This week, we’re delighted to introduce Jim Dean from YAYeahYeah. Jim blogs and writes reviews about teen/YA books, and he's agreed to take part in the Edge Interrogation! Over to you, Jim.
Hi, I’m a maths teacher (sorry!) who loves writing and reading, and has previously edited a school magazine. I’ve been book blogging since December 2010, but got my start in book reviewing when the lovely people who run The Bookbag (www.thebookbag.co.uk) accepted my e-mail application to become a reviewer. A few hundred books later, I think it’s safe to say that’s probably the most important e-mail I’ve ever sent anyone!
1. Jim, why do you READ and WRITE about teen/YA books?
As a teacher, I really like reading books that the people I teach are likely to enjoy. As a reader, I think the years in which teens are growing up are absolutely fascinating to read about. And as a blogger, I get so excited about the sheer number of incredibly good YA authors out there that it's brilliant to share my love of these books with other readers.
2. What are the most ORIGINAL YA books that you have read?
My standard answer when it comes to originality is Jaclyn Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield novels. Told in a huge amount of different ways, featuring everything from notes on fridge doors to answers to exam questions, JM is a thrillingly inventive author who manages to write superb novels using her own unique style. Adding to that, I'll throw in Laura Lam's Pantomime, a classy fantasy which deals with issues which are rarely seen in any YA books with real grace.
3. What is a TURN OFF in YA fiction?
Nothing, when's it done well! Having said that, love triangles, insta-love, and 'sexy' scenes are some of the things that I think quite often AREN'T done particularly well, so my heart tends to sink just a tiny bit on seeing them.
4. What makes for a great YA book?
For me, great characters beat everything else out, with a strong voice being a must if it's written in first-person as well. Plot, setting, and writing style play an important part for me to, but it's believable characters who develop well throughout the book which are the one thing that will definitely hook me.
5. Which YA characters would you most like to take OUT TO DINNER and why?
Most main characters are too young for me, so I'd go for one of a pair of wonderful supporting characters - either Annabel, from Geek Girl by Holly Smale or Stepmama from Stephanie Burgis's superb Kat Stephenson series. Both of these ladies are brilliant characters who I'd love to meet.
6. Who is your ideal YA HERO/HEROINE and why?
I'm probably pushing the boundaries of YA by mentioning Stephanie Burgis's Kat Stephenson series once, let alone twice, but I'm going to name Kat for this answer anyway because she's a simply stunning heroine - loyal, brave, feisty and just generally incredibly cool. Favourite hero is significantly harder to pick, but having just raced through Department 19: Battle Lines in an afternoon, I'll say that vampire hunter Jamie Carpenter is probably my answer for at least the next hour. (Although as I’m about to pick up LIGHT by Michael Grant, there’s a fair chance that by the end of that book one of the teens from the FAYZ may have grabbed top spot, as it has so many brilliant heroes!)
7. What is your dream YA ROMANTIC PAIRING and why?
Tempted to go with Department 19 again, with the partnership of Jamie and vampire Larissa being one of my favourites for ages. I'd also consider several couples from some of last year's wonderful YA contemporary releases - Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt had Jenna, disfigured in a car crash, and New Age traveler Ryan, while Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry was a stunning romance between damaged teens Echo and Noah. If I had to pick just one, though, Lucy and Ed from Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon would take first place because they're fantastic individual characters - Lucy is smart, feisty, and really likeable, while Ed is a brilliant artist and a seriously great guy - and the chemistry between them is so hot I was half expecting my book to catch fire as I read it.
8. What makes you uncomfortable or question the BOUNDARIES OF YA fiction?
There's actually very little that makes me uncomfortable, to be honest - the only thing that springs to mind is one I read in which a group of teens got away with rape with little consequences.
9. What would you LIKE to see happening in YA over the next five years?
More dual narratives, because I love them! More brilliant fantasy which deals with real issues - I'm thinking things like Laura Lam's Pantomime, as mentioned above, Celine Kiernan's outstanding Moorehawke trilogy, and Curtis Jobling's wonderful Wereworld novels. And more of the Monstrumologist, because I have a horrible feeling that I've read somewhere Rick Yancey's next book will complete the series, and I really don't want to see it end.
10. What do you think will ACTUALLY be the next big thing in YA fiction?
Will Hill's Department 19: Battle Lines is (as I write this) just about to hit the shops, and I think the brilliance of that series, which builds on Stoker's Dracula with some stunning world-building and great characters, might inspire a fair few similar novels. I think it's great to see books like these - and Andy Briggs's superb Tarzan reboot - which look back at classic literature. I also think there's going to be a lot more paranormal books (nothing new there) but can see them moving away from romance and into more chilling territory.
Give us your top FIVE TEEN/YA books please, Jim.
Oh good grief... the first two are obvious (to me, and to anyone who's ever read my blogs!) - after that, it gets ridiculously difficult.
Code Name Verity - heartbreakingly beautiful. My policy on CNV is that I just say "It's amazing!" and shut up to avoid spoiling it, so that's all I'm saying.
The Sky Is Everywhere - the best YA contemporary I've ever read, which had me in floods of tears. Captures the grief of losing a sibling perfectly but gives you hope as a reader that things can get better.
The Things We Did For Love by Natasha Farrant - Code Name Verity is getting tons of (well-deserved!) plaudits, which is fabulous to see. However its success has perhaps overshadowed Natasha Farrant's stunning novel, also set in World War II, which follows the fortunes of two young lovers
Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt - My current favourite YA contemporary author, Jarratt has only written two books so far but both are amazing! This staggeringly great dual narrative looks at themes like prejudice, disfigurement, mental illness and grief, and does so with fabulous characters and brilliant writing.
Can I sneak a series in instead of just a book for the fifth, please? If so, I'll choose Michael Grant's GONE sequence - full of great characters, heart-pounding action and a superb plot.
And finally, Jim, if you read ONE book this year, read THIS...
Pantomime by Laura Lam. Stunningly beautiful, with brilliant characters.
Jim, thanks so much for submitting to the EDGE INTERROGATION!
If you’d like to read more of Jim’s reviews, you can find him here: (www.yayeahyeah.com), and if you’d like to check out his new blog – YA Contemporary, click on the link – www.yacontemporary.com
And you can follow him on twitter @Yayeahyeah