One reason I choose to read YA Literature is that they are often quick reads with modern plots. This category is great for staying up to date with modern references to music, television, and technology. Another reason I read novels directed at teens is there are many current novels about dystopian societies, which often draw my interest. Finally, I read YA Literature to remind myself of what it is like to be a teenager. Life is different for teens today than when I was younger. I think it is important to be able to remain sympathetic to the complicated nature of teen life, and not to become too distant from those years. For, when you forget what it is like to be young, you truly begin to be old. Reading YA Literature ensures that I remain wild at heart.
Peregrine Harker & the Black Death by Luke Hollands is about Peregrine, a 15 year old orphan in 1908 London who works at the local newspaper. He loves adventure, mysteries, and getting into trouble. It reads like a traditional mystery novel and is definitely a book written with reluctant boy readers in mind.
Somewhere between Sherlock Holmes, The Adventures of Tin Tin, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Peregrine Harker is difficult to peg which demographic Hollands is trying to reach. At times, the novel reads like a teen novel. Peregrine encounters a great deal of violence, witnesses murder, gets into several physical altercations that he barely gets out of with his life, and even has a love interest. Like Sherlock, Peregrine has an unnatural gift for sniffing out clues to find the bad guys. And, the villains are serious bad guys. They are murderous, smuggling kidnappers with no qualms for beating up children and forcing girls into marriage.
However, at other times, the novel feels like it is intended for a much younger audience. Throughout, the dialogue is childish and silly, reminiscent of Tin Tin, and feels much closer to a book written for middle school children than young adults. Even so, much of the content is incongruous with a middle school novel.
Not only is the story difficult to peg, but Peregrine himself is a paradox. His is a 15 year old orphan, raised by the newspaper manager, but is proficient in fencing and boxing (enough that he can hold his own in a fight against a bare knuckle champion)? Much of this just doesn't makes sense.
In my opinion, this story showed promise and would have been stronger if Hollands had decided to write an actual young adult novel. He could have raised Peregrine's age to about 18, made the story more complex, developed the love interest further, and explained how he is so versed in self-defense and fighting. Instead, the story feels disjointed and underdeveloped.
Library Bag: If you know a child who really likes mystery novels, this might be the right novel for him/her. However, if you are an adult that enjoys dabbling in YA every now and then, hoping for a light read with an entertaining plot, I don't recommend it. It is way too "young" for me, very predictable and left me feeling unsatisfied.