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Gwenda Bond

Five Books About Sleuths

Who doesn’t love a good sleuth? We both do, which is one of the reasons we ended up writing a new series together about three kids that solve mysteries together in a hotel for monsters (or, in our terminology, supernormals). In book one of the Supernormal Sleuthing Service, The Lost Legacy, we introduce readers to a secret governing body called the Octagon and culinary alchemy and the Hotel New Harmonia with floors specifically for the undead and a dragon in the basement and, of course, lots of mysteries. Meanwhile one of us (Gwenda) also writes a series of YA novels about Lois Lane as a teen sleuth/reporter. We like a sleuth, is what we’re saying.

What is it that fascinates us about them? It’s hard to narrow it down for the length of a post… particularly when you’re exploring it at book-length. But we’ll give it a shot. For starters, there’s something so universal about a story driven by people solving a mystery—sleuthing, as it were—that we can all identify with, even though we may not be recovering our family’s magical cookbooks, taking down villains, or solving murders (well, at least no one in our house is). What we do all do is puzzle our way through our daily lives, which are made up of endless mysteries as far as we’re concerned. Where do socks go? Why do we have a zillion bookmarks but none where we need them? Why do people eat licorice? And, of course, the heavy, existential crisis type questions: Why are we here? What are we supposed to do? How can we be good people? And though many sleuths end up enforcing the rules, just as often they break them to do it. There’s a sense of being in service to the higher calling of the truth, and so (at least in fiction, if not in life) bending the rules to find out crucial things becomes a part of the sleuth’s art. Sleuths are often outsiders. They often say and do things most of us don’t or can’t.

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Series: Five Books About…

The Future’s Not Bright…

…or if it is, it’s also dark and troubling. Much like the present, really, only different. Only worse.

Such is the primary lesson of today’s exploding subgenre of dystopian young adult fiction. I hesitate to make too many assertions about which books started this undeniable trend, or which books are included, because there’s a certain squishiness to how the term itself is used these days. It’s sometimes used to describe books I’d class as post-apocalyptic (Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, Janni Simner’s Bones of Faerie and—just out—Faerie Winter). Others have observed that it’s become more or less the YA field’s code word for “science fiction,” not so different from how “paranormal” is regularly used to mean any contemporary fantasy with a romance. This is a valid point; YA does seem to avoid the term science fiction. (Though I wonder how that will morph as YA SF books with less of a focus on dystopian elements become more common. And I believe they will. Beth Revis’ Across the Universe being a prime example; for all that there are hallmarks of dystopia there—the controlled society, the loss of individualism—it is primarily a generation ship story.) At any rate, argument over the term’s use or not, there are a steadily growing number of YA books that are indisputably dystopian in nature, with the wild success of The Hunger Games having kicked the trend into high gear.

[This makes perfect sense]

Series: Dystopia Week