Some of my favorite YA picks are “boy books.” Maybe it’s because novels with male protagonists are rarer, maybe it’s because their voices feel fresher, maybe it’s because the author knows he (or she) has to work a little harder for his audience. But I’ve noticed that, when I compile my list of favorites at the end of the year, the YA category is dominated by guys.
I’m definitely adding Dodger to my 2012 list. It’s written by Terry Pratchett, so you know it’s brilliant. (Have you read Nation? It’s another one of my favorite boy-driven stories—though there’s a plucky girl to add to the interest, too.)
Don’t worry, this isn’t a retelling of Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Pratchett’s too smart for that. Instead, it’s an imagination of what might have inspired Dickens to write one of his most famous novels—or, rather, one of his most famous characters. (No, not the simpering little tyke who wants some more.) The resourceful, street-wise Dodger! In Pratchett’s vision of events, Dodger is a “tosher,” one of a collection of brave souls who scour London’s underground sewer tunnels for hidden treasure. During a pleasant evening of toshing, Dodger finds himself drawn to the aid of a damsel in distress, and, before he knows it, into a web of mystery and intrigue.
Within that web are familiar figures from Victorian history, politics, and literature. Most notable is Dickens himself, who becomes Dodger’s benefactor of sorts. But there are also cameo appearances from Sweeney Todd and future prime minister Benjanim Disraeli, to name just a couple.
Pratchett’s originality is what carries the day here, and it’s an engaging narrative that never ceases to surprise, entertain, and engage.
This hilarious, poignant novel is the perfect gift for anyone who A) loves historical fiction, or B) just plain loves a good story. And, really, isn’t that everyone?
Read on, readers!