Today I'm excited to welcome Lindsay Smith to the blog! Lindsay's debut is one of the books I'm most looking forward to this year and she's here with some more suggestions to keep you full of historical goodness!
First, a bit about the book:
Sekret by Lindsay Smith.
To be published: April 1, 2014
by: Roaring Brook Press.
From debut author Lindsay Smith comes an espionage thriller with a dash of both history and dystopia.
Yulia’s father always taught her that an empty mind is a safe mind. She has to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia, especially because she seems to be able to read the minds of the people she touches. When she’s captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she’s thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power where she can trust no one.
She certainly can’t trust Rostov, the cruel KGB operative running the psychic program. Or handsome Sergei who encourages her to cooperate with the KGB. Or brooding Valentin who tells her to rebel against them. And not the CIA, who have a psychic so powerful he can erase a person’s mind with his own thoughts. Yulia quickly learns she must rely on her own wits and power to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.
Sounds so intriguing, right? I'm absolutely bursting to start reading it! In case you need a little push to read some historical fiction, though, here's Lindsay to talk you into giving the genre a try. That way you'll be all ready to go when her book comes out!
Beyond the Textbook: History in Young Adult Fiction
When I was in school, historical fiction was often something I regarded with crossed fingers, or at very least, rubber gloves and a suspicious squint. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with historical fiction; in fact, I was obsessed with Russian history and culture, and world history was one of my favorite classes. But I always felt there was something disingenuous about the historical novels our teachers pushed on us, like they thought we had to be tricked into learning things.
Fortunately, historical fiction in YA is undergoing a renaissance of its own. Whether a major historical event is the heart of the story or mere backdrop to a more intimate tale, historicals have taken a page from great fantasy stories, and rather than bog us down with lectures and quizzes, they toss us head-first into their wild and wonderful worlds and let us find our own way. I always know I’m reading an amazing historical novel when I have to stop myself from falling down the Wikipedia and Jstor rabbit holes for fear of spoilers!
Robin LaFevers’s His Fair Assassin series (Grave Mercy, et al) follows a (fictitious) order of assassin nuns through the very real trials and tribulations of 15th century Brittany. (Though really, isn’t “assassin nuns” all you need to hear?) LaFevers’s prose is spare and gorgeous, every line brilliant but never once incongruous with her well-researched world. Rather than lecture us drily on the whos and whats of the era, we live through Anne of Brittany’s reign in the heads of those sworn to protect her and their private struggles.
Revolution, by historical vet Jennifer Donnelly, mixes a frightening tale of betrayal and revenge in Revolutionary Paris with a modern girl’s search for meaning and acceptance following a family tragedy. Rather than taking us on a EuroDisney tour of the Reign of Terror, we watch the events of the revolution unfold on the periphery of a young girl’s life as she becomes a pawn in the proceedings. The modern setting for much of the story, as well, helps ground us in the aftershocks and relevance of things that happened centuries ago.
Now, surely I’m not the first person to tell you to read Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, but I’m going to yell at you to go do it RIGHT NOW, just in case. Wein plunges us skillfully into the terrifying and uncertain world of a World War II prisoner as she recounts how and why she came to be captured. Knowing where her tale leads and knowing how the War ultimately played out does nothing to diminish the terror and suspense that drips like kerosene from every page of Wein’s meticulously researched, vivid, engrossing saga. Knowing how emotionally devastating her books are, though, I’m ashamed to admit I still haven’t cracked open her newest, Rose Under Fire, though I bought it on Day One. It takes some mental preparations to read about Nazi medical experimentation and the Holocaust.
And if Elizabeth Wein’s not grueling enough for you, how about a true account of one boy’s life in the killing fields of Khmer Rouge-controlled Cambodia? Never Fall
Down reads like a novel, but tells the true story of survivor Arn Chorn-Pond’s childhood via veteran recounter Patricia McCormick and his difficulties adjusting to normal life once he did escape the regime. I wish more YA books would explore the rich but rarely-delved-into histories beyond the European setting.
And 2014 holds plenty of promise for historical novels yet to come! I’m especially looking forward to these two:
Prisoner of Night and Fog: A pampered girl in Nazi Germany must confront the reality of what’s transpiring around her.
Tsarina: Tsarevich Aleksandr’s betrothed fights to save Russia and the enchanted Faberge egg that protects it amidst the Bolshevik revolution. (I’ve already read this one, and it’s beautiful.)
Thank you, Lindsay! Definitely some excellent choices in there that I have loved (CNV is one of my absolute favourites!), and others I know I must get my hands on!
About the author:
Lindsay Smith's love of Russian history and culture has taken her to Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and a reindeer festival in Siberia. She lives in Washington, DC, where she writes on foreign affairs.
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