Tuesday, January 31, 2012

now on to the good things.

Last week, I chose the awkward route in joining SA Larsen's weekly YA Teen Tuesday meme:

I kind of bashed YA. Not in a *bad* way {I hope}. But there was some truth I had to get out up front, lest I lie through my teeth later.

Not all YA is my cup of tea.

So, now, the real question remains:

Why on earth do I continue to read and write it?


I believe there are two distinct routes in which YA can go {this is personal conjecture, by the way. I wouldn't go writing papers on it, or anything}.

First we have what I call, "The Twilight Zone." Har har.

Disclaimer: I'm not trying to fart all over Twilight, here. I haven't even read it; I don't have the right. But, let's be honest. After Twilight, a sector of the YA market exploded. Suddenly, focus shifted to the paranormal romances, the love triangles, the star-cross-ed-ness of said love triangles, and the abundance of hot people. After The Hunger Games, that focus expanded to include dystopian societies, their star-crossed-lover-triangles, and also their hot people. THESE ARE NOT INHERENTLY BAD THINGS. They are tried and true in marketing. We eat this stuff up. We have the potential to find great reads, here.

The truth of the matter is, however, that this is not usually my kind of "great read." I don't instinctively gravitate toward romance. I roll my eyes at most supernatural beings. I'm okay with hot people, I guess, but what about the rest of us?

And, frankly, dystopia is hanging on by its over-worked, under-fed fingernails {assuming humans are still allowed fingernails}.

This is what I would consider the popular YA world. Nothing wrong with it. Lots of people love it.

I tend to have a hard time with it.

The second route is, as Misha said in her comment last week,
"YA that doesn't try to be YA."

{Meaning, I think, the fads in YA.}

These are the books that I feel would have existed anyway, without the great big door being opened {I like the door, I promise I do. I just don't spend most of my time... standing in it}. I would place The Hunger Games here, though some might disagree. Harry Potter lives here. I would include recent classics like The Book Thief {seriously, who needs a fictional dystopian society when you could have Nazi Germany?}. Probably anything by John Green. Or Laini Taylor. Or Patrick Ness.

Books that came before the explosion belong here, too, of course. The Giver. I Capture the Castle. Life of Pi. The Goose Girl. Narnia.

{I have to come clean with my affinity for middle-grade. That might be why I have a hard time with the heavy romances. Friendship resonates clearer with me. I like for characters, even characters who end up in love, to have somewhat level heads.

I needed that as a teen, too.}

Obviously, I prefer the second route.

It's funny to say "YA that doesn't try to be YA," because I think these, in essence, end up being more truly YA.

Hear me out.

What is more essentially YA than the timeless coming-of-age story? Any YA book, it stands to reason, will touch on coming-of-age. But, from the books I've read, "The Twilight Zone" seems stuck, NOT coming of age, with characters NOT growing, NOT discovering who they are meant to be, what it is they are able to do. To fall in love and marry THIS PARTICULAR PERSON doesn't count. Not by itself. That is the arc of an adult's romance novel, not a teenager's coming-of-age {even if romance is a factor}. And that's why I don't generally like desperate teen romances. They feel dysfunctional, and they make me sad.

Coming-of-age, though? Whether two characters fall in love or not, I generally can't get enough of it {assuming the book is also well written}.

Makes perfect sense, really. It's the hero's journey.
Or, as I've been learning in The Plot Whisperer, "the universal story."

That transformation is what I love love love about fiction...
 and *especially* YA.

**I don't mean to imply that the two camps are mutually exclusive, of course. I'm just remarking on what I've noticed. I may very well have not been reading the right books. =]


  1. Vampires don't do it for me either, I'd much rather read Rick Riordan's Olympian books. Here the heroes have special powers but they also have to find their place in the world. Great post.

  2. I love YA, but not all YA genres, I'm really not fond of angel and demon stories... I like some paranormal, but some are just way too much for me.

  3. Twilight Zone!!! That's awesome!

    Down the long road, I'm sure the books that 40 year olds read when they were teens that will still resonate with them the MOST are the 2nd category you are talking about, not the commercialized super-power love stories.

    Interesting you mention Life of Pi - one I haven't read, I know it's famous... must remember to get that one someday.

  4. Sorry, one more thing: I just did a survey of YA science fiction books and came to the same conclusion: I think dystopia is over-saturated - its by the far the biggest category of YA SF. (loved your reference to hanging on with overworked, underfed finger nails)

  5. "That transformation is what I love love love about fiction... and *especially* YA."

    Yes, yes, yes. And with or without love, yes... it happens, is happening, needs to happen for teens, coming of age, coming into themselves. That story is empowerment, hope, forward motion... gggoooooodddd. I'm with you.

  6. Hear, hear! I'd write something witty that displays that I agree with you, but my brain is sludge. So here goes:
    i theenk u rite gudlee n i agree wit u
    heerz a roze 4 beeng smart ~~~{~~@

    (WOW--I think it's time for bed.)

  7. I like Kris Atkins 'gudlee' comment! I am one of the older ones who still remembers and re-reads the YA I discovered when I was a YA. :) Some of them are: My Side of the Mountain, Where the Red Fern Grows, and The Sign of the Beaver. Definitely coming of age stories...just realized that all had a male MC that I identified with! What's up with that? I know, I am strong, creative, and independent! Ha! :)


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