Z is for Zugzwang.
It is the last day of the A to Z Challenge! You, my readers, have survived! Yay, you!
So, zugzwang. I borrowed a chess term for today’s category of
novels for young adults.
Zugzwang describes a situation in which one must take one’s turn even if it is to one’s disadvantage. It also means to force someone else into that situation. Zugzwang so perfectly sums up what authors do to their characters, and that is particularly true of today’s two novels for young adults.
Sixteen-year-old Ann Burden (prophetic name, anyone?) believes she is the lone survivor of a nuclear war. Everyone she knows and loves is dead. She has created a life for herself in a valley and has lived there for a year. But one day she sees a campfire and realizes she is not alone. What if this other person is not to be trusted? This Edgar Award winner is about isolation and hard choices. You may know O’Brien’s work from his children’s novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, a beautiful Newbery Medal novel about kindness and generosity.
Two teens meet on a leukemia cancer ward. One of them is optimistic and sunny–Zac. The other is angry and despairing–Mia. Together they challenge each other to face an unknown future. Some critics have compared Zac and Mia to The Fault in Our Stars, but the relationship between Zac and Mia is more friendship-based than romantic. Other readers even feel Zac and Mia are almost spin-off characters of Isaac and Monica from The Fault in Our Stars. It might be interesting to do a reading comparison of these two books.
From nuclear fall-out to life-threatening cancer, I’d say today’s authors have presented their characters with ordeals of zugzwang proportions.
Have you ever heard the word zugzwang before? Do you have a favorite character facing zugzwang?
Thank you, readers, for joining me on this A to Z journey! I hope you have enjoyed the ride and perhaps found a new book or two to try.