Tag Archives: ya

Obama is like a YA novel.

3 Sep

During dinner with friends last night, I wondered in passing if I like Obama for the same reasons I like YA fiction better than adult fiction. Sure, I was being a bit flippant. But then I thought more about it, and…well…

1. Better edited. (Oh, snap!)

2. Change: YA books are full of change, because teens are full of change.

3. YA books are about taking on the world. Fix it? Change it? At least our part of it? Yes we can!

4. Hope. I’ve always said this is one of the key differentials between adult and YA. YA books need hope at the end, we need a sense that everything the character has been through has lead him or her somewhere better. That we are better for having spent time with him or her.

5. Gets you where you live. YA books are unafraid of using new formats, different structures, and incorporating cell phones, blogging, text messages, email, and tons more ways that young people actually communicate.

6. Not issue driven. Issues are important. You’ve got to know how to handle them. But then you’ve got to be about more.

Why all the Breaking Dawn hullabaloo?

16 Aug

I’m unashamed to admit that I loved Twilight. I stayed up till 4 a.m. finishing it the day I got it back in 2005. Sure, it’s verbose, and not the most elegantly written book, but Bella’s voice is compelling, and there’s something addictive about the love story. I liked that it stayed a very personal story, rather than being about Bella and Edward fighting some Great Evil. Because, let’s face it, a vampire and human being in love is complicated enough without Great Evil looming.

I did have my concerns about Bella. She so readily gives up herself, her loves, her dreams for Edward. I wanted to reach into the story and shake her, tell her that she had to be her own person, too. But even as I wanted to do that, I also thought it was a very honest representation of first love for a teenager, so I could see girls finding themselves in Bella. And Twilight ends on the ambiguous note of her butting heads with Edward over whether or not he would change her into a vampire. Because of the ambiguity, you could imagine for yourself a future in which Bella would find herself again and not let Edward be so suffocating and bossy, in which they would be true partners.

But then, with New Moon and Eclipse, Bella was put in the middle of a choice between Edward and Jacob, her best friend who nurses a crush for her. I was a little irritated that Jacob and Bella had to cross that line into romantic because I thought it would be more interesting if a friendship was represented as just as powerful as a romantic relationship (because friendships are!). I thought that it might be what spurs Bella to stand up to Edward and come back into herself. She needed her friends and her life, and she wouldn’t give them up for him, and they had to learn how to have both. But it became a choice between two romantic loves instead.

So readers went in to Breaking Dawn expecting Bella to have to make the choice–between Edward and Jacob, between mortal and immortal. They were waiting to see how she would do it, and what the consequences would be for everyone involved, and how she would deal with both the good and the bad fall-out of such a hard choice. Someone was bound to be hurt, and there were sacrifices to be made and dealt with. And then…Bella didn’t have to make the choice. Circumstance neatly made it for her. No one got hurt; everyone got what they wanted; happily ever after. I think that’s what has caused the fan backlash. Yes, we all wanted a happy ending, one with hope, but what does happily ever after mean if it hasn’t been fought for? Happily ever after is only satisfying when there’s been work and even pain involved, when the characters have been active in achieving it, when they’ve had to strive, not when it’s been handed to them. (Um, Bella had her backbone actually broken, and then healed by Edward. Metaphor, anyone?)

Another point to consider is whether Breaking Dawn is still a teen book. I think it may have crossed the line into adult. Sure, sure, Bella is still a teenager, but her concerns are no longer a teen’s concerns. Teens are questing–they’re trying to find their places in the world, and make choices, and are going. In Breaking Dawn, Bella’s found her place, and is settled. So, unfortunately, I think that many teens just couldn’t relate to her as strongly anymore.

In the end, this is Stephenie Meyer’s story, though, and she had to write the one she wanted to write. And now that it’s out in the world, readers can decide for themselves whether or not they want to accept it in the way they’ve accepted the previous three. That’s one of the great things about art–we don’t have to like everything, but there are readers (or listeners or viewers) for everything.

For more, here are some of the eloquent, sometimes snarky, and sometimes very funny articles and blog posts about Breaking Dawn that I’ve enjoyed:

Gail Gauthier’s blog
Washington Post Article
Salon Article
An amazing (but quite long), snarky play-by-play of the BD reading experience

I think I heart Cory Doctorow

14 Jul

Not only did he write a riveting, sort of terrifying but hopeful, page-turner of a book (Little Brother–if you haven’t read it, go get it now!), but he also wrote a fantastic column for Locus, about writing for young people. And he gets it.

He talks about books being markers of social identity for young adults, which is a thought I don’t think I’d ever put into the right words before, but this is totally it. He says:

That’s one of the most wonderful things about writing for younger audiences — it matters. We all read for entertainment, no matter how old we are, but kids also read to find out how the world works. They pay keen attention, they argue back. There’s a consequentiality to writing for young people that makes it immensely satisfying.

YES!

He also points out that literature may be one of the few escapes left for young people today, with how much fear there is about getting hurt making it hard to live. Which is, too, a major theme of Little Brother.

Since I think one of the most obvious differences between adult and YA literature is that YA lit has HOPE, I’m glad that Cory Doctorow–and many others–are there for teens.

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