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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Illyria* by Elizabeth Hand- young adult book review
by Elizabeth Hand
Grades 10+ 144 pages Knopf May 2010 Hardcover    

Romanticized forbidden love has proven to be an irresistible them through the years, in such notable works as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Readers adore the overabundant passion and struggle of lovers in the face of seemingly insurmountable preventatives like social or monetary distinctions, long-time family rivalries or deep-seated hatreds causing rifts and more between two sides. In Elizabeth Hand's Illyria, a secret love defies the laws of man, family and genetics and tempts the fires of Hell.

A love that shouldn’t be (and, as they grow, cannot be refused) twines between the youngest children of the Tierney clan. Rogan and Maddy are first cousins - kissing cousins; children of identical twin brothers, their whole childhood is spent in one another's company. They are each other’s first love, but more than that: their souls are symmetrical, as if they were identical twins from the same womb.

The Tierney clan considers them as good as twins based on the genetic connection of their fathers and the symmetry of their births. Tierney Clan law is unbreakable: no clan members can intermarry. The thought is repugnant, the outcome inevitably an abomination morally, physically and genetically.

Hidden in secret passageways around the many mansions that make up the clan’s homes, Rogan and Maddy grow up. They seek a sanctuary where they can hide from siblings, explore their interests, shed their tears and, as they got older, a long-awaited passion in each other’s arms. Their trysts are woven in a magical splendor of wonder and fragility, and the reality of it breaks in a brutal manner.

Their youth culminates in one final season of bliss. Rogan’s evolution from youth to man is breathtaking, and Maddy is equally unique, though she doesn’t realize it. Together, the two turn heads everywhere, but they only have eyes and hearts for each other. Beyond their looks, their skills upon the stage are evident to all, the big school production the perfect place to expand their talents.

But it is in the hidden recesses of their secret retreat that they are perfectly united; in those moments, magic stirs the air. But it is a time of drugs and rock 'n' roll hitting the scene, tempting youth. Through one careless act, Rogan and Maddy's souls are ripped apart at the seams.

Author Elizabeth Hand weaves an magical spell in Illyria, a risqué wannabe Romeo and Juliet tale. Elements of incest, homosexuality, adultery, abuse and more incorporated into the storyline and directly related to the protagonists make for heavy reading at times. Young love, preoccupation and typical teenage emotional issues deliver an equalizing dose of everyday reality to the weighty drama that dominates the story.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Sonia R. Polinsky/2010 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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