Monday, February 04, 2008

All Hail

That post title is maybe the worst pun I've ever been guilty of, because this is a post about how awesome Shannon Hale is. Y'all are just lucky I didn't call it "All Hail Shannon Hale." You may already know this, but I disapprove of puns on a very deep level.

I've written about Shannon Hale before. I started with Princess Academy, which caught my eye while I was adding it to the catalog at the middle school library. As it happens, this was a Newbury Honor book, though it didn't win the medal. What caught my eye on the first page was the authentic texture of the story. The mountain girl in this story sleeps on a dirt floor with her sister and her goats, and her only regret is that she's not allowed to work in the quarry with the rest of her family. I can't explain how she did it--if I could, I like to think I'd be a famous writer--but she made this life seem both gritty and beautiful. The story went on to be full of layers, of people with different motivations, of people who are human instead of good or evil. And if the ending was a little happy, you will never hear me complain.

So I looked at what else she'd written, and decided I most wanted to read Book of a Thousand Days. It was her only other young adult fantasy that wasn't tied together as part of a group. And oh, it was just what I wanted it to be; I think I just went on about this one the other day, so I won't bore you. But it was sweet and thrilling. She does getting to know someone and falling in love with them in the simplest and most charming way--she relates those little, meaningless conversations that make your heart flitter with perfect accuracy.

And now I'm reading Goose Girl. After this, there is a book called Enna Burning and another called River Secrets; both are based in the same world, with characters common to all, though I don't think you'd call them sequels. Goose Girl was a big slow on the getting into, partly because the beginning is a bit dreamy, and partly because the main character, Ani, begins the story as (forgive me for the pejorative language) a bit of a milksop.

But now I'm right there with her again. Again what Hale is doing is the small patterns of day-to-day life, the small conversations where acquaintances become friends and humor becomes affection. The authors I look for are the ones who can do exactly what she does, and she does it so well. I'm thrilled that there's more left for me to read.

Then there's Austenland. I haven't read that one yet; instead of YA fantasy, it's chick lit--a modern British woman's experience at Jane Austen fantasy camp. I can't imagine that I won't enjoy it, and I've heard quite a few positive reviews. I'm excited to read it, though I have to admit, I can't believe it'll live up to what I've found in her other books. It's so exciting to me that these fabulous authors are still out there for me to discover. I so want to grow up to be Shannon Hale.

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