The Presence of Magical Realism in YA Literature: When You Reach Me and How I Live Now

For those that aren’t too familiar with Magical Realism (and if everyone is, forgive me if this is patronizing), its the presence of “the fantastic” or elements of the fantastic woven into a narrative that would otherwise constitute as realistic fiction. The most famous examples of this type of writing can most readily be found in works created by South American authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Autumn of the Patriarch) and Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits, Daughters of Fortune). While my experiences with this genre of fiction are fairly limited, I have always been fascinated by the idea that “fantastic” elements could be woven so easily (almost flippantly) into a narrative. Magical occurrences take place and all the characters in their books continue about their business as though it isn’t odd that one of their family members has naturally green hair and possesses a staggering ethereal beauty (found in The House of the Spirits).

how i live now                  when-you-reach-me

The week in which we read When You Reach Me and How I Live Now was very refreshing to me because of the fact that the authors of these novels wrote their narratives in a very similar vein. Miranda’s realization [SPOILERS] that the homeless “laughing man” on her street was actually Marcus time traveling from the past to prevent Sal’s death comes so easily once all the pieces fall into place and she readily accepts this “impossible” idea as fact. In short, time-traveling Marcus is Miranda’s equivalent of a green-haired family member. How I Live Now‘s Daisy never actually states or sees [SPOILERS] Edmond’s mind-reading abilities or Isaac and Piper gifts with animals as anything out of the ordinary, but rather treats them as things that simply “are.” I love how both Stead and Rosoff blend these elements into their narratives so seamlessly, and haven’t really encountered anything quite like this in YA Literature (save for Allende’s City of the Beasts and L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, of which When You Reach Me was partially inspired by).

Thoughts, anyone?