One of the most fascinating aspects of YA, both as a genre and a cultural phenomenon, is that often the sole target of YA is forgotten: young adults themselves. Teens and young adults are the entire justification of YA books in the first place – sometimes this is overlooked, as the market is flooded by books written by adults and read by adults. Some of those adults have forgotten what it is like to be a teen/young person. Some of those adults may still remember what it is like to be a teen/young person, but cannot contextualise that feeling beyond the scope of the interests teens/young people in the 1980s held. I am, consequently, always fascinated by the existence of actual, real-life young adult YA authors.
Some of you may know the fabulous Claire Hennessy, an Irish author
/editor/all round awesome individual who was first published at the age of 13. Young, right? And yet, we are constantly reading books and writing books for teens and young people, when perhaps the most qualified to write these books are the young people themselves. A novel idea! (absolutely no pun intended. Mostly). There was Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon, who began working on the Inheritance series when he was 15. Flavia Bujor, author of The Prophecy of the Stones, who was also 13 at the time of publication. And now, we have Eilis Barrett, author of Oasis, who is just 16.
I’m not one to dwell on age too much.
(I can’t afford to – almost every single one of my friends is at least four years older than me, and I frequently forget that I’m only 21 and shouldn’t be freaking out about my future just yet). With Eilis, remembering that she’s 16 is nigh on impossible (until you are responsible for getting her to her train home on time). She’s mature, career-focused, intelligent and generally is the sort of person that you hope will pick up and enjoy the book you’ve slaved over writing for years for the purpose of entertaining young adults. I met Eilis just after DeptCon1 last year (Ireland’s first ever YA convention, run by Department 51) and have had the pleasure of receiving an ARC of Oasis in the last couple of weeks. For the simple reason that Oasis hasn’t even had the chance to hit the shelves yet, I won’t review it in detail. What I can tell you, however, is that any dystopian book you’ve ever read and have been disappointed with, any book with a pointless love triangle that just would not befall any sixteen year old girl (or any girl ever), is all forgiven within the pages of Oasis. Dystopian as it should be written, Oasis puts emphasis on the major details of the story. It puts emphasis on fear. On power. It is evident throughout the story that Oasis is not just a book about a dystopian civilisation – it is about experience. It almost mirrors our world and the blind trust we can put in the people who say they are in charge. In the people we love. It shows us that we can sometimes accept things at face value that ought to be questioned. Probed. Deconstructed. Destroyed. Quincy Emerson is not that different from the other girls in the story. They all need to survive, and do what they can to survive. She’s unloveable – cold, enigmatic, sometimes callous – and yet deserving of love. Quincy is not a manic pixie dream girl protagonist, but rather a living, breathing human with living, breathing human traits and flaws and shortcomings and talents. I knew before I’d picked Oasis up that I’d love it; but fast forward two hours and I’d devoured it cover to cover, totally in love with the first book from what is sure to be a major emerging Irish talent that we’ll all be seeing more of in years to come.
This is the beautiful thing about Oasis. It was written by a 16 year old, living 16 year old experiences and weighing them up against the books adults write for her and others like her. It was written by someone who knew what they wanted to read about amidst a sea of books with love triangles and dystopian tropes. It was written by someone who was able to take 16 years of relevant experience and craft them into a fast-paced, brilliantly told story. It stands up – and out – among the ranks of existing dystopian YA. I have absolutely no doubt that Eilis will be part of a movement that encourages other teenagers to really, really, write the things you want to read, and will be somewhat of a poster child for anyone who doubts their abilities to achieve what she has. Publication is never an easy route, and I imagine she’ll kill me for saying so, but Eilis is really, truly, an inspiration.
Oasis is the first in a two-part series, published by Gill Books and will be available for purchase from April 8th.