Thinking of Utah authors automatically makes me think of Shannon Hale. Homegirl has written some really fantastic novels, and I recently discovered that she's one of my most-read authors of all time. So today, in honor of Utah Book Month, I'll be highlighting a few standouts from Hale's impressive collection of published work. (If you'd like to see a full list of her work, you can check it out on Goodreads by clicking here.)
One of the best things about Shannon Hale is that she is so adventurous in her writing. She doesn't stick to one genre, or one type of protagonist. She has written series and standalones. She has graphic novels and traditional novels. She has a following amongst Middle Grade readers, YA readers, and adult readers, since she has published novels in every field. Basically, Shannon Hale is awesome.
Of her Middle Grade novels, I've read her Princess Academy series, Book of a Thousand Days, and The Storybook of Legends. All of them were absolutely delightful, but, to me, the first Princess Academy book was especially lovely. One of the themes that often comes across in her MG novels is friendship, loyalty, and bravery. Those aren't themes that I ever tire of, but I find them to be especially important in MG novels, since kids are just learning what it means to be a good friend, and to stand up for what they believe in. Hale's Books of Bayern series are pretty highly acclaimed, and I'm looking forward to reading those next time I need a Hale fix.
YA isn't Hale's most widely published genre, but I did read and love her book Dangerous that came out within the past couple of years. Hale really seems to understand that while plotting and action are important elements in YA, what really matters is that you care about the characters. She writes each character - both the good guys and the bad guys and the grey guys - with such finesse that you feel like you know them personally. It can be quite jarring to consider that these people are fictional. But that's just a sign of a great writer. Dangerous is compelling, not just because it's wildly inventive science fiction, but because you care about the characters involved in this suspenseful, action-filled world.
Having said all this, it's actually Hale's books that are written for adults that are my favorites. The first Hale novel I ever read was The Actor and the Housewife. My little sister would kill me if I didn't also mention Austenland, which is not only a wonderful book and a hilarious film, but has an even better sequel, Midnight in Austenland. I'm not sure when Hale will release another book for adults, but you can bet that whenever that day comes, I'll have that book pre-ordered the moment I hear about it.
Between her books and her blog, Hale has provided me with hours and hours of thoughtful writing and warmth and laughter. I will absolutely be introducing my kids to Ms. Hale's work as soon as they're old enough to enjoy it. Probably starting with The Princess in Black. Thanks, Ms. Hale, for writing and representing the Utah book scene with such humor and talent and finesse. Readers everywhere are better off because of you!