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Fantasy in YA Fiction

I grew up with an incredible love of high fantasy. How exciting to experience another world, where people often wielded swords and fought with magic! Early on, I consumed the Chronicles of Narnia, and I was obsessed with a number of other novels now out of print, but that featured worlds I could only ever visit in a book. In my late teens, the Lord of the Rings made its movie debut. I read the trilogy, and although it sometimes seemed to go forever, I couldn’t stop until I’d completely absorbed them. That’s when I made the distinction that a fantasy must always be longer, for the reader is completely at the mercy of an entirely new and foreign world. Most recently, I’ve delved in to the world of Game of Thrones, interspersed through my reading of younger fare, and yep…it’s pretty mature! But once again, my mind is intrigued and challenged by the intricacies of this unfamiliar world. So, for my fellow fantasy lovers, below are three of the YA fantasies I’ve read over the past year. While none are as innocent as the 1950s Chronicles of Narnia, or as complex as Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, they do hold...
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Steadfast Characters

This is our final post related to Cassie Beasley’s Circus Mirandus, and it gives me an opportunity to discuss something I’ve always liked but struggled with. I like characters that don’t change! There I said it. In so many pieces of advice written about character development, it’s espoused that a character must undergo a significant change. Now, I guess there could be some argument over what defines “change.” Is it an overall philosophy? Is it an attitude toward another character? Is it a point of view or even a simple single trait? All qualify as changes, but I find myself rooting for those characters who aren’t bad apples and must fight like mad to keep the batch from spoiling them. SPOILER ALERT: In Circus Mirandus, Micah loves his grandfather, a gracious and good man. Ultimately, he wants his grandfather to be healed by the Lightbender, but his immediate desire is to be with his grandfather and to share the magic in his stories and experience it for himself. He detests his aunt who does not believe her brothers stories and thinks both of them are foolish (we later come to know why she feels this way), but the point is Micah is fighting a...
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Isn’t it Platonic: The best things about best friends in MG

The WWAT crew just recently finished Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. It was whimsical and heartfelt, and we all had things we really enjoyed about it. What gave me the most warm-fuzzies was the friendship between Micah and Jenny. They were a perfect example of opposites attract. Jenny helped keep Micah grounded, while Micah helped Jenny believe…in the magic of the circus. That’s one of the things I love best about middle grade fiction. In young adult fiction, friendships can get a little lost, or even decimated. As teens, we grow up and out of old friendships as our sense sharpen to a new perspective of the world. And that’s important, I guess. But oh how I love that the friendship in a good middle grade novel can carry a series to stardom. It’s the Harry-Hermione-Ron phenomenon, where the relationship between the main characters attracts the reader beyond the intrigue of the plot and the enchantment of the world building. In a great middle grade novel, if a good friend dies in the story, a little piece of the reader dies with that character. I also love how friendship forces a main character to grow. In Rebecca Stead’s Liars and Spies and R.J. Palacio’s...
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The Harmony of Fantasy and Reality

In Cassie Beasley’s Circus Mirandus, Micah searches for the Light Bender. Since Micah was little his grandfather has told him stories of this fantastic man. The Light Bender owes Micah’s grandfather a miracle. Maybe that miracle can save Micah’s dying grandfather. So, Micah searches for his magical circus; a miracle. He journeys to the Circus Mirandus with the help of a new friend. There he learns more about his grandfather, his own power, and to let go if he has to.   The term fantasy is often associated with an escape. But it can also secure us in our reality.  This is apparent in Circus Mirandus and stated on the inner cover of Claire Legrand’s Some Kind of Happiness: “But as the mysteries pile up, and Finley’s reality and fantasy start to collide, she realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself. “ I almost put Some Kind of Happiness back on the bookshelf. That would’ve been a mistake. I wanted an adventure, something fun for vacation. It was, but it also promised to deal with depression and family problems. I wasn’t sure I was in the mood for something so heavy. But Legrand adds a light...
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What Hooked Me in Cassie Beasley’s Circus Mirandus

Megan: Circus Mirandus. I have to say, when our group took this book on, between the title and the cover, we were all like kids with saucer-shaped eyes. I mean, it’s a circus. Kids LOVE circuses. Grown-up kids like them just as much. But you know what hooked me? What makes me want to say, “Read this!” to everyone between 10 and 82 (or maybe older, I don’t know why the cutoff has to be 82)? It’s because of friendship. I truly believe that any book–any book that really digs into your heart and doesn’t let go–comes down to the relationships in it. For young adult, this is often a romantic relationship. But I think that’s what I love about middle grade. I love the focus on platonic friendship. This book gives us Jenny and Micah, and as one ascribes to magic and one doesn’t, you can see how they change and help each other. And maybe, best of all, help solve problems that seem out of reach–together. John: I was drawn in by the tenacity of the main character. I think he had such an impact on me because I tend to write characters like this–characters that don’t want to change; from the...
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Welcome to WWAT!
What's WWAT? What's Write About This is a blog dedicated to examining what works in kidlit. By tackling various themes and topics, we'll break down passages, examine sentences, and explore concepts that make-up the components of successful writing. We welcome you back each week with a new post. Thanks for stopping by!
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