Lately, young-adult epics with supernatural beings and dire futures have been embraced by many whose teen years are far behind them. These five books by Minnesota writers are likely to be embraced by their target audience of teens, above all. They deal with the lives of teens in this world — though sometimes in odd corners of it — with nary a vampire in sight.
"Eden West," by Pete Hautman. (Candlewick Press, 320 pages, $17.99.)
Pete Hautman returns to ground broken in his National Book Award-winning "Godless": What is the relationship of human beings to their idea of the divine? In "Eden West," Jacob narrates his life in an end-times cult living on a 12-square-mile compound in the American West. The Branch Davidian-style cult members could have been written harshly; in this book, though, Jacob himself is a firm believer in the Eden his folks have joined and have helped to create. How Eden begins to come apart, at the same time as Jacob begins to find himself in the forbidden world outside, is written with depth, empathy and stinging honesty, in an eccentric but convincing 17-year-old voice. As always, Hautman's insight and precise prose are rewarding.
"No Parking at the End Times," by Bryan Bliss. (Greenwillow, 267 pages, $17.99.)
Bryan Bliss takes on a piece of the same territory in "No Parking at the End Times." Seventeen-year-old Abigail and her twin, Aaron, have been taken by their parents from a happy though impoverished life in North Carolina to San Francisco to await the end times with other members of a flock led by a mysteriously charismatic preacher who has taken all their money. The trip starts joyously — Abigail's father makes a holiday of their journey in their old van — but when the last trumpet doesn't blow on schedule, the family is living in that van on the streets, broke and hungry. Aaron sneaks out at night and joins a semi-feral group of street kids; Abigail is torn between her twin and her parents. Agonizingly, she must find a way to act on her own behalf. Bliss has worked with teenagers, and it shows — his characters are not stereotypical "teens" but human beings who must face and overcome unique problems. A fine debut.
"Love and Profanity: A Collection of True, Tortured, Wild, Hilarious, Concise, and Intense Tales of Teenage Life," edited by Nick Healy. (Switch Press, 232 pages, $16.99.)
Nick Healy has gathered more than 40 uneven but relentlessly fascinating brief true stories from YA writers about their own teen years. This collection is often harrowing and has its slow bits, but it's irresistible: Who wouldn't want to know what crazy stories one's favorite author would tell at 1 a.m. at the kitchen table? You find out that, yes, Jon Scieszka understands kids' full-tilt sensibilities first hand; Carrie Mesrobian has been a sane observer of the madness of others for a long time, and Joseph Bruchac had strong, joyful roots even as a kid.
"Biggie," by Derek E. Sullivan. (AW Teen/Albert Whitman Press, 269 pages, $16.99.)
Henry "Biggie" Abbott, living in baseball-mad Finch, Iowa, has gotten mired in a 300-pound body that insulates him from his dad's abandonment, his stepdad's irritation and the pressure of the two men's stellar baseball careers. When the potential of his pitching appears in a gym-class Wiffle ball game, Biggie embarks on a transformational journey. This debut effort does some foot shuffling, but it's a well-cast story with a very interesting narrator's voice.
"When You Leave," by Monica Ropal. (Running Press/Perseus, 336 pages, $9.95.)
"When You Leave" features a Frogtown skater girl dropped into an exclusive private school who tumbles into a murder mystery only she can solve. Full of wonderfully eccentric characters, the book stumbles over its complex plot at times, but is well worth reading for its deeply human intensity.
Ann Klefstad is a writer and artist in Duluth.