As part of the panel, Mandy asked us about a book that we think is important. I pick a book that I think represents a current trend that is exciting and engaging. The book I picked is We are Not Free by Traci Chee. This book is one of my new favorites. It represents an example of multivoiced novel. This book is amazing and was just announced as one of the five finalist for this year's National Book Award. (I am trying to catch up, really)
Certainly, the multivoiced novel is not new to the classification of YA literature. Paul Zindel maybe wrote the first, The Pigman, in 1968. In 2009, Melanie D. Koss noticed an foreshadowed the expansion of this type of narrative in her article Young Adult Novels with Multiple Narrative Perspectives: The Changing Nature of YA Literature. It is worth a second look or if you didn't catch it in the ALAN review the first time, there is no time like the present.
In this post, I provide a few examples of a couple of older books and quite a few newer texts that I think are fine examples of multivoiced novels that I hope more people are reading and sharing with students. I will try to refrain from going on and on.
The Realm of Possibilities by David Levithan
David Levithan is a dynamite editor. His contribution to the world of YA literature as an editor would cement his role in the history of YA literature. Yet, he keeps writing books. He has multivoiced novels with several other authors including--John Green, Rachel Cohn, an Nina LaCour. He is plowing fertile ground for in this narrative format. However, for my money, his tour de force is The Realm of Possibility. I love reading this book, I love teaching, this book, and I love how it seems to stay fresh.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
When Eleanor and Park hit the shelves it certainly made a splash. Word of mouth pushed the reputation of this book and in short order it was being taught in YA courses across the country. The narrative voice of the two main characters grab you from the very beginning. You will find yourself loving and routing for Eleanor and Park as they struggle to make their way in the world.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
When I first picked up Beauty Queens I wasn't sure that a book about stranded beauty queens would be for me. Yet, everyone I new raved about Libba Bray. Well, they are right to be raving. She is wonderful. I loved the multiple voice and the stories they told. If you like a sense of the ironic and comedy in the way provided by Carl Hiaasen and others of his ilk, you will love what Libba Bray has to offer. Say hi to Ms. Texas if you run across her in the wild.
Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles
I have a few books that I wish everyone I knew would read and love the book as much as I do. Read Between the Lines is one of those books. From my first encounter with a Jo Knowles book, Jumping Off Swings, I have been a fan. Few writers present narratives with as much compassion and understanding of the underdog as Jo manages. All of the voices in Read Between the Lines ring true. Her keynote address at the ALAN workshop in 2019 has been one of the highlights of my experiences with young adult literature. Read her books.
If you are in the YA community, you have heard about All American Boys. Teacher like to teach it, Students like reading it, and the YA world loves to promote it. Should you read it? Of course, but as Brendan says, and I agree, he wishes the world didn't need a book like this. In the meantime I love the harmony that this collaboration represents. The two voices ring out and remind us of the multitude of voices that we need to listen to in the world today.
Don't stop here. I paired All American Boys with I'm not Dying with You Tonight not just because the topic is similar, but because it is another fine example of collaboration that allows us to see hope in a world of chaos. Read them both, Share them both, and figure out a way to act in the world that makes it better.
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Three stories, three characters, three time periods, and three families. The 1930's, 1994, and 2015 all represent a period of time when people fled horror looking for acceptance. They were refugees trying to find a place in the world who would allow them to be themselves. Gratz weaves these stories and families together in a way might just have you asking how you have helped in the world. Where do you stand among the many battles for social justice.
What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
For me this was a wonderful find. I think Adam Silvera is an one of the up and coming authors to watch. Find this multivoiced novel written in concert with Becky Albertalli was a gift. I like New York novels and I loved the opportunity to watch the opportunities that Arthur and Ben both miss and take as the explore the opportunities available in the universe.
We are Not Free by Traci Chee
There are so many good things to say about this "own voice" multivoiced novel by Traci Chee. As I mentioned in the opening, this book is one of my new favorites. I am talking about it with everyone. I learned so much about Japanese American detention camps. I say American, because so many of the childern and teenagers involved in this forced incarceration. I am still amazed that this episode is not discussed in schools as much as it should be. Furthermore, I am stunned that we are doing similar things with people at the border. Yes, I know there are differences, but my word, how should we treat people as opposed to how we do?
The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg
Wow! Just wow! Ball seems to get better with every book. Two main characters, but four possible plots. Not really a choose your own adventure book, but a book that examines how a life might play our with a slightly different turn of events.
I might label it a adolescent "It's a Wonderful Life" for a new generation. Especially for those, who like my own children, hate to be forced to watch old black and white movies. This new book is not to be missed. It you know any one who struggles with depression or wonders if they belong in this world, read this book. If you struggle with depression and wander if it is all worth it. It is. We want you here and you will be missed.