Quick! Pop quiz! The Princess Bride, Holes, The Phantom Tollbooth, and anything by Roald Dahl. What do these books have in common? They’re quirky! Witty, clever, strange, and wonderful. If you look up quirky in the dictionary will you not find The BFG, Willy Wonka, Inigo Montoya, Stanley Yelnats, or The Dodecahedron? I’ve already talked about how I love funny books, but I also love me some quirk. From kids’ picture books (hello Punk Farm!) to graphic novels to adult non-fiction, I appreciate some far-out weird in my stories. I’m looking to escape to different worlds with unusual, interesting people — and bonus if they’re funny and quick witted.
I think that modern YA fiction has become increasingly sophisticated. We’ve got a lot of the heavy and serious, the dark and foreboding, and, of course, the seriously romantic. This is not a bad thing. Perhaps as a result, though, newer YA books have less whimsy than, say, the books mentioned above. For that matter, they seem to be written to appeal to an older audience. Do YA books nowadays skew to more mature topics and sensibilities? I can imagine that writers, editors, and publishers are really trying to capture that older teen, knowing that they will still get that younger reader because many kids tend to read up. Those in the book biz are also doing a good job of capturing the adult reader these days, which might be further evidence of my assertion. So they’ve got tweens, the older teens, AND the adults. Great for business! Despite this, since there are roughly 5,000 YA books published every year, quirky and funny books are definitely in the mix somewhere.
I find that many YA books, instead of being entirely wacky in and of themselves, incorporate quirky and interesting secondary characters, often the best friend or the sibling. Sometimes though, the main characters are just endearingly and hilariously quirky. Here are a few of my faves in no particular order:
- How I Stole Johnny Depp’s Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain
Malou and Zelda rocked my world. They are both take-no-prisoners strong, but are also fabulously quirky!
- Bad Island by Doug TenNapel
Shipwrecks, crazy monsters, mysteries galore — my absolute favorite thing about this book is Janie and her pet snake.
- Freak Magnet by Andrew Auseon
Charlie is the “freak” in this book’s title. He’s definitely an unusual fellow, it’s true. Lucky for our “magnet” Gloria, he’s also very smart, kind, funny and super interesting!
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Oh, Earl. You can be very raunchy and inappropriate, but I still want to hang out with you because you are awesome!
- Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick
Amber Appleton. You are amazing. Strange, quirky, and sometimes annoyingly upbeat? Yes, but amazing all the same.
Even though they aren’t the most current books in the world, I’d be remiss not to mention The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson by Louise Rennison. I mean, come on, Libby? That is one quirky little kid. Also, Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block. Dudes, Weetzie dances to the tune of her own drummer and that is that. Any quirky books or characters you appreciate? Tell me about them in the comments!
— Amy Pelman, currently reading Seraphina by Rachel Hartman