I recently read two popular books about teens with special skills. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender is a fantastical tale of Rose who can taste the emotions of people who prepared the food she eats. This isn’t as enchanting as it sounds, because Rose's mother is unhappy, and all the emotions flood over her daughter. Rose is also trying to figure out the mystery around her brother, who also has an unusual talent.
I read this at the same time as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which is also about children with magical skills. I preferred the character portrait of a family in Lemon Cake over the more plot driven Unusual Children. ( In fact, I would say a large part of the appeal of Peculiar Children are the accompanying photographs). Underneath the story of fantastical gifts, Lemon Cake is a portrait of a girl being overwhelmed by the world. Watching her learn to cope is a realistic and moving experience.
I should note Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is technically a young adult book. The writing may therefore be of greater appeal to teens. Like many adults, I have been stealing out of the young adult section since they attract such great writers. Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass) and Libba Bray (Going Bovine) are all amazing fantasy writers worth sneaking into the Teen Zone at Calgary Public Library. Last year my book club read the real world novel Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett, a talented Australian writer for young adults. It was a compelling reminder of the vulnerability of being a teenage girl.