Here is Exhibit A: a Young Adult (YA) novel called Dragonswood.
There are a lot of things that are remarkable about this book. Let’s go into them right away!
This is not like other YA novels.
Here’s the typical YA formula, which I discovered the other day browsing through Tumblr:
White girl has magic powers and falls for a boy, but also falls for another boy and must choose between the two and save the world at the same time.
While Dragonswood does take place on an island by England in the 1000s, (thereby having lots of white people), and the main lead does have a special power, here’s what makes the book different.
It stars a domestic abuse survivor.
Tess, the main lead, has no romantic interest in men from the start. She distrusts men because of her experiences with her physically abusive father, and the book does a great job making you understand Tess and her father’s circumstances.
Yes, she has a magical power – seeing prophetic visions in flames, called Fire Sight – but the visions are not straightforward, and often they don’t even come to fruition the way you expect them to. Hell, her ability doesn’t change the world, and it’s not the catalyst for saving the world either. it’s just a thing that she can do.
Of course, her ability makes her stand out from the world she lives in. Most people consider her strange already, especially since…
She lives in a medieval world with a twist.
Tess’s journey begins when a witch hunter comes to town, and Tess is accused of witchcraft by her village: she was spotted running into Dragonswood (the forest next door) when she occasionally flees from her father’s fists.
Of course, Tess also feels a calling to the forest (though it’s not witchery. Witches don’t ever appear in this book). The forest itself is a refuge for fairies and dragons, and townsfolks are afraid of Dragonswood and its inhabitants. They want the forest torn down so they can have lumber and farms.
The world of this book is marvelously and surprisingly complex. As you read you see the world reveal itself even more. There are strong political undertones and Tess questions authority multiple times throughout this book.
However, be warned that in the first few chapters, Tess is brought into questioning by the witch hunter, and she is tortured. And it is a graphic scene. Don’t read it if you don’t want to read about thumbs being crushed.
After she is tortured, she flees with her friends into Dragonswood, where they are rescued by a woodsman.
Enter the Potential Love Interest. And the good news is…
The Love Interest is not a condescending smartass.
Remember the typical YA formula? With its two boys that forces the main character to choose one over the other? It’s all over the place, from The Hunger Games to the Mortal Instruments series. One love interest is a sweetheart, and the other is the bad boy that eventually warms up to the lead character. We’ve all read it before.
Dragonswood has none of that.
And at first, Tess doesn’t even have romantic feelings for the huntsman, Garth. It’s part distrust of the male sex, part fear that he’ll turn her in to the witch hunter for a reward. Tess is a survivalist, and she will cut any bitches that get in her way.
But Garth? Garth is actually kind of a sweetie.
Garth has incredible patience with Tess. When she is frightened and flees from him, he gives her space. When she snaps at him, he doesn’t argue. He even gives her paper and ink to draw with, something that no one in her village ever did.
Give this a read.
The things I mentioned are just a small part of this marvelous story. It’s not even half of the book.
If you’re tired of reading the same old Young Adult novel, read this book. It’s a breath of fresh, fantasy air with wonderfully developed characters and a complex world.
If you’ve read this book before, let me know what you thought of it in the comments below!
Have any suggestions of books for me to read? Leave those in comments too!
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on Friday.