Monday, August 12, 2013

Guardian of the Dead: the first book I've read with an important asexual character

b Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey: You know, mythology is so R-rated.  I forget that sometimes because the United States' national myths are kind of weak in the violence and weirdness department.  (Not that I mind.)  This book is set around a boarding school in urban-ish New Zealand.  Ellie is 17, a bit overweight, and apathetic.  Her best friend Kevin has just told her that he's asexual, and she has an increasing crush on Mark, the school's dark and odd mystery boy.  Then there are these murders and this extremely creepy woman and the fact that Ellie starts seeing things no one else seems to see.

Those things are out of this world.  I like reading books that involve myths (real or fictional, as in the Queen's Thief books by Megan Whalen Turner).  These kinds of stories peoples tell about themselves are a fascinating way to learn about other cultures.  There is the added interest here in that the mythology is from the aboriginal culture, and Ellie in particular is from the culture that conquered the old one.  I am coming at it from a totally different culture, but it's a conquering culture as well, so there is an echo for me of the richness of the native cultures that were over-run when mine took over.

Mostly, this is just a weird fantasy adventure.  I found out about it in the comment thread of a publisher's weekly post about the need for diversity in YA literature.  (I wrote 5 responses to it, starting here.)  I was surprised there were any books that featured important asexual characters.  That this one's asexuality was actually central to part of the plot impressed me.  At first it just seemed like a clumsy attempt to tack on an unusual sexual orientation, but then it was necessary, and I was more impressed.  And then kind of taken aback by the mythology, which was, well, as dark as some of the really dark European stuff and way more explicitly sexual.  Definitely an interesting read with some real tragedy mixed in.

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