponsors the Hunger Games, a competition where adolescents from each district are pitted against each other to the death.  After her sister is selected for the games, Katniss volunteers to go in her place.  It’s one part The Most Dangerous Game, one part Lord of the Flies, with a little bit of Survivor and American Idol mixed in.  But so what if it’s a little bit derivative; the smart, independent heroine combined with the disturbing dystopia of Panem make this one of the most compelling, unsettling books I’ve ever read.  And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so: no less than the horror master himself, Stephen King, gave it a positive review.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer—We tend to take the moon for granted.  There it is, just hanging out in the sky, not really appearing to do much.  It’s not as bright as the sun or as pretty as the stars.  But when a gigantic asteroid hits the moon and throws it off of its orbit, suddenly the importance of the moon becomes completely obvious.  The story is told from the perspective of sixteen-year-old Miranda, who recounts the increasing horrors of her moon-affected reality in vivid detail through her diary entries.  The most startling thing about this book is that Miranda actually sounds and acts like a sixteen year old: she’s moody, sarcastic, frequently annoyed by her mother, and worried about getting a prom date.  It’s exactly that quality that makes Miranda’s growing maturity as her circumstances become increasingly harrowing all that much more realistic and touching.  This book will also inevitably make you want to stock up on flashlights and bottled water.

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge—Daniel is a seemingly ordinary fifteen-year-old, except for the fact that he can change his shape, create living people out of his imagination, and he battles evil aliens in his spare time.  This book is exciting and funny, but also a little bit sad.  Daniel’s parents were killed by an alien when he was a small child, so he conjures them up when he gets lonely.  His only friends are also figments of his imagination.  Sure, they may be much more tangible than your run-of-the-mill imaginary friends, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re not real.  But Daniel does get to kick some alien ass, so that’s a plus.  This is slated to be the first book in a series, so there’s a good chance we’ll see a lot more of Daniel in the future.  (It’s also the 47 billionth book James Patterson has published this year, which makes me wonder how this man sleeps!)


And now for something completely different…

Selected Book Releases, October 27-November 2

October 28

The Gate House by Nelson DeMille—This sequel to The Gold Coast focuses on lawyer John Sutter, his ex-wife, and their ties to the mafia.

A Good Woman by Danielle Steel—Uber-romance novelist Danielle Steel tries her hand at historical drama.

Alex & Me by Irene Pepperberg—The story of Alex the parrot and Irene Pepperberg, the animal intelligence researcher who develops a deep bond with him.

Nothing with Strings: NPR’s Beloved Holiday Stories by Bailey White—For a decade, Bailey White has been delivering holiday stories to the NPR’s radio audience every Thanksgiving.  This book is a collection of those stories.

Love and Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson—In this sequel to Peaches and The Secrets of Peaches, three teenage friends reunite in Georgia after a year apart.  Sounds a lot like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, only with peaches instead of blue jeans.

Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman by Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden and Stephen R. Bissette—Chronicles the history and impact of the works of Neil Gaiman.

October 29

Road to Quoz: An American Mosey by William Least Heat-Moon—This travel book from the author of Blue Highways wins the award for the weirdest book title of the year.

October 30

The Darwin Awards Next Evolution: Chlorinating the Gene Pool by Wendy Northcut—For over two decades now, the Darwin Awards have been honoring the people who sacrifice their lives to improve the gene pool for the rest of us.  Thank them by buying this book.

Author: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor

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