Although a novel can be set in a different time, and be regarded as ‘best of’ in another category, there are still three books I read this year that are the best because of their historical context. These authors comment on the ways of the period, but also include a connection to our own time. Reflecting on our time can be valuable when seen though the lens of another. Others that I enjoyed that don’t appear on other lists include: V for Violet and Wolf Hollow.
Front Lines by Michael Grant (March 2016)
Michael Grant gained many fans with his Gone series, and have veered off into a different direction with Soldier Girls. He talks a little about that change in an interview he did for Reading Time. This alternate timeline set in World War II offers a realistic version of a world where females were allowed to fight in the front lines. Grant sticks authentically to many factual events and values of the time period, so there is many examples of sexist, racist and cultural inappropriateness, which of course add to the obstacles standing in the way of our five heroes. The girls come from different socio-economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, but they are all determined, brave and intelligent. The story is detailed, absorbing, and does not wimp out on the horrors facing soldiers in wartime.
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry (April 2016)
I loved every bit of this complicated and confronting story set in Medieval France. Its look at the way the Catholic Church dealt with heresy and so-called witches is both gruesome and clever. Berry excels at witty, original characters, and her research is impeccable. I wrote a long gushing review at Reading Time. I cannot recommend this sophisticated, important book enough. It’s amazing.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows (September 2016)
Contemporary takes on historical characters and events have been around a while. Inserting zombies into Pride and Prejudice, turning Queen Victoria into a demon hunter, and Lincoln to a vampire slayer has meant that literary classics are fodder for YA updates. Choosing Lady Jane Grey, queen for only 9 days, is an inspired choice for a number of reasons. She isn’t well known, there is real pathos in her short life, and how wonderful is it to recreate history magically to give Jane a happy-ever-after. It’s a bit silly, totally irreverent, and so much fun to read.
On Wednesday my musical high notes will be posted.