Sunday, April 28, 2013

Destination YA: Chicago

When I think of Chicago, I think of deep-dish pizza, Lake Michigan, the Sears Tower and the bean. I think of Oprah, windy politicians and the chilly breeze that sweeps in from the lake. I think of the times I saw U2 at Soldier Field. And after (finally!) diving into Divergent last fall, I also think of the novelized version of the city (or in the case of Divergent, the dystopian version). Chicago is right up I65 for me—four hours to Lake Shore Drive, outrageous parking fees and general big city fun. For me it’s not a vacation destination or a dream destination (as I’ve been there many times) but a realistic, within-my-budget, weekend away destination. Here are some YA books that will take you there:

Divergent/Insurgent/Allegiant: Veronica Roth
In this series, Chicago is a torn-apart, worn-down city where Tris and Four live. Its shadow remains but the city itself is barely recognizable. Every now and then, Roth will provide a well-known visual of Chicago usually when Tris is outside her faction's boundaries, and the reader is reminded the truly unpredictable nature of the future. Even though the story itself could be based in any big city, I think setting it in Chicago added a sense of Midwestern reality, helping offset the futuristic feel with a down-to-earth sensibility. With the final book in the trilogy out this October and the Divergent movie coming next year (see Roth’s post on visiting the set here), I imagine we will only be hearing more about this amazing trilogy in the months to come.

Time Between Us: Tamara Ireland Stone
It’s 1995 in Chicago when Anna and Bennett meet in the snow and ice. On the outside, their romance seems simple and nostalgic, much like the version of Chicago that the reader sees in this story. Chicago is portrayed through Anna’s parents’ bookshop, their suburban-type home and her typical high school. It’s a wholesome Chicago, which only begins to break as the truth about Bennett’s time-traveling abilities is revealed. For Anna, Chicago is home, but it’s also a net under which she’s trapped. Will she have the courage to escape, or will she wait forever to see if Bennett manages to travel back to her windy city?

Will Grayson, Will Grayson: John Green & David Levithan
Chicago is a city of coincidence when Will Grayson meets Will Grayson on one snowy night downtown. Green and Levithan weave together the story of two teens, each with their own distinct voice, through an examination of relationships. The story has a suburban, could-happen-anywhere feel but it also highlights the quirkiness of Chicago when the Wills meet in an adult bookstore. Green and Levithan have many outstanding books to each of their respective names, but such an accomplishment as this co-authored novel only makes me wish they will someday meet again, maybe in Chicago.

A few more Chicago-centric adventures:
XVI: Julia Karr
Perfect Chemistry: Simone Elkeles
Cold Fury:  T.M. Goeglein

Hope the wind stays away!

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