It's Monday! What are you reading?
A face, masked in cobalt feathers, has been haunting my reading life for a couple of years now. I think the first time I encountered it, I was browsing the teen section at the local book store, my soy chai latte in hand. I picked it up that day, ran my fingers over the images of the feathers thinking that I might feel their soft, glossy texture. I remember a tangible chill that ran up the length of my fingers and the length of my arm. Then, I put it down.
Since that day, the enigmatic mask and daring gaze caught me now and then as I straightened shelves, pulled books out of the return bin, and even placed it in to the hands of one of my avid fantasy readers.
“Have you ever asked yourself,do monsters make war, or does war make monsters? I've seen things, angel. There are guerrilla armies that make little boys kill their own families. Such acts rip out the soul and make space for beasts to grow inside. Armies need beasts, don't they? Pet beasts, to do their terrible work! And the worst part is, it's almost impossible to retrieve a soul that has been ripped away. Almost."
This YA fantasy series by National Book Award author Laini Taylor is Romeo and Juliet, Aida, and Paradise Lost--but it also reads, to me, as a marvelous commentary on contemporary tensions and turmoils filling the CNN and MSNBC newsfeed this past week.
I do not pretend to understand, nor have I really sought understanding in regards to the present situation in Syria. It honestly hurts my heart to do so. When I find my mind grappling with the myriad of political commentary, ethical analysis, and presidential criticism, my son's face surfaces in my mind, and I freeze at the thought of the world that he is inheriting.
Karou, the heroine of Daughter of Smoke and bone finds herself in the middle of an ancient battle between good and evil--but, of course, who the real demons are is in the eye of the beholder.
Here's the thing that I love most about extraordinary Young Adult works--they allow teens to explore, experience, and process situations and questions in a safe context. Many teens will gravitate this series for the unmistakable star-crossed lovers and first love; but, many--I believe--will find that this little work of fantasy has a lot to contribute to in the way they choose to respond to their generation's greatest conflict: hate.
“You have only to begin, Lir. Mercy breeds mercy as slaughter breeds slaughter. We can’t expect the world to be better than we make it.”
I could go on and on about what this series means to me, but I don't want to spoil it. Instead, here's a list of the top ten reasons to put this book in the hands of your teen readers:
10) It has the sense of humor to make fun of its own fairy tale origins.
9) The cast is complete with Karou's own "band of merry men" and the duo leave you rolling on the floor!
8) Angels are hot, but demons can be hotter.
7) The two lovers have an extraordinary balance of masculine and feminine traits, challenging traditional gender roles.
6) Prague is ah-mazing and a beautiful backdrop for book one--right out of a fairy tale.
5) The non-linear storytelling adds sophistication and nuance to the genre (but may be a little sticky for readers new to Fantasy or inexperienced with navigating plot devices like flashback and third-person omniscient).
4) That Laini, she can put together a sentence! Ex., "“Mercy, she had discovered, made mad alchemy: a drop of it could dilute a lake of hate.”
3) It's a safe place to grapple with very scary issues like war, vengeance, genocide, terrorism, and century-old-hatred.
2) Love is depicted as raw, complicated, sacrificial, and beautiful.
1) One word--HOPE.
OH, and what would I use my wishbone on? An ARC of book three, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, because I cannot wait to experience the fate of Akiva, Karou, the Chimera, Angels, Eretz, and Earth! (or maybe for blue hair, because let's face it...that's cool.)