I have discovered that historical fiction is a difficult sell to teens, especially after the success of novels, like The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent, which are more contemporary. I feel this may be a possibility (fault?) of the schools because they are requiring students to read more non-fiction texts in school for STEM. So when the teens are looking for pleasure reading they want an easy, fun and entertaining story. In The Passion of Dolssa, you not only have historical fiction, but it is also heavy on religious content.
Being set in the 13th century and centering on the Catholic Church and a young girl who believes Jesus is her “beloved”, this story is filled with a heavy subject matter. Even with the teen protagonist, I feel this book would be more appealing to adults. I reviewed this novel on some websites and discovered I am not the only adult who feels this way.
I feel Berry created strong characters, especially female, but with the multitude of narrators and characters themselves (not to mention the number of pages) I believe teenagers may be intimated and back away from this book.
The advancement in young adult novels has frightened me. Books I read as a teen were only as sexual as Forever by Judy Blume – which became a “challenged” book. And swearing – NO WAY! We are the Ants starts with “Life is Bullshit”, and on page 12, “I’m pretty confident he broke the world record for the most number of times a kid masturbated while sharing breathing space with his parents, brother, and grandparents.” Shocking – Yes. Unusual – No. This is the way young adult books are these days and unfortunately if authors want to appeal to teens they have to stay in the game. Therefore, as an adult and a Young Adult Librarian, I cannot fault these authors.
This book grabs the reader from the very start and manages to successfully tie in realistic fiction with science fiction. As mentioned in the other reviews of this book, it is definitely more on the realistic spectrum, but the intriguing alien side story will definitely attract the science fiction readers. We are the Ants is written to attract both male and female readers – which I LOVE! The reader can’t help having sympathy for the main character, Henry, when he describes how he wakes up in strange places with only underwear on, while and at same time struggling with his guilt after his boyfriend commits suicide.
There were a couple parts that I felt the author made circumstances too convenient to be believable; he wakes up without his phone after the aliens drop him, but finds a working pay phone…What?!? But, even with a few too contrived moments, the story is told with relatable characters who wear their emotions on their sleeve and are easy to connect with. Then the author manages to come full circle and lets the readers’ own imagination help end the book. I have a love/hate relationship with those endings! Will we ever find out the three words Parker says to Eleanor at the end of Eleanor & Park?
Although The Passion of Dolssa’s writing may be of a higher quality, I judge YA novels on their appeal to teens. Due to the entertainment value and the marketability to a wide teen audience, I have to say We are the Ants is clearly the winner of this battle.
Heather Stewart is the Young Adult Librarian at Johnsburg Public Library. She enjoys getting crazy with her snarky teens, being brutally honest at times, but warm fuzzies are definitely her thing. In her spare time, she enjoys board games, 80’s bands and spending time with her family, especially her 1 year old grandson, Elliott. However, she is an Ambivert and will never pass up on a solo lunch date with a good book.