I LOVE this week’s category. Travel can be such a rich metaphor, especially in the YA world where protagonists struggle to figure out who they are. Travel is often able to serve as the vehicle for that – pun definitely intended! So without further ado, here are the top ten (mostly YA) books that feature travel in some way:
(Original feature courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish)
While I wasn’t 100% thrilled with this book (largely because it seems to become a different novel halfway through), I did adore the notion of portals that Brimstone, the mysterious chimaera who serves as father-figure to main character Karou, is able to conjure. These portals are secret doors that can only be opened from the inside, and from within, they lead to places all over the world: Prague, Paris, and Hong Kong. Brimstone sends Karou on errands through the portals, and between these and the big wish she makes later in the novel to be gifted with a certain mode of transport (think: the feathers on the cover), overall I was left with a taste of the joyful freedom of travel, although for Karou this is tempered by her loneliness.
The ultimate epic quest story in which young hobbit Frodo Baggins must find his courage and cross Middle Earth in pursuit of destroying the One Ring. As far as sweeping fantasy adventures go, it just does not get any better. The world and landscape Tolkein so carefully crafted, and with such loving detail, are on full display here. For me, this was definitely a series I simply wanted to step into.
This book, like Daughter of Smoke and Bone, features a somewhat unusual definition of travel: the travel between worlds. In this second book of the trilogy, we meet the fierce young Will, who will do (and has done) whatever it takes to protect those he loves. In the aftermath of his crime, he flees his home in suburban England through a window into another world, the sundrenched and only seemingly idyllic world of Cittagazze. Though this first crossing is accidental, Will soon becomes the bearer of the titular subtle knife and gains the power to tear open these windows for himself. This is, for me, where the trilogy is at its very best as Will and Lyra wander from world to world but their destiny manages to find them, anyway.
One of my all time favorite books, so I had to include it! Young Lucy Honeychurch (what a name!) travels from England to Italy with her chaperone and cousin, Charlotte Bartlett. This is meant to be her tour before she returns home to settle down and get married. EXCEPT that in Florence, she meets the eccentric Mr. Emerson and his stroic son George, and in spite of Charlotte’s best efforts to the contrary, Lucy and George fall in gorgeous love. The two settings of the novel act as the perfect metaphors for late-Victorian self-effacement versus Italian passion, and I’ll give you a hint as to which one wins – at the end of the book, Lucy and George DO return to Italy together!
5. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
A surprisingly progressive book for when it was written in 1855. Margaret Hale’s family is suddenly uprooted from their home in the sunny south of England when her father has a crisis of conscience. They settle in the north (There’s the title!) factory town of Milton and must adjust to a completely different way of life. While Margaret’s initial anger over the move blinds her to the faults of her first home and the strengths of Milton, she eventually reaches a more balanced perspective. I actually view Margaret as an early crusader for social justice, thanks to her cross-country travel – she advocates for the southern farm laborers living in poverty and the northern industrial workers whose jobs in the cotton factory give them consumption. (Believe it or not, it’s also a love story!)
And speaking of love stories, I’m obsessed with this one. Henry, a time traveler with little control over his ability, and his great love, Clare, manage to find each other at all stages of their lives. The scene where she and Henry must say goodbye for what, in his life, is the last time, is so raw:
“‘Stop it. Refuse to let it happen. Change it.’… I twine my arms through his, wrap my legs around his. It’s impossible to believe that Henry, so solid, my lover, this real body, which I am holding pressed to mine with all my strength, could ever disappear: 'Kiss me!'
I am kissing Henry, and then I am alone…”
Hazel Grace has Stage 5 thyroid cancer and two of the bright spots in her world are cutie Augustus Waters, who she meets through Support Group, and her favorite book An Imperial Affliction. When “The Genies” grant Gus one last wish, he uses it to take Hazel to Amsterdam to meet the book’s reclusive author, Peter van Houten. Their trip turns out to be a lesson in disappointment; van Houten is a mean, bitter drunk and Hazel learns that things are rarely how you imagine them to be when you’re young.
8. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Beauty Queens takes the premise of Lord of the Flies and turns it upside down. A plane full of pageant girls en route to the national competition crashes on a tropical island. All of the adults die in the crash, leaving the girls to fend for themselves. They work through the initial infighting and rivalry to eventually find their individual strengths and eke out life in a hostile environment, all with typical Libba Bray snark. She brilliantly suggests that in fact this may be the best way for young girls to grow and learn – away from the male gaze.
I mostly included this old favorite for the complete and utter beauty of Montgomery’s prose as she describes Anne’s journey to her new home on Prince Edward Island:
“The ‘Avenue,’ so called by the Newbridge people, was a stretch of road four or five hundred yards long, completely arched over with huge, wide-spreading apple trees, planted years ago by an eccentric old farmer. Overhead was one long canopy of snowy fragrant bloom. Below the boughs the air was full of a purple twilight and far ahead a glimpse of painted sunset sky shone like a great rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle.”Anyone else want to go??
This is so NOT your typical Cinderella story. Initially swept off her feet by Prince Charming, Ella soon learns that life as a princess is not all it’s cracked up to be. She finally runs away, wandering alone through the kingdom toward the border where a war is taking place. She finds a new love but turns down his marriage proposal in favor of capably running a refugee camp. New feminist takes on fairy tales FTW!
What are YOUR favorite books that feature travel? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,