A published author of thrillers and mysteries, The Crystal Mountain is author J. Gregory Smith’s first piece written for young adults. It’s clear that Smith understand the technical styles and mechanisms required to drive a plot forward for the Young Adult crowd as there is no page in The Crystal Mountain that does not engage the reader.
The novel itself is not completely different in the landscape that comprises young adult fiction. It is impossible to tell a completely original tale written for the young adult demographic as familiarity is a key driver for these type of book buyers. However, Smith does manage to inject new life into the fantastic and supernatural, evoking just the right amount of comic book action and extra-terrestrial allure, making The Crystal Mountain more than your average teen best seller.
Magic is divided into two main categories: paranormal magic which the use of paranormal methods to manipulate natural forces and illusory magic, the art of appearing to perform supernatural feats. The 15 rebels in R.J. Vickers’ The Natural Order have no idea which stream they’re going to be learning. This theme of indecision figures prominently into this tale as a whole.
The main juvenile delinquent in The Natural Order is nicely named Tristan Fairholm, a misunderstood, confused kid whose been labeled as troublesome by the authorities. Alongside his 14 cohorts, Tristan is taught everything magic, evoking J.K Rowling’s masterful Harry Potter series, minus a few strangely named characters. Vickers documents Tristan’s attempts at learning the dark arts is once both comical and intense. Because magic is so often regarded as taboo, even in today’s society, Vickers’ smooth story telling contains a hint of controversy that drives the plot forward.
Like Groundhog Day on crack with a dash of teenage lust, Sasha Leigh’s quirky “Fate’s Exchange,” the first in the “Twisted Fate” series, takes the fickle young adult genre to a whole other level. That level, which I’m sure is to be played in the subsequent books in the series, is neither tangible nor symmetrical – but totally and completely variable, which is sort of how I’d describe the book itself.
Alyssa Frank is the flawed and really unfortunate heroine in “Fate’s Exchange,” doomed to relive the final week leading to her death. The set up is that, like the dryness of Groundhog Day multiplied with the momentum of Run Lola Run, Alyssa is to relive her abysmal week repeatedly in order to identify the root causes of her ultimate demise and what decisions she could have made differently to not have her life end by the end of the week. Yes – it’s dark. You’ve been warned.
I won’t lie and say my exposure to Young Adult fiction is limited. I am proud to say that I have read every single Harry Potter novel and devoured each solitary word. Not a being a huge believer in defining books by a single genre, I believe every work of fiction, if written well, has the ability to transcend pre-existing labels and be able to reach out to a broader demographic with its presentation of original thoughts, ideas, and plotlines. As the attention span of a young adult today is practically non-existent, authors of YA fiction have an extra stressor on their hands to write a creative, entertaining tale that could maintain the interest of the most fickle of readers.
Scott Spotson’s “My Wizard Buddy,” the first in the “My Wizard Buddy” trilogy, is an affirmation that original ideas do indeed still endure. At a slim 126 pages, Spotson’s tale succinctly tells the story of a lonely pre-teen named Tyler Dunsmore who makes no disguise of the fact that he wants a friend, pure and simple. As luck would have it, his want becomes reality in Dirk, a foreigner in many ways. Dirk, the wizard buddy to Tyler, attempts to help his newfound friend in many predicaments not so uncommon in this genre. However, it is Tyler’s contemplation of having an otherworldly wizard friend worth it.