Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! It is the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland. Patrick was not born in Ireland, but was taken captive by Irish pirates and made a slave. Although he eventually made his way home to Britain, he return to Ireland as a Christian missionary and is thought to have converted thousands of people. Using a shamrock as an illustration of the Christian Holy Trinity, “banishing” all snakes from the island, having his walking stick turned into a tree; the folklore and tales surrounding him forever tie Saint Patrick to Ireland. So on this, his celebratory day, how about considering some excellent Irish YA fiction? These books are set on The Emerald Isle and most are by Irish authors; try one or two to get a taste of great Irish literature.
Long Story Short by Siobhan Parkinson
Jono and Julie’s alcoholic mother is mostly useless when it comes to actually parenting, but Jono feels he and Julie are not doing too badly all in all. But when their mother hits Julie one day, Jono knows he must get the two of them out of there, away from the abuse and neglect, and far from child services who will separate them. Parkinson was Ireland’s first laureate for children’s literature. Her writing is exquisite and her storytelling masterful. Jono is not the most reliable of narrators; as he spins his tale, readers will be kept on their toes, and not just with worry for these two vulnerable kids.
The New Policeman by Kate Thompson (Best Books for Young Adults 2008)
There never seems to be enough time to do all the things you want to do. This seems especially true in Kinvara, Ireland where JJ lives with his family. After his mother wishes for more time, JJ learns about a portal to Tír na n’Óg, the Land of Youth, where time stands still. Could this be where all the lost time goes? JJ wants to make the journey there, but he learns that venturing into the faerie realms can be fantastic, but also dangerous. This novel is drenched in Irish culture and folklore. Pro tip: listen to the audio book if you can. The chapters are interspersed with bits of music from Irish folk songs!
The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley (2015 Printz Honor Book)
When her mother marries her boyfriend, Maggie is uprooted from her Chicago home and transplanted to Bray -a small seaside town in Ireland. She is far from everything she knows and loves, waiting for care packages of Americana from her uncle back in the states. Maggie struggles with her feelings of loss, with first love, with how much and how far to rebel. When her favorite band, Nirvana, comes to Europe, Maggie runs away to see them; away from family, and from Bray, and she runs away at the exact wrong time.
A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd (Best Books for Young Adults 2008)
A beautifully written, heartrending book. After Shell’s mother dies, her father turns more and more to alcohol than to his family. Left to care for her younger siblings, Shell seeks consolation with both the new young priest in town and with a childhood friend, Declan. When Declan leaves for America, Shell discovers she is pregnant and as her fellow townsfolk are more want to gossip than help, she has no one to turn to. Readers may think they know where the story is heading, but Dowd is a talented, clever writer and she will surprise you.
Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan
A ghost story, a thriller, a very spooky horror novel, set in the 1970s Ireland. When their home and all they own burn in a fire set by their Nan, twins Patrick and Dom move to their family’s small, seaside vacation cottage with their parents and young sister. Everything is topsy turvy to begin with, but then the twins are haunted and Dom becomes possessed by a ghost. Patrick soon realizes this is not just trauma affecting his family’s emotions, this is a life or death situation that he and Dom must survive on their own.
~ Geri Diorio, currently reading Night Watch by Terry Pratchett