Friday, 28 November 2014

Review: Random

Random by Alma Alexander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's a group of YA authors - I'm thinking of [a:Robin McKinley|5339|Robin McKinley|], [a:Juliet Marillier|8649|Juliet Marillier|], [a:Justine Larbelestier|4447198|Justine Larbelestier|], and a few others - who write the kind of books that snooty adults who look down on YA in Internet articles have clearly never read. These are books that don't get made into popular movies, because most of what happens is internal to the characters.

This kind of YA has depth and resonance and significance. It shines a light on the path for young people (young women, in particular) who are looking for courage and a place in the world. It's some time since I was young, and I've never been a woman, but I'm glad that young women have writers like these in their corner, writing the sort of books that will help to shape their lives towards being remarkable people with a sense of hope and purpose, despite the challenges they face.

Not only does Alma Alexander understand this, and talk about the phenomenon in this book, but this book is itself an example of what I mean. The experience of being an immigrant, the experience of being different, the experience of being treated unfairly by self-righteous authority and being powerless to do anything about it, are all here, beautifully depicted, unflinchingly described, shown with all their terrible consequences.

The book begins with one young woman's unexpected and disconcerting transformation, but then takes a step back and shows what lay behind the transformation, what triggered it: the rediscovery of her older sister's diaries, telling the story of what led up to her tragic loss. In fact, the older sister's story takes over the book, relegating what would otherwise be a remarkable transformation almost to an inconvenience (though it's clear it will be important in the rest of the trilogy). The book closes with a stunning revelation that left me unable to say anything but "Wow. Wow."

Oddly enough, I wouldn't usually have picked this book up; I only did so because the author approached me (as someone who has indicated on Goodreads that he is a fan of hers for her earlier work) and asked me to review it. I usually don't take review requests, and especially of books that, based on the cover and blurb, I wouldn't pick up for myself, but I agreed to read the sample and see if it hooked me. It very much did, and I'm grateful to the author for the review copy and for drawing it to my attention, as well as for writing the book in the first place.

I don't give five stars often or lightly, only to books that I know I'll remember for a long time to come, that were more than just entertaining, that showed me something out of the ordinary. This is such a book.

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