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Why YA? Ash (Malinda Lo) as discussed by Christie Gibrich

Today’s Why YA? post is brought to you by TLT contributor Christie Gibrich, MLS
Why YA? Because the Shoe Fits
Meeting people for the first (or second time), and it is usually pretty predictable. Right after they find out my profession, the second question I’m always asked is, What do you read? (Comes right after It must be nice getting to read all day, huh?) And I admit, I will *try* to read just about anything. I know my library’s collection pretty well, and feel that I need to have a working knowledge of what my patrons want, so I keep up with new releases, even though Westerns, Historical Romances, and bright and chipper teen series can make me grit my teeth.
However, if you come to my house and inspect my bookcases (call first so I can pick up and dust, OK? I can’t seem to find any house elves that want to live in Texas) the shelves that hold my books are mostly fiction and run a little darker – mysteries by JD Robb and Sara Prelutsky, science fiction and fantasy by McCaffrey and Tanya Huff and Mercedes Lackey, books by Laurel K. Hamilton and Kim Harrison mixed in with the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, the earlier works of Stephen King. These are the books that I go back to time and time again, because for me they stand up to multiple reading- they’re a full Sunday supper as opposed to state fair cotton candy. And on at least two large bookcases, you will find a variety of Young Adult books. Why these YA? Because they are just as beautifully written as the fiction I’ve read, and they’ve touched a chord in me.

That’s really what reading is about- finding something within the pages that hits you deep inside, that relates somehow to the reader and makes you think, that transports you to a different place, a different reality than your own. Ash, by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown, September 2009), is one of those books for me. A twisting on the traditional Cinderella tale, Aisling (Ash) is orphaned by the age of 12 and left with a stepmother and two stepsisters, and forced into the life of a servant. The only way she learns to survive is by escaping to the fairy realm, and darkening her heart. However, (SPOILERS SWEETIE), when she finds herself falling in love with the Royal Huntress (OH YES, HUNTRESS), Ash must decide between fairy and reality. It’s a dark tale, not the happy happy that most readers are familiar with, and that makes it all the more powerful in my eyes.

Ash pulls from the darker folklore that a lot of people may not be comfortable with, challenging the perception that fairies are benevolent creatures that will turn pumpkins into carriages for the fun of it and that everything turns out fine if you are pure and good and beautiful. It’s complex and lyrical in the way that Lo builds the worlds that Aisling exists in, crossing back and forth from the reality into fairy and back. I can re-read this book over and over because different passages strike me at different times- Aisling’s interactions with Clara and while Aisling tries to encourage her not to follow her step-mother blinding, Clara rebuffing her with the line “It may not be your dream, Stepsister, but do not scoff at those who do dream of it.” (159-160). The fact that it’s really not until Aisling fully accepts the death of her mother that she can find friendship and then love with Kaisa. But in the end, it’s about accepting love, letting it run its course no matter how it comes, and allowing it to be however it needs to be.
And that’s a message that everyone needs.
Have you read Ash by Malinda Lo? Tell us what you think in the comments.  And you, too, can write your own Why YA? post, find out more here.


  1. Please tell me the “Spoilers sweetie” was a Doctor Who reference. If it was only an accident, it was a spectacular one. But I'm just crossing my fingers for more Nerdy McNerds in the world. 🙂

  2. Oh, yes! I am an *AVID* Doctor Who fan, and LOVE River!!!! I keep waiting for her to appear in the current season. Which is your favorite Doctor so far?

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