The Alex Awards are given each year to books originally written for adults that appeal to a young adult audience. As a Young Adult librarian, I really wanted to read at least one of the winners, and I was really pleased with this year’s awards. The list was full of exciting titles, from vampire families in suburbia to modern mystery/fairytales, and it was a hard to choose just one title to read. I ended up going with Room by Emma Donoghue after reading Ron Charles’ review, which made me reconsider my initial impressions that Room seemed too much like an episode of Law and Order: SVU.
Room is narrated by five-year-old Jack, who has been living in a small structure with his mother since he was born. They have been imprisoned by Ma’s kidnapper, Old Nick, and are provided with food, a few books, and a television to pass the time. The story details the insularity of Room, which Jack has named, alongside every other object in the space. What could have been an emotionally draining plot turns out to be a moving and sweet story of relationships and how one understands the world in which they exist.
Room is an excellent choice for an Alex Award in that it is accessible while still offering so much more to a young reader. Jack’s young voice allows for an imagining of what it means to be five again, and what it would be like to be five and grow up in this kind of environment, never knowing the outside world. The language follows the thoughts of a young child, and Donoghue consistently creates a world hard to leave – for the characters and the readers. Room definitely would be something a young person looking to read an adult fiction title might enjoy, as well as a great choice for an adult looking for something (weirdly enough) uplifting to read.