Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Historical!

Welcome to Day 8 of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge here at Reading on the F Train.  Today's topic is Historical YA!
Since the blog challenge is bringing around a bunch of new readers, I have a few days lined up to showcase some of my very favorite YA reads.  I've written about most of them before, but these are my very favorites in each of the genres I'll be highlighting.  Today's lineup: Historical/Historical Fantasy!

Ok, first up are Grave Mercy and its sequel Dark Triumph, but since I wrote about them just two days ago, here's a link to that post.  But, um, seriously, they are excellent and make me want to delve into the history of the Breton sovereignty struggle, which prior to reading these books sounded about as interesting to me as a nice game of golf (hey-yo!)  They are full of intrigue and drama and romance and adventure and poison, and I love them.

Code Name VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**I received an e-galley of this book for free through Netgalley**

I am writing this review at 2:00 am. I had about 20% of the book left when I picked it up at midnight, struck by mild insomnia. Now I am finished and I may not sleep tonight. I can't remember the last book I read that turned me so inside-out. I suppose I should say something more specific, so here goes: Code Name Verity is a completely different sort of WWII novel than I've ever read. There is plenty of hiding and waiting and suspense (all de rigeur) but there is, I think, more hope than I'm used to, and also a different kind of horror. The two main characters, Maddie and Julia, are two of the most memorable, wonderful, real people I've ever met on a page. Maggie Stiefvater blogged about this book recently, and I will echo her advice: make time for this book. Be present and attentive and let it pull you in. You will ache by the end, but you won't regret it.

Between Shades of GrayBetween Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know how much I can say about this book that hasn't already been said. Yes, it is the story of a teenage girl and her family trying to survive their brutal deportation from their home in Lithuania under Soviet rule. It is horrifying with small, infrequent moments of grace and happiness. You have read the stories of survivors before. But you have not read this story.

What shocked me was how readable this story was. I read this book in one sitting of about three hours. The story is simply told, and many characters are given descriptors instead of names--the man who winds his watch. The grumpy woman. It feels like a story. Until it doesn't, because in stories, really bad things eventually stop happening to the good people that we care about. But I think the simplicity and readability just make the reactions against what is happening stronger.

This isn't a normal book so this isn't a normal review. This is the kind of book that needs to be read by as many people as possible. This is a book with a mission, but at the same time it's a beautifully told story. If you haven't picked it up yet, please just make an evening in your life where you can read it without distraction. It's definitely worth the time.

 Gilt (The Royal Circle, #1)Gilt by Katherine Longshore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was definitely my most anticipated non-sequel spring release, and let me say right off the bat: it completely lived up to how awesome I thought it would be. There are a lot of decent historical YA novels, but the really fantastic ones seem to be a little harder to come by than in other genres. Friends: this is one! The meticulous research never overwhelmed or got in the way of the plot. (A common downfall of historical fiction, and one that I don't mind indulging because I'm a super-nerd, is the frequent historical fact insertion. I kind of love it--but it can also be a little jarring, and often sets me up to look for things to come back later as part of the plot when really, the author just wanted to share something neat.) In Gilt, the details that are shared are all fascinating AND plot relevant! The clothing is always my favorite, and it's totally relevant here because it shows so much about the characters. In fact, almost all of the detail is related to characters' status, which really forms the crux of the narrative. Kitty Tylney, the narrator, chronicles the rise of her long-time friend Cat (short for Catherine Howard, real-life one-time Queen of England). In the meantime, she has her own concerns--I really like Kitty's growth over the course of the novel. Overall, it was just a really satisfying, vivid trip back to the court of King Henry VIII. If you've been hungering for the next great historical novel--try this one. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

View all my reviews


  1. I've read both GRAVE MERCY and BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY and thought they were both excellent. I'm ashamed to say that CODE NAME VERITY has been sitting on my shelf since Christmas and I still haven't read it. Problem is, lately I've been craving fun and light reads. (Not sure why I read THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER then. It's not exactly fun or light.) Maybe after I've read some contemporary for a bit I'll make a point of reading CODE NAME VERITY. :)

  2. I love historicals. I'll need to try a historical YA. Gilt sounds intriguing!
    Thanks... Emmly Jane

  3. I've had BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY on my TBR list for ages... Next time I'm at the library I'm definitely going to hunt it down. I've heard of GRAVE MERCY, but I did not realize it was historical until you mentioned it here. I'm definitely intrigued by its concept. Thanks for the recs, Jess!


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