One year ago today, my first post for The Hub, From Russia with YA, went live. Today, I am celebrating my blogiversary with another Russian-related topic: the abundance of YA lit being published with a Russian connection.
Over the past couple of years, it seems that Russia (or the USSR) has been popping up everywhere! At first, I thought I was only noticing this theme because I moved here, much like how the world felt like it was suddenly filled with weddings as soon as I got engaged. I had a few conversations with friends who did not have the same connection and they had noticed it, too.
What is it about Russia that makes for such an interesting background in YA lit? Is it simply because it is a country that has such a long history filled with royalty, religion, and rebellion? Did the Cold War draw a clear line between the cultures of the US and the USSR, making life in Russia seem even more distant and distinct, a novelty?
The books that I have included in this post focus on various aspects of Russian history and culture, across a range of historical time periods. None of these books are contemporary stories (the most recent occur during the Soviet Union) and most include elements of fantasy and the supernatural. It seems that something about Russia cries out for the inclusion of magic – even a story of spies and ballet is open to a supernatural addition!
- The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone – 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2013 Readers’ Choice)
- The Grisha trilogy is a Russian-influenced high-fantasy series based on magical powers and battles between light and dark. Bardugo used elements of Russian culture and language to create a completely new world. Some readers have expressed frustration with her departure from the traditional rules and customs of Russia, for example not following the proper gendering of surnames, but the Grisha trilogy is a separate fantasy world, not an attempt to recreate the actual culture. Continue reading Russia-Infused YA Lit