The term “hybrid” in kidlit is frequently used to refer to graphic/narrative hybrids like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but lately I’m noticing a mini-trend that uses that concept slightly differently – combining the traditional narrative with other ephemera like magazine articles, online chat transcripts, photographs, and the like (and illustrations too, usually). Often, the straightforward narrative makes up less than half of the book, and the other methods are much more integral to the story. While the idea is by no means new, I do find it interesting that it’s cropping up a bit more frequently of late, and it’s being taken in new and creative directions.
Kelly wrote a genre guide to alternative formats earlier this year, which covers these sorts of books, but I think some authors are playing with the idea more creatively than a lot of the examples we gave then. Stories told in epistolary format, verse, or graphic/narrative combo, while slightly different, aren’t really considered experimental anymore. I love seeing the types of formats exemplified by the books below that really push the boundaries and force us to dig for a new term to describe them. (Incidentally, what would you call books like these?)
I compiled a brief list below, but I’d love to learn about more, so please comment away. Descriptions are from Worldcat and my own notes are in brackets.
The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin
When a celebrated New York City teenager, known for her subversive
street art, mysteriously dies, her life is examined in a series of
interviews with her parents, friends, boyfriends, mentors, and critics.
[This description only scratches the surface of everything that’s in Griffin’s book, which also includes photos, Addison’s artwork, and magazine articles alongside the interviews. You can read Kelly’s review here and a discussion with the author at School Library Journal.]
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The planet Kerenza is attacked, and Kady and Ezra find themselves on a
space fleet fleeing the enemy, while their ship’s artificial
intelligence system and a deadly plague may be the end of them all.
[This is a forthcoming title – October 20 – that, according to Kirkus, combines “interview transcripts, memos, instant-messaging transcripts, diary entries, and more.” I have the review copy and am excited to dive in, though a little intimidated by its 600 pages.]
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Told through journal entries, a psychotherapist’s notes, court records,
and more, relates the tale of Carly, a teen who was institutionalized
after her parents’ death but released to Elmbrige High School, where she
is believed to have a second personality or soul named Kaitlyn, and/or
be possessed by a demon.
[This YA horror novel will be published September 15.]
S by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are
his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by
its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the
book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that
plunges them both into the unknown. The book: Ship of Theseus, the final
novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V.M. Straka, in
which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a
monstrous crew and launched onto a disorienting and perilous journey.
[This is an adult title that actually has removable pieces scattered throughout it, making it impractical for library shelves but pretty fun to play with as a reader. The conceit is interesting – it’s a “real” book that’s been written in by two students, and their marginalia makes up the story, though the book is a story in itself as well.]