I enjoy a good YA novel now and then. These books are usually easy reading with fast-paced stories. But I was somewhat surprised with Out of Darkness, a YA novel by Ashley Hope Perez. The writing is sophisticated, the pace–at least initially-is slow, and the story is tragic, dealing with serious issues of racism and child abuse. It seems to me the only feature that qualifies it as a young adult story is the age of the protagonist. She is a teenager, and so is her love interest. Based on this book, I have to assume that young adult readers are more sophisticated than during my teen years. Look at Suzanne Collins’s popular series, The Hunger Games, with its dark, dystopian setting. YA books are often read by adults as well. In the past couple of years I have read Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan, It’s Not About the Accent by Barbara Caridad Ferrer, Survive the Night by Danielle Vega, and Honey Blonde Chica by Michele Serros. Most of these books deal with heavy topics (for example, Japanese internment during WWII, date rape). Out of Darkness is a shockingly stark look at racism during a particular period of US history. Does that mean it’s too harsh for a young adult reader? Not in my opinion. Indeed, it is an eye opener.
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