Monday, August 17, 2015

YA Book Pick: The Wee Free Men

Once a month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

This month's book pick is THE WEE FREE MEN by Terry Pratchett, the first in the Tiffany Aching series.

I'm cheating a little with this one, because it's not a recent book (it published in 2004), but there are now four books in the series and the fifth one comes out next week in the UK (September 15th in the US). I thought it would be nice to spotlight the first book to introduce some new readers to the series.

This upcoming release is particularly bittersweet for me. Terry Pratchett, who has long been my favorite author, passed away a few months ago. This will be the last new book I ever get to read from him. I'm re-reading the rest of the series in preparation for the new one and am amazed all over again at how good it is.

Synopsis (from Goodreads): "Another world is colliding with this one," said the toad. "All the monsters are coming back."

"Why?" said Tiffany.

"There's no one to stop them."

There was silence for a moment.

Then Tiffany said, "There's me."

Armed only with a frying pan and her common sense, Tiffany Aching, a young witch-to-be, is all that stands between the monsters of Fairyland and the warm, green Chalk country that is her home. Forced into Fairyland to seek her kidnapped brother, Tiffany allies herself with the Chalk's local Nac Mac Feegle - aka the Wee Free Men - a clan of sheep-stealing, sword-wielding, six-inch-high blue men who are as fierce as they are funny. Together they battle through an eerie and ever-shifting landscape, fighting brutal flying fairies, dream-spinning dromes, and grimhounds - black dogs with eyes of fire and teeth of razors - before ultimately confronting the Queen of the Elves, absolute ruler of a world in which reality intertwines with nightmare. And in the final showdown, Tiffany must face her cruel power alone....

In a riveting narrative that is equal parts suspense and humor, Carnegie Medalist Terry Pratchett returns to his internationally popular Discworld with a breathtaking tale certain to leave fans, new and old, enthralled.

First Lines: "Some things start before other things. It was a summer shower but didn't appear to know it, and it was pouring rain as fast as a winter storm."

Highlights: Gosh, where to start? Terry Pratchett's writing is gorgeous in this book, as usual. Tiffany is the exact kind of practical, no-nonsense girl I identified with when I was younger—not always an easy type of character to find in YA books.

Incidentally, this book also includes one of my favorite lines from any book anywhere:

“If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy.”

Notes for writers: One of the more interesting things about this book for writers to note is that although this series is considered young adult, the protagonist of the book is nine years old in the first one. (As the series goes on, she becomes a teenager.) A nine-year-old main character would usually indicate a book that's intended for middle grade readers, but this is an exception.

I think the main reason for considering this book YA is the way the protagonist is relating to the world around her. While MG books are usually about the protagonist finding out who they are and how to fit in with the world around them, Tiffany is already an independent, competent young lady when the book begins. The problems she's facing are more adult problems—how to get her kidnapped brother back, how to save her world from the evil Queen—so it's easy to forget how young she is.

If you're writing a book with a protagonist who's not the "right" age for the genre, I'd definitely suggest giving this book a read!

A good read for: Anyone who likes adventure stories or great writing. This is also an excellent "gateway book" for anyone who wants to try out a Terry Pratchett book before diving into the rest of his long-running Discworld fantasy series (the last book will be #41!).

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