The Cruel Prince (Genre: Teen Fantasy)
by Holly Black
The wonderful thing about young adult literature is that it doesn’t beat around the bush with a lot of wasted words. Good YAL has potent stories and great wisdom–all bound in a 50,000-60,000 word package. The Cruel Prince, though not particularly wise, has a fantastic story that had me reading until my eyes were dry and gluey.
Black’s book is a fantasy about faeries, but anyone that knows the medieval origins of faerie myths will tell you faeries are a dangerous lot, nothing like Peter Pan’s Tinker Bell. And indeed, in The Cruel Prince we have a pair of mortal sisters growing up in Faerie Land and subjected to all manner of cruelty. Added to their misery is betrayal and confusion. Some faeries who would appear to be adversaries are friends and vice-versa. One of the sisters manages to outfox her faerie masters and in the process stumbles upon true love. It’s actually an old tale, well told by author Holly Black.
They Both Die at the End (Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi)
by Adam Silvera
Where was this book when I was teaching high school reading to “reluctant readers,” particularly boys? Most young men would enjoy reading They Both Die at the End–even some older ladies. The author really draws us in with this futuristic story of two young men who get a call from “Death Caste,” an agency that lets people know when they have a day left to live.
The death call courtesy is suppose to allow people to say their final goodbyes and arrange their own funerals. It’s an intriguing hook, particularly when you consider Marcus and Rufus are both around 17-years-old. How these young men respond to their own life tragedy, and how they deal with mourning from their loved ones, is heart-rending.
There’s lots of lessons here about living all the way to your life’s end and learning how to say a good, goodbye. Though the book is a touching tale, it’s brutal and risque at times. Marcus and Rufus are inner-city youth. Strong language is used including an occasional “F” bomb, and one of the protagonists is bisexual. In this, it is a modern story of young people today. Still, I’m not sure They Both Die at the End will find a place on all school library shelves—which is unfortunate.