Nation (2008) is not your typical Terry Pratchett offering. Readers who aren’t familiar with Pratchett’s massive back catalog of works need not worry; this young adult novel is a standalone piece unrelated to his previous series work. The Times Online said of Nation, “Thought-provoking as well as fun, this is Terry Pratchett at his most philosophical, with characters and situations sprung from ideas and games with language. And it celebrates the joy of the moment.”
Nation is an alternate history set in the 1860s, though elements of fantasy are present throughout the book. The primary characters are Daphne, a high-born daughter of British nobility with too many thoughts in her head for society’s taste; and Mau, a young Island man set to complete his right-of-passage to adulthood. When a tidal wave destroys life as they know it, Daphne and Mau are forced to reconsider long-held beliefs and cobble together a community of refugees. They learn from each other, respect each other, achieve great things together — and make the greatest scientific discovery of the century.
The real value of Nation is in its handling of the most difficult issues in life: death, grief, faith, and community. While it may sound exceedingly sad, make no mistake, Pratchett’s dry humor and sense of the joy in life make Nation an inspiring and fulfilling read. No matter what your age, if you love character-driven stories then pick up Nation by Terry Pratchett in the YA Fiction collection.
A Printz Award Honor book.