Another Life : Keren David

I was lucky enough to pick up a proof of this at a conference I attended a few months ago and am so very pleased to report that Keren David remains ace. She’s got a peculiar brilliance at writing “lads”; lads bordering on the edge of adulthood, shifting from ferocious raw masculinity through to nervous, emotional children. It’s a rare skill and one that is most definitely David’s forte.

Another Life is the final of the trilogy of Ty Lewis books and is due out in September 2012. I reviewed it’s predecessor Almost True here. I have a lot of love for this series. It’s always a good sign when a book slides into you, hours pass, and you’re still hiding under the quilt because you’re trying to figure out how this ends.

Quite boldly Another Life has a dual focus on Archie, Ty’s cousin, and Ty himself. It took me a while to grasp a handle on this shift in narration but it becomes easier as the voices become more divergent and unique very swiftly. David does “lads” well, as I mentioned in earlier, and the story is fleshed out with a lot of perhaps incidental detail but detail that, you slowly realise, solidifies this world to the extent it almost feels like reportage.

If you’ve read the other two books, I think you’ve got to read this. There’s a tension to the story of Ty, a genuine edginess throughout all the three books, that needs resolution both for him and the nerve-shredded reader. If you’ve not read the other two books, I would reccommend that you do. There’s a lot of story here that deserves being read and you’ll be missing out on some brilliant books if you dive straight into the nervy, spikey finale Another Life provides.

Almost True : Keren David

Almost True (When I Was Joe, #2)Almost True by Keren David

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘Almost True’ is the second story Keren David has written about Ty. Ty is a boy, an average boy, who was one day involved in a horrific event which came to change and define his life. David’s prose is solid, earthy and real. And it’s glorious.

I came to this book after reading a whole range of stories involving fairies, elves and vampires. I’d read ‘When I was Joe’ (the prequel) and found it a hugely readable and pacy novel. It sagged a little in the middle but that was easy to excuse as the sagging was at a higher height than many other similar books reached.

‘Almost True’ is a hugely worthy successor. Whilst there’s that necessary few pages of exposition, it’s handled well and sympathetically – and it’s accessible to the new reader. This story is the excellent definition of a second novel in a series; it stands strong and readable by itself, but when read with the prequel it gains a whole new weight and depth. ‘Almost True’ solidly justifies its presence.

It’s a cliché, I know, but I couldn’t put this down. From stirring a risotto with one hand and holding this with the other, I fell in love with this story all over again. Ty/Joe is one of those solid characters that’s just real. His story feels real. It feels plausible and it feels gritty and it feels, in those moments where Ty tries to be a ‘normal’ teen, intensely awkward and painful and sad.

I loved this. Keren David’s most definitely one to watch.

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There’s more to children’s literature than sparkling in the sunlight

Vampires, vampires and more vampires. Am I the only one sick of this? There are only so many spins you can put on it until you’re just spinning in a pile of undead dusty detritus.

So what else is out there?

Grace Dent. Thank God for Grace Dent. Funny, sharp and not at all patronising. She’s got a lovely way of empathising without getting “adult”. The latest Diary of a Snob is due out on 2nd September. I’m currently halfway through the first Diary of a Snob and loving it.

The Gossip Girl series has crossed over to books very successfully, spawning spin-offs and pretenders such as The Clique and The Beautiful Dead (the latter reading like a GG / Twilight cross that practically has sexy young tv series written all over it)

There’s the awesome Mary Hooper producing a standard of books that makes me frankly envious. Her latest (June 2010) Fallen Grace is a masterpiece of quiet elegant power. She’s also got the skill of cramming her books full of historical detail but never overwhleming the reader.

Keren David is perhaps less well known but that’s no comment on the quality of her books. Debut novel When I was Joe came out in January this year (the sequel is due in September). When I was Joe is a crackingly astute and quick read – the fact that a vast amount of the Amazon reviews are from kids speaks volumes.

I know it’s been out since 2007 but The Plain Janes is one of those stories that I keep returning too. It’s from the sadly missed and shortly lived Minx run of graphic novels from DC. The language in this book is the thing that keeps pulling me back as is the sharp social commentary – delivered with a delicacy that makes me envious.

Perhaps as a result of Twilight’s massive success, there’s an influx of Angel related novels hitting the shelves. L A Weatherley’s imaginatively titled Angel arrives 1/10/10. There’s been a lot of Twitter buzz on this one – whether that’s from a proactive publishing department or genuine heat is unclear. I’ll hold my judgement until I get to read it.

Eva Ibbotson is one of the most simply effortless writers I know. She’s got the ability to just create convincing love stories and characters that make you root for them – regardless of their foibles. One of her older titles (2007) The Morning Gift is a gorgeous tale of romance that keeps pulling me back. Ibbotson produces stories that defy the sometimes limiting label of ‘children’s literature’.

And then, for next time, I have to mention the emotionally brilliant writing of  Michael Morpurgo, and I can’t forget the epic nature of KM Peyton and the gorgeous Pennington, and what about Antonia Forest and the deeply lovable Marlows and then there’s Robert Muchamore and the CHERUBS and shouldn’t the brilliantly real Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins fit in here somewhere?