Books like Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series have revived the young adult and teen girls market for reading. Edward Cullen has literally raised it from the dead. As a result, literary vampires seem to be just about crawling in through our windows. Book series like The House of Night and Generation Dead practically jump out at you from bookshelves, bearing their long white fangs and demanding you take them to your daughters.
But what else is out there for young adult girls today? Are vampires all teenage girls have for literary fodder anymore? Fear not. There are plenty of YA novels for today’s teen girls, and not all of them have been published recently. Together we will go beyond Twilight as I introduce you to books both new and old for teen girls to read, and though some might feature the trendy nosferatu, many will not.
The first book on our young adult reading list is Liz Berry’s The China Garden, published originally in 1994 in the UK and then in 1996 in the US. That would, of course, make it 13 years old, but don’t let the book’s age fool you. The story of Clare Meredith and Ravensmere is timeless. The back blurb on the 1999 Avon Tempest edition reads as follows:
“When Clare moves with her mother from London to Ravensmere, an historic English estate, she can’t shake the feeling that the residents already know her, especially Mark, a maddeningly attractive biker. Claire also feels compelled to take midnight walks in Ravensmere’s abandoned China Garden. Then her mother reveals that their own past is tragically linked to the estate. But when Clare discovers that Ravensmere is in grave danger, will she risk her future—and Mark’s—to save it?”
Thus we are introduced to the story of The China Garden, and to our heroine, Clare Meredith, a seventeen-year-old preparing to attend university, but undecided on what she will really do with her life. A summer spent at Ravensmere changes everything, and also spins a deliciously intricate and richly detailed tale for teenage girls to read.
From its beginning, the story of The China Garden is deeply rooted in mythology of all kinds. A prologue retells the story of Persephone, the Greek goddess of spring, and ancient Celtic, Roman, and Greek myths are all cleverly interwoven by Berry throughout the book. For those so inclined, it makes a pleasurable venture to identify these myths as you read along.
The China Garden also crosses many genres, and as a result teenage girls with different tastes will all be pleased. Those with a love of romance will find Clare and Mark’s story intriguing. Require mystery and suspense to keep you compelled? The China Garden keeps its readers on their toes with every twist and turn—nothing is as it seems. And for those who desire fantasy and magic and a bit of the supernatural, look no further. Ravensmere is a place of enchantment and will quickly weave its spell for you.
Berry’s book also offers something for those who like to read about regular girls. Clare Meredith is a character many young women can indentify with—confused about what she wants and where she is going. She argues with her mother and disobeys her. Clare is an everyday girl, and someone any woman of any age can identify with. We all remember what it’s like to be seventeen.
It’s time to step outside of the Twilight box. The China Garden by Liz Berry is available at Amazon in both hardback and paperback, new and used, and starting at a price even the hardest hit by our economy can afford. Winner of the Pewter Cup and selected by several reading and library associations as one of the “best books for young adults/teenagers” to read, The China Garden is a book your daughter should not miss.