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Skaters, Oracles and Martians

The latest young adult novels deal with big questions about friendship, true greatness, life and death. They also offer science fiction and fantasy.

Huppertz: Fürs Leben zu lang © Tulipan At the age of 13, Magali, the protagonist in Nikola Huppertz’s young adult novel Fürs Leben zu lang (Too Long for Life), already measures 182 centimetres and is probably not finished growing. Her height pains her – who will ever kiss her? The popular girls are cute, pretty and shorter than she. The neglected husky of a large neighbouring family is her closest friend. Out of desperation, and also to escape her older sister’s rows with their parents, she starts writing a diary. She writes down her observations of neighbours in their large apartment building. She focuses her attentions on a neighbour who is still very fit despite his advanced age, but who declares one day that he is now ready to die; that 98 years is “too long for life.” This calls his large family to the scene, and soon his 13-year-old grandson moves in with him. Magali talks with him about life and death taking the book on a philosophical turn, going all the way back to Seneca the Stoic for whom death is only the final stage of a lifetime of dying. The old man’s experiences and the thoughts of the young people are very poetically linked. The fact that Huppertz “always strikes the right, slightly flippant, never precocious tone, even where educational knowledge is injected into the narrative with a light hand [...] is one of the great strengths of this book,” says Oliver Jungen in the FAZ.

Sometimes brash, sometimes stirring

Rottmann: Kurz vor dem Rand © Jacoby & Stuart Eva Rottmann’s young adult novel Kurz vor dem Rand (At the Edge) is set in the skater scene. 17-year-old Ari is a member of a close-knit skater community in her run-down neighbourhood. She hates everything typically feminine. Her mother left her as a small child for a variety of men, and she is being raised by a doting father. Ari does an apprenticeship as a painter, lives in a high-rise housing estate and is quick – with her mind, on her skateboard and in her judgement of people. But everything changes when a new boy named Tom suddenly turns up. At first she rejects him, then she falls in love. A drama of dangerous skateboard rides takes its course when she believes that Tom is getting close to a popular girl. Rottmann paints a very convincing picture of the emotional state of puberty, and also uses captivating language to tell the story of the skater milieu, as a retrospective of a long diary entry by the girl. Rottmann was awarded the Luchs Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature in December 2023, and Hartmut El Kurdi also praised the book in DIE ZEIT, writing that Rottmann “lets Ari tell her story in a very direct, heartfelt tone – unsentimental and self-deprecating while at the same time brash and precise.”

Pickel: Rattensommer © Beltz & Gelberg Following her multi-award-winning debut Krummer Hund (2021), Juliane Pickel’s second young adult novel Rattensommer is another literarily sophisticated, intense narrative. It tells the story of the difficult, unequal friendship between two girls who’ve known each other since childhood and are looking forward to a summer together between waiting tables and visiting the pool. The sensitive and anxious first-person narrator Lou relies on her wild, contradictory friend Sonny, whose mother was murdered. When the perpetrator is released from prison after three years, Sonny seeks revenge. Lou vacillates between loyalty to her friend and misgivings. Inevitably, the friendship begins to show deep fissures. The story focuses on the narrator’s shifting feelings and her courage to strive for independence. Lou realises that justice means more than just thinking and acting in terms of good and evil. In September 2023, the Deutsche Akademie für Kinder- und Jugendliteratur honoured Rattensommer as its Young People’s Book of the Month: “Atmospherically dense, with sensitive insights into the characters’ inner worlds, Pickel succeeds in creating a psychological image of a friendship that is both stirring and tangible.”

Suspense and dystopia

Poznanski: Oracle © Loewe Ursula Poznanski, the award-winning author of children’s and young adult books, has published another teen thriller, Oracle. In it, Julian, who has just moved into a student residence, takes pills to treat the mental illness that makes him an outsider. He has suffered from a kind of psychosis since childhood and has hallucinations. He can see whether people are about to die and what illnesses they are suffering from. With the help of his therapist and thanks to the medication, he’s had this ability under control for five years. But when he comes upon a group of dorm friends, he can suddenly again sense which of them are in danger. And he tries to prevent their deaths. Suspense arises when a nasty former classmate wants to make money with Julian’s oracle gift and betrays him to the media. Oracle is gripping and entertaining, and thanks to the fantastic subjects, Julian’s visions are left with a rationally inexplicable residue.

Linker: Boy from Mars © dtv Christian Linker’s Boy from Mars is a good read for fans of computer games and science fiction. In the year 2099, 13-year-old Jonte is living with his grandfather on Mars. Their home is a special colony to which the wealthy saved themselves when Earth was almost destroyed by environmental devastation, migration struggles and wars. At some point, his grandfather dies and Jonte has to leave Mars and return to live with his mother, an environmental activist on Earth trying to make it habitable again. He embarks on an adventurous search for a mysterious machine that his grandfather had built to save the Earth. An evil energy corporation is one of the powerful opponents of this endeavour. Linker’s book tells of special friendships, criminals and dangerous adventures, and the plot is complemented by sophisticated computer technologies. 


Nikola Huppertz / Regina Kehn (Ill.): Fürs Leben zu lang
München: Tulipan 2023. 194 p.
ISBN: 978-3-86429-570-6
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.

Christian Linker: Boy from Mars. Auf der Jagd nach der Wahrheit
München: dtv 2023. 288 p.
ISBN: 978-3-423-76468-1
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.

Juliane Pickel: Rattensommer
Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg 2023. 255 p.
ISBN 978-3-407-75687-9
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.

Ursula Poznanski: Oracle
Bindlach: Loewe 2023. 430 p.
ISBN: 978-3-7432-1658-7

Eva Rottmann: Kurz vor dem Rand
Berlin: Jacoby & Stuart 2023. 189 p.
ISBN: 978-3-96428-188-3