Three books to talk about this time. Between Panic and Desire by Dinty Moore, The Princess and the hound by Mette Ivie Harrison, Princess Ben by Catherine Glilbert Murdock.
I've only read the first 35 pages of Between Panic and Desire but I already love it. The book (a memoir of sorts, by his own definition) is a collection of essays by Dinty Moore, some of which have been published elsewhere. One of those I read in my randomly selected back copy of The Pinch while at the AWP conference. "Nine" amused me the first time around so I was pretty excited when I picked up this book and realized it was a collection of similar essays. Moore plays with the essay form and gives us such things as an alphabetic listing of absentee fathers.
The Princess and the Hound is a young adult novel assigned for my folktales & children's lit class. It is, unfortunately, the first book in a series. Now, I used to love series because that meant that after I had invested all this time/love/energy in a set of characters they would return back to me and reward all that time/love/energy. But for a book I'm expected to discuss and analyze in class I'm not so fond of it continuing on and not explaining or tying everything up. Harrison has created a world where "animal magic" exists. Primarily the ability to speak in the tongues of animals. And people with this linguistic ability are feared, hunted out, and burned at the stake. The young prince must therefore conceal his own magic abilities from everyone. As a whole, the book is quite charming and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the genre. There's also a theme of motherlessness in this book (both animal and human) that would be worth critical exploration but at this point in the semester it's too late for me to write that paper so I'll just stick to my 15 page assignment on the color red.
Princess Ben was more of what I'd consider a "tween" novel. I guess YA novels target that crowd depending on the reading ability of the individual, but in this case we have a protagonist who is about 14 and spends the first half of the novel completely self-absorbed in her own misery and her own desires. She is a completely believable fourteen year old. And her selfishness sets her up nicely for redemption by the end of the novel. The other really interesting thing that goes on is how she secretly begins to learn magic. This novel does stand on its own and it has enough twists to it (as does Princess and Hound) to be fresh and interesting. And it gives me plenty of fodder for that term paper on "red."