For this entry in my series, The Right Age for Young Readers, I hope to start a discussion about whether existing mythology provides as valid an adventure in YA fiction as newly invented worlds. An excerpt from my edited 3-day novel project, Olivia of Olympus, is the starting point.
Olivia of Olympus, by K. Alan
from Chapter ε—A Long List of ex-Fathers
By the middle of this fifth chapter, Livi has gotten over her anger at her nerdy classmate, Kent, for ruining her chance to dance for scouts at a talent show. The show is cancelled when Kent cannot bring back his nerdier friend, Steve, after making him disappear. Trying to untangle the failed magic act, Livi and Kent, along with their friend Elsie, discover a portal to the ancient Greek land of Themiscyra. After learning of the Amazons’ abuses against Kent for simply being male, Livi is angry, and no longer just looking for Steve. Olivia is now looking for justice.
“You’ve got a lot to answer for, lady,” I sizzled upward to the Amazon Queen.
Hippolyta seemed remarkably unconcerned. “The slave’s time was short,” she reasoned. “His passing was inevitable. Killing him was a mercy.”
A sunrise behind us was revealing more detail to the surroundings where the sentries had taken us. We were in the arena of some kind of coliseum, with circles of concentric benches all around us. Kent was seated on the lowest of these, while Elsie tended to the most obvious of his wounds. It was up to me, then, to face the woman who I had thought, up until now, might want to help us.
“Even if that’s true,” I countered about Ozzie’s death, “That doesn’t explain your treatment of the other slaves.”
Hippolyta shared a look with each of her attendants, taking a little too long to examine their flowing hair and the flowers decorating it. As if they were all sharing a joke, she shrugged down at me from her throne, explaining simply, “They are men.”
“They’re your sons.”
My comment passed darkly over her features, and I knew I had pressed a button.
Elsie noticed it, too. “Maybe not now, Livi,” she suggested.
I shot my friend an argumentative look, but agreed to change the subject. “What,” I asked Hippolyta, “do you need from us?”
She nodded to her attendant, who struck a bowl with cloth-covered stick, and let it ring into the city. Gradually, more Amazons began to arrive as Hippolyta spoke, filling the seats of the stadium around us and listening intently.
“You are the third of our recent visitors to bring wonders into Themiscyra,” she told us. She gestured to my poly-blend clothes to elaborate. “Wonders the likes of which Amazons have never seen.” Waving a hand toward the two soldiers she had sprung from our cell, she said something that caused their heads to sink against their chests. “You have stood against our finest sentries, and yet you still stand. You are… an impossibility.”
“My Dad says I’m impossible,” I agreed.
Hippolyta continued, “I would not be a responsible leader to my people if I ignored these signs. Many witnesses tell me that you are Olympians, so I intend to judge this for myself. If I agree, then I will send you where Olympians must inevitably go.”
“The summer games in Beijing?” I guessed.
She balked only slightly, cocking her head. Gesturing grandly toward a snow-capped peak nearby, she elaborated, “I will send you to Olympus.”
Behind me, Amazons by the dozen had been laying out narrow logs and hanging trapezes, setting up the coliseum for some kind of show. I was only registering, now, that we would be the performers.
Still, I had a question that needed answering. “Does Olympus make good pizza?”
Elsie’s phone had the answer for me. “It’s a mountain,” she said. “A real one, but also a mythical one where the Ancient Greek gods dwelled. It’s kind of an ‘invitation-only’ situation for mortals.” Scrolling with her thumb, she found something that caused her face to crimp. “This doesn’t make sense, though. Olympus shouldn’t be here.” She looked up at me to share her distress. “It’s geographically inaccurate.”
“Really, Elsie?” I asked, my eyes still on Hippolyta. “Geographical accuracy is the part that gives you the most trouble believing all this?”
“You have a point,” she conceded, then went back to bandaging Kent.
“OK,” I said to the queen. “So we’re gonna go meet some gods. So then what?”
“If you are Olympians,” she qualified, “then you will not meet only gods; you will visit the chambers of Zeus himself. And Zeus will then decide whether your ways should influence ours.”
Somewhere in the babble, I mined out a couple of opportunities. The most obvious one was that we were going to meet Greece’s version of the god of all gods; surely he was the Great Oz who would help us find Steve and send us all home. Something else emerged from her promises, though: another opportunity that had become even more important in the last few hours.
“Are you saying,” I asked, “that if we impress Zeus, then you’ll let your slaves go?”
Hippolyta wouldn’t commit. “Perhaps.”
—As Chapter ε continues,
is there a “Right Age” to suit these Words from K. Alan?