This women’s history month, I’m pledging to highlight the work of women writers I’ve loved. This series is intended to show the breadth, variety and quality of women’s writing, and to challenge the notion of a narrow category of “women’s fiction.”
Sometimes I struggle with the publishing categories that books fall into. Should I feel bad about reading what is – ostensibly – children’s fiction? But then I remember that the His Dark Materials books are probably contemporary classics and so I try not to get hung up on whether something is kid’s fiction or YA or NA or whatever the latest industry classification is. Good books are good books, am I right?
If you also struggle occasionally with feeling like you “shouldn’t” read children’s fiction, then I’m going to ask you to try and overcome your squeamishness for today’s writer. Michelle Paver is the author of the Chronicles of Darkness series, which over the course of six books charts the adventures of Torak and Wolf, as they battle to save the forest from the forces of darkness.
It’s a series that denies easy categorization: set in a prehistoric northern European forest, they blend history and anthropology with action, adventure and supernatural elements. Paver is meticulous in her depiction of the clans and their way of life, making our early ancestors relatable and intensely human. These are books are also, on occasion, TERRIFYING, by the way. Genuinely-edge-of-your-seat-don’t-turn-the-lights-off-SCARY.
But definitely the best aspect of these books is the friendship between 12-year-old Torak and Wolf (who is an actual wolf, fyi). Their relationship encompasses so many things: how family is often the connections we build for ourselves; what it means to be connected to a being that is fundamentally other to yourself; what human’s relationship to the natural world and its inhabitants can or should be. It’s also just touching as hell: Wolf is hilarious, adorable and a hero in equal measures, and I challenge you not to fall in love with him by the end of this book.
In general then, these books are just smart, compelling, thought-provoking – a fine example of the principle that reading beneath your age category doesn’t mean lowering your standards.
Image Credit: Luke Pamer