I’m going to reveal a big secret. Until now I’ve never read a Young Adult novel. Nope. Not even the Harry Potter books. Nothing since I was a teenager and then they weren’t called YAs. But M. J. Putney’s publicist sent me her first YA, Dark Mirror, and that book became my first YA.
Now, I don’t know why the publicist sent me the book. I do know Mary Jo Putney, but I am much more likely to send her a book of mine to read than the other way around!
I think the first traditional Regency I ever read was Mary Jo’s The Rake and The Reformer. It is still a favorite. My third Washington Romance Writers meeting was a workshop by Mary Jo on synopsis writing. We were invited to read her latest book before the meeting and write a synopsis of it for her to read aloud and critique. Only two people attending the workshop actually wrote the synopsis. The first person did it all wrong; she wrote a chapter by chapter outline. I had written a pretty good synopsis and actually received applause, but the joke was on me ultimately. The person who’d written the lousy synopsis was Catherine Asaro, who hit it big in sci fi/fantasy about a year later.
Mary Jo actually helped me plot The Mysterious Miss M. At one of our WRW Retreats, she gave me some good advice on a couple of plot points, advice I followed.
So, for all those reasons, I was highly motivated to read Dark Mirror.
Mary Jo loves Fantasy and loves the Regency. Dark Mirror combines the two. MJ’s Regency is a place where having magical powers, like flying or controlling the weather, is a great scandal. Those young people who display magical powers are sent to Lackland Abbey, a boarding school whose sole function is to remove the students’ magical powers. A group of students and teachers meet in a labyrinth underneath the school to do the opposite, to increase their powers. One night the heroine Victoria falls through a mirror, the time portal, and travels into the future. Ultimately Victoria and her friends travel to 1940 and wind up helping in the evacuation of Dunkirk.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was a satisfying read with appealing characters, surprises, and lots of clever connections using the magic.
Since this was my first YA, though, I also read it with an eye on what makes it a YA. Here are some of my ideas:
1. The main characters are teenagers; adults are much more peripheral.
2. The main characters band together to help adults in important ways.
3. The characters think about things teenagers would think about: friends, clothes, which boys are cute, does he like me?
4. There is a little bit of a message about friendship in the book: not to necessarily believe in your first impression of people.
5. The prose is just a bit simpler. The vocabulary and sentence structure a bit more accessible. This is not to say it is “dumbed down,” just simplified a bit.
What other elements distinguish a YA from an adult book?
What are your favorite YAs?
Have you read Dark Mirror?