I recently read three novels that really drove home the importance of using a somewhat bizarre premise to get to the Truth. Vivian Apple at the End of the World, by Katie Coyle; Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King; and the graphic novel Essex County Volume 1: Tales From The Farm, by Jeff Lemire.
All three have characters dealing with significant losses, and all of the main characters experience varying degrees of alienation from those around them. While these are emotions typical in YA fiction, the methods the author’s used were refreshingly diverse and interesting. For Vivian, the apocalypse has been predicted, but she does not believe it will happen. When she goes home after a party, there are two holes in the ceiling, and her parents are gone.
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future has a main character that is stuck. She has been drifting since the suicide of her photographer mother, which happened when Glory was only four. She is terrified of the same fate herself, and it takes the end of high school, and a really bizarre drinking choice, before she really starts to engage. The future is somewhat revealed to her, and it does not appear bright.
Finally, all of the characters in Essex County Volume 1: Tales From The Farm are dealing with deep personal losses, and it colors all of their interactions. There is also the fear of an alien invasion.
All three texts deal with loss and alienation, but because of luminous writing, and making a premise that seems outwardly strange work for them, they all create the distance that people need to cope with a loss. By seeing characters in a difficult, but somewhat fantastical situation, it can allow us to live the loss vicariously without it being too close to handle.
In a final note, part of what prompted my thinking here, was a perceived hashtag of #keepYAwierd – a hashtag I cannot seem to find. Did I dream it? Did it exist? I don’t know, but these novels are part of what is #keepingyaexcellent.