A Week in Books: This autumn's fiction for young readers does look outstandingly rich

A (very) few merit all their fame and praise. Mark Haddon's Christopher Boone will surely endure long after the Swindon suburbs he flees have crumbled into brownfield dust. Others will fade fast, their burst of literary glory a curious incident that looks stranger with every passing year. Yes, Vernon God Little, we do mean you.

Meanwhile, actual young readers now make do with much more grown-up fare. This is more than a matter of theme. Certainly, the boldest authors of teenage fiction trash every taboo and imagine every nightmare. To take a few - recommended - examples from this season's shelves: Melvin Burgess paints a ruined London torn by post-apocalyptic terrorism in Bloodsong (Andersen); Malorie Blackman dissects the motives of a suicide bomber amid a racial war in Checkmate (Doubleday); and Geraldine McCaughrean sends her grieving heroine into a deadly reverie of polar sacrifice in The White Darkness (Oxford).

Yet tone, and voice, matter just as much. The finest teenage fiction profits from a many-sided narration that sounds immeasurably more - well, "adult" - than the whiny monologues we now hear in oversold novels about children and their lives. So a story such as Aidan Chambers's remarkable This is All: the Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn (Bodley Head) might never make much of a splash in today's grown-up marketplace. It simply shows us too many facets and angles, too many glimpses of other minds and other worlds, to please the sort of sentimentalist who thrills to the bad-seed posturing of Master Little and pals.

Perhaps this paradox has always been in force. Intelligent younger readers will want to grow up; exhausted older ones to grow down - at least for a few consoling hours. What's new is that so many adults now rush to escape not into happy but unhappy childhoods. Young life now looks not merely like a foreign land, but dangerous terrain as well. Violence, separation, abuse or addiction may lurk behind its every tree. And so grown-ups will need a guide who speaks its baffling patois. Hence, perhaps, the assumption that troubled young narrators in books designed for adult readers - or even as "crossover" titles - have to speak in a mannered or eccentric register. They are our native informants in a place of perils.

Good novels for children seldom bother with such show-off feats of ventriloquism. They adopt a normal, not an exaggerated idiom, and appeal instead to character, plot, action, emotion - all those far from childish things. This autumn's delivery of fiction for young readers does look outstandingly rich, so I make no apology for signalling two more of its brightest highlights.

Writing (mainly) for pre-teen readers, both Helen Dunmore in the compellingly lyrical Ingo (HarperCollins) and Frank Cottrell Boyce in the ingeniously comic Framed (Macmillan) show how to create young narrators who speak in a unique tone without resort to linguistic trickery. Even extremely mature readers could do worse than relish these books, and leave silly voices to the kind of gimmick-hungry author who thinks that you can conjure up the feelings of youth just by swallowing a dictionary of slang. Minging, innit.

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week