September 13, 2012
BBAW: Obscure Favorites
It's day four of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and time to pimp some obscure books! When I started writing my Best Authors You Aren't Reading feature, I didn't intend for it to be sporadic. But I quickly figured out that defining obscurity was tough. What if the book won an award but has few reviews on Amazon or Goodreads? What if you can find lots of reviews but the book is out of print? And how do you define "lots" of reviews? How do 115 reviews of a book released in 2010 compare to 115 reviews of a book released in 2002? So I don't want to pimp just one under the radar book, because it might not be so under the radar. So here are three books I love, that as far as I know aren't well known. All three are out of print, but copies are available for cheap through secondhand bookshops.
THE CHINA GARDEN by Liz Berry
THE CHINA GARDEN made YALSA's Best Book for Young Adults list in 1997. I first read it in 2001. I'd noticed it on the shelf in the bookstore for years. I was entranced by the cover, a ghostly figure moving down a sunlit path. (I would, once I owned the book, realize it was a silhouette of a couple kissing.) Then I found a copy for twenty-five cents in the library's book sale. I eagerly bought it, but didn't read it immediately. I read it for the first time in the car, moving from Houston to a Fort Worth suburb in the wake of my parents' divorce.
I then proceeded to read it everyday for a month, if not longer.
I don't know why THE CHINA GARDEN is what I needed. It's a romance, about a good girl and a bad boy. It's a story of family secrets - turns out the heroine Clare didn't even know her mother's real name. (For that matter, she didn't know her own middle name.) It's a tale of magic and things worth protecting. It's delightfully English and incredibly sensual.
Or maybe I do know why I needed it. It's about a girl whose mother takes her from everything she knows and moves her out to the sticks. Clare had her life planned and suddenly she doesn't understand what's going on and why everyone knows things she doesn't. It spoke to me, even if I wasn't at the age to want a boy with a motorcycle to come along and sweep me off my feet.
THE TRICKSTERS by Margaret Mahy
New Zealand author Margaret Mahy died this year, at the age of 76. She left behind quite a legacy. My three favorites, of the many books she wrote, are THE CHANGEOVER, MEMORY, and THE TRICKSTERS. But THE TRICKSTERS is my absolute number one favorite.
I wrote about it here for Angieville's Retro Friday.
Don't want to follow the link? That's fine. I can list a few of the best things about the novel: a dreamer heroine, sinister strangers, unexpected twists, and conflicting, passionate desires. It's not a simple novel, but one that rewards the careful reader.
TELL IT TO NAOMI by Daniel Ehrenhaft
I have a soft spot for TELL IT TO NAOMI because it's one of the first books I read as an ARC. (The very first was Sara Manning's GUITAR GIRL.) I've always had a soft spot for it. It's just a simple, cute novel about a guy pretending to be his older sister in order to write an advice column, as one does. I only learned Daniel Ehrenhaft has written other books a year or two ago, and I still need to read them. (He also writes under the name of Erin Haft.)
But I want to read his other books because TELL IT TO NAOMI has such a strong voice. I can still remember details of the music Dave's family listened too. Also, it was one book I know I like that counts as obscure under any definition you can think of.