Sunday, April 10, 2011

Illyria - Elizabeth Hand

Title: Illyria
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Publisher: Viking (Penguin), 2010
Length: 135 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: April 8, 2011
Finished: April 8, 2011

From the inside cover:
Madeline and Rogan are first cousins, best friends, twinned souls, each other's first love. Even within their large, disorderly family—all descendants of a famous actress—their intensity and passion for theater sets them apart. It makes them a little dangerous. When they are cast in their school's production of Twelfth Night, they are forced to face their separate talents and futures, and their future together.

This stunning short novel, winner of the World Fantasy Award, is the perfect introduction to Elizabeth Hand's singular voice. Her many novels offer a window into what it means to create art, to experience it, to feel passionately about the world. Illyria throws her talent into high relief-it is magic on paper.

I can really appreciate novels like these that are very short but still manage to pack a proverbial punch.

Maddy and Rogan are first cousins growing up in the 1970s in upstate New York, more like half siblings since their fathers are twins, which makes the love factor in this story a little more icky. Although the whole family's descended from a great actress, Maddy and Rogan are the only ones to really inherit any of that love and talent for the theatre. And even then their respective talents are different; Maddy is a more conventional actress, whereas Rogan is literally passion on fire, a bit of a flight risk. When Maddy and Rogan are cast in their school's version of Twelfth Night, their family has different reactions to their performances, which leads them to separate the two, both out of concern for their growing affection for each other and to encourage one and ignore the almost unworldly talent of the other.

This novel is wonderfully written, and in a style you don't often find in YA novels, which works really well here. It gives off a fantasy feel in a story that isn't really a fantasy. The author captures Maddy and Rogan's passion, both for the theatre and each other, beautifully. The whole love affair between the two of them is handled quite well, not explicit at all, but portrayed with a deep intensity. I love how the author portrayed Rogan's character, how being so artistically gifted is seen as a gift but also as a curse.

If you're looking for a short novel that makes a big impression, or if you're a big theatre buff, read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
The guy doesn't really look like Rogan, but the girl could pass as Maddy. I like how they're shrouded and the title font is all blurry.

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