I read an interesting statistic the other day. Over 55% of people who read teen books are not teens-they are adults. After I reflected on this for a very short amount of time I realized that this statistic is not terribly surprising because, after all, I help adults find and check out teen books on a regular basis here at my library. Why do adults enjoy teen books? They enjoy them for many of the same reasons teens do. Fast-moving plot-lines, romance and unambiguous endings (yes, I’m glaring at you (All the Light We Cannot See) lend themselves to stories that are pleasurable reading for both age groups. Finally, adults may also enjoy the feeling of nostalgia that comes with reading a teen book. Two of the most pleasurable (and well-reviewed) teen books I have read this summer are Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker. Both books feature compelling and interesting stories that should be of interest to anyone (regardless of age) who enjoys fiction.
Dumplin’ tells the story of Willowdean Dickson (a self-proclaimed ‘fat girl’) who lives in a small town in Texas. Things are not easy for Willowdean as she heads into the summer between her sophomore and junior years of high school. Her life-long best friend has decided to take things to the next level with her boyfriend, her beloved aunt Lucy died six months ago, her crush on a co-worker at the fast food restaurant where she works is unrequited and, to top it all off, summer is pageant season. The pageant, wherein Miss Teen Blue Bonnet is crowned is Clover City’s social event of the entire year. It is also run by Willowdean’s mother who is a former Miss Teen Blue Bonnet herself. Every year Mrs. Dickson squeezes herself into the dress that she wore when she won, in order to preside over all the pageant happenings. However, this summer Willowdean decides things will be different. This summer she will enter the pageant herself (despite the fact that she does not possess a traditional beauty queen body). Her decision to enter the pageant inspires several other unpopular girls from her school and she soon finds that she is not the only non-traditional contestant. I LOVED this book. The author is obviously familiar with the inner workings of beauty pageants and she uses this knowledge to create wonderfully humorous scenes (the scene where drag queens help the girls learn to walk in high heels is awesome). Willowdean’s romance is also portrayed beautifully and realistically as is her longing for her deceased aunt. I don’t know if the author will write a sequel but I HAVE read that Disney is making this book into a movie. I can’t wait to see Willowdean and her friends on the big screen!
The Witch Hunter, by comparison, tells the very serious story of 16 year old Elizabeth Grey who was orphaned as a young girl when her parents died in a magic-spawned plague in an alternate England. Elizabeth was taken in and trained for years by the Inquisitor who then unleashes her on practicing wizards and witches. Unfortunately, Elizabeth is also manipulated and taken advantage of by the king who sets her up for a fall. When the most hunted and powerful wizard in the land breaks Elizabeth out of jail she must re-evaluate her life and figure out where her loyalty should really lie. This fabulous, elegant and compelling story has it all! Romance, supernatural creatures, a terrifying inquisitor and magic all combine to form a story that was quite unlike anything I had ever read before. I adored it and cannot wait for the sequel. This book will appeal to anyone who loved Kristin Cashore’s, Graceling. The Witch Hunter is already owned by the library system. And Dumplin’is not going to be published until September but the library has already placed an order so holds can be placed.