When I first started out reading Burn, I was intrigued. Historical fiction isn’t all too common in young adult publishing compared to contemporary fiction, fantasy and science fiction. History and fantasy crossing paths? Even less so. But Patrick Ness has an excellent track record of meshing various genres and even defying them, so I expected this one to be a hit as well. It wasn’t but I was still glad that he brought his signature postmodern outlook with a touch of whimsy.
STEPSISTER by Jennifer Donnelly
The first time I heard the term “retelling,” I expected it to refer to reimagined fairytales. I didn’t exactly expect these to be simply be stories inspired by fairytales. Stepsister, however, is exactly that which I had originally expected of a retelling. It builds upon the well-loved fairytale of Ashputtel, blood and all. It was entertaining with its dark humour as it continued to tell the story of how it might have continued. Stepsister was more detailed since it’s a novel rather than a short story but stylistically, it still very much read like a fairytale.
ON THE COME UP by Angie Thomas
Books about music usually are full of heart and soul. On the Come Up is no exception. In fact, it far surpassed more than a few of such books I’ve loved before. On that front, I actually am a bit surprised. I knew that coming from Angie Thomas, this one would be a good book. However, hip hop isn’t generally on my radar, so I did go in with slightly tempered expectations.
CHRISTMAS CAKES AND MISTLETOE NIGHTS by Carole Matthews
Technically, Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights is a sequel to Cake Shop in the Garden but it stands quite well on its own. I actually only realised that it’s a sequel due to the summarised info dump during the first couple of chapters — think throwback highlight reel at the start of new seasons of TV shows. Once that’s done and dusted, it’s back to regular writing and storytelling.
SOFIA AND THE UTOPIA MACHINE by Judith Huang
Sofia and the Utopia Machine fills an important space in Singapore literature not only as an young adult book but as science fiction. I don’t remember coming across any local YA books when I was in primary and secondary school. In fact, when I was still in secondary school, I wasn’t interested in Singapore literature precisely because it seemed to be geared towards adults. In that regard, it’s heartening that local YA books have gained more visibility in recent years.