I’ve recently finished three YA books that deserve a mention on here. They are, in order of reading: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee, and Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto by Eric Luper.
Incarceron is a fantasy-esque novel set at some point in the distant future. Incarceron is a self-aware prison into which all the riff-raff of civilization was dumped 150 years earlier, along with a few wise men (Sapients) to guide them. The prison is sealed; there are rumors of a hero who did manage to escape, but no one can verify the stories. This environment is where we meet Finn, who, for all he knows, was born from Incarceron itself, though his strange visions make him question his origins.
Meanwhile, in the outside world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own sort of prison. When Incarceron was sealed years ago, the powers that be declared that, in order to stop the flow of progress that ultimately causes civilization to deteriorate, the world would revert back to a specific point in history, and nothing would be allowed to change. And so Claudia must run a household like the lady of a 13th century castle, with everyone else playing their parts.
From these two odd and delightfully imagined worlds arises the plot of the book, which alternates between Finn in Incarceron and Claudia on the outside. I can’t say much more without giving away major plot points, but I can say what I loved about this book was how original it is. This is not another book trying to get in on the Twilight vampire craze; nor is it a novel of caddy teen girls, like The Clique series and its knock-offs. In fact, it’s like nothing I’ve read before. And it’s part of a trilogy, which is great; the second book, Sapphique, comes out at the end of 2010.
Shifting gears, The Agency: A Spy in the House is a historical mystery set in Victorian London. After being rescued as a child from punishment for being a thief, Mary Quinn is trained as a spy at the secret branch of a girls’ academy.
The book tells of her first assignment: a placement as a lady’s companion to the daughter of Mr. Thorold, a prominent but shady merchant. As Mary tries to uncover evidence of bad business practices for the Agency to use against Thorold, she has plenty of near mishaps and uncovers all sorts of secrets, from those of her “employers” to those of her own past.
This book, too, will have sequels; Lee leaves you with enough resolutions that you feel satisfied, but there are a few key loose ends left dangling for the next installment! I found the beginning to be a little slow, but once the story got going, I didn’t want to put it down. A Spy in the House read, to me, like a first novel, but one from an author whose second novel I will definitely be reading.
And now shifting gears again, I just finished Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto by Eric Luper. This novel is realistic teen fiction. In the first few pages, Seth Baumgartner gets dumped by his girlfriend, sees his father out to lunch at Applebee’s with a woman who is not his mother, and loses his fourth job of the summer. Out of this mess, Seth starts producing his own podcast, which he calls “The Love Manifesto.” As the summer progresses, Seth tries to sort everything out but — as you might guess! — ends up digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole.
I really enjoyed reading this one; the characters are so real, and though the story may not go where you think it’s going all the time, you realize once it gets there that it’s the right place for it to be. I especially liked Dimitri and his additions to the English language!
Overall, these are three great novels in three very different genres. Depending on your preference, I’d recommend any of these as enjoyable YA reading!