Illyria: writing up to teens

Friday, August 6, 2010

Had it not been for Colleen Mondor's high praise, I might never have known about Elizabeth Hand's Illyria, an alternate reality that seems supremely tragic.  Because oh my goodness, is this a book, is this writing at its no-holds-barred, no-compromises best. When I say, as I have been known to say, that the best of young adult writing honors the intelligence of teen readers, expects vocabulary and delivers it, leaves explication in the reader's hands, and entrusts the reader with the odd and the new, I am referring to writers like Markus Zusak and John Green and Rita Williams-Garcia and now, with Illyria, Elizabeth Hand, who yields sentence after sentence of un-redundant perfection in this strange and unapologetic tale of kissing cousins.

I'll be writing more about the story in a blog to come. I will be musing, too, on the power of past tense in a story like Illyria.  But for now, on this Friday morning, might I give you this—Hand's description of the boy cousin, Rogan, who "looked like he'd fallen from a painting."

He had high cheekbones in a feline face—not like a house cat's; more a cougar or a lynx, something strong and furtive and quick.  His nose was like mine, although it had been broken more than once.  His mouth was wide and surprisingly delicate, the only thing about him that might have seemed girlish.  Until he smiled, and showed narrow white teeth that were also like an animal's.  He had huge, deep-set eyes—wary eyes, which made it slightly alarming when he suddenly turned them on you—and they weren't Tierney blue but a true aquamarine, the palest blue-green, changeable as seawater in sunlight or cloud.
Find out more about this book, and about Hand herself, here.


Bee said...

WOW. Just WOW.

This I must read.

Steph Su said...

Oh gosh, you've convinced me. I've had my eye on this for a while, but haven't heard much about it at all.

Colleen said...

I love this book so so so much! It's awesome that you love it as well!

Julia said...

How funny that the exact authors you named are the exact ones I recommend to everyone. They are books with young people for characters, but giving of their youth in that they can be read by anyone.

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