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Tag: the completist

The Completist: Margo Lanagan

I’m back with another installment of The Completist, in which I take a look at the complete YA works of one lucky author — in today’s case, Margo Lanagan. Lanagan presents a somewhat tricky case for reading her complete works. If Wikipedia is to be believed, Lanagan started her career by writing a stunning nine teen romance novels in three years, all under various pseudonyms, followed by a number of novels for children under her own name. Since the teen romances are under different names and the others are too young (and since they are all unavailable in the States), I’m excluding them from this particular installment of the Completist.
Her “complete” work, then, encompasses two early YA novels (The Best Thing (Allen & Unwin, 1995) and Touching Earth Lightly (Allen & Unwin, 1996)), two much later novels (Tender Morsels (Knopf, 2008) and The Brides of Rollrock Island (Knopf, 2012)), and three short story collections (White Time (Eos, 2006), Black Juice (Eos, 2005), Red Spikes (Knopf, 2007)) in between. She has also published a new short story collection called Yellowcake (Allen & Unwin, 2011) in Australia, which should be making its way to our shores in 2013. I wasn’t willing to pony up the $40 to get a copy, so I’m excluding it as well. We’ll call this article “the Complete-ish-ist.”

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The Completist: A.M. Jenkins

I’m back with another episode of The Completist, in which I read the complete works of a YA novelist and try to make sense of them. This time, I’m taking on AM Jenkins, most famous for her Printz Honor-winning novel Repossessed. Including Repossessed, Jenkins has written seven novels, four of which–Damage (2002), Out of Order (2004), Repossessed (2008), and Night Road (2009)–made it on their year’s Best Books for Young Adults list, with Damage also making 2002’s BBYA Top Ten. I had read Repossessed prior to starting this project, so I knew I liked Jenkins’s work, but since I hadn’t read any others, I decided to read all seven (including Repossessed again) in order of publication.

First of all, let me say that all of her novels (with one exception I’ll get to at the end) were fantastic. Jenkins has an amazing command of language in a surprisingly broad range of genres. And while I don’t by any means think it is the only thing worth pursuing in Jenkins’s work, nor do I expect future Completist posts to focus so narrowly, I found one particular element in her work so fascinating that I’m going to focus most of this post on it.

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The Completist: Laurie Halse Anderson

Ever since I started saving my allowance to buy all the Beatles albums on cassette tape (only to rebuy them all on CD a couple years later–blast!), I’ve been an avid completist. When I get into a new band, director, or author, I always try to listen to/watch/read as much of their work as possible. Part of this is just my general list mania (man does it feel good to check things off a list), but if an artist is any good, it is also incredibly rewarding to see the interconnections between their different works, and most of the time even books or movies that aren’t great in and of themselves can hold a lot more meaning for me if I know the rest of the author or director’s work.

With that in mind, I’m going to kick off what may turn out to be a series of posts (depending on how much time I have to read and reread) on reading the complete works of some of my favorite YA authors.

One caveat: a lot of YA writers write for other audiences or they write ridiculous numbers of short stories for various collections. I’m not a complete masochist, so the rules I’ve set for myself are that I only have to read officially YA published works, and short stories only if they are in a collection of the author’s own work (i.e., Margo Lanagan’s Red/Black/White books are fine, but I’m not going to worry about reading all the stories she’s published in SF anthologies).

So now on to my first victim: Laurie Halse Anderson. Anderson has written a largish series of middle grade novels called Vet Volunteers, as well as a bunch of picture books, but her YA output amounts to eight novels. When I started this project, I had only read two of these, Speak (1999) and Wintergirls (2009), both of which I considered (and still consider) to be among the best YA books around. I started by rereading those two books and then proceeded in a completely chaotic manner, based on which books happened to be at my library: {Catalyst (2002), Twisted (2007), Prom (2005), Chains (2008), Forge (2010), and Fever, 1793 (2000).  

Anderson has been heavily awarded: every one of her YA novels except Prom has been on its year’s Best Books/Best Fiction for Young Adults list. In 2009, she received the Margaret A. Edwards Award, which was a pretty impressive accomplishment: due to the award’s structure (only books five years old or older can be cited) only her first three books were eligible, and the committee chose to cite all three. She also has a Printz Honor, a pair of National Book Award finalist medals, and a Scott O’Dell Award.  

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