“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things. Of pep-rallies–and lockers–and hair gel–of prom queens–and kings–“
Just kidding. It’s time to break down the end of the HYoYA.
I’ll admit this upfront: I cheated a little. Some research had to be done for language learning and novel writing. I’ll do better next time. Maybe.
For a good, two-page list of the books I read this challenge, see the Goodreads shelf here. Not all books are rated.
Let’s talk about the problems listed in the introductory post.
This one actually didn’t drive me crazy–until I looked through my handy little reading list. Of the books that did have romantic themes as primary or important secondary plots, all of them were written by women. What the hell, men? Give us some smooches and crushes. Alternatively: What the hell, women? High school love triangles aren’t that important to a coming-of-age story.
The above comments may sound a little confusing. What I want is more balance. Fewer stereotypes. May I have that? Or do all high school women walk around complaining about boyfriends? I sure didn’t. Two of the male authors I read dealt with protagonists who weren’t quite at the age to be interested in girls. The other protagonist was in jail, so can you blame him? Maybe my irritation here is more for women authors, or perhaps more male authors need to feature romance. What do you think?
I didn’t find a lot of these. Hunger Games (Collins) and Divergent (Roth) were on my reading list because of current media rave/rage (pick your poison) but otherwise there wasn’t an abundance of dystopia. The new Spider-man got a little surprising when, in the third volume (spoiler:) the country started going to shit, but Marvel is trying to figure themselves out right now. There are so many crossovers happening in Marvel right now, so it’s going to take me a while to catch up. Keep it up, people.
A currently over-looked novel that I recall being popular is City of Ember (duPrau). It’s a post-apocalyptic mystery of corruption(!) and I might actually continue the series because I’m dying to know more about its world. Although it was more of a children’s dystopia, it’s worth a look.
As I thought, a lot of characters and authors were predominately white. 10/13 of the novels read were written by women, while only 4/20 graphic novel series were written by women.
In comics, the writers were typically white males. Granted, I didn’t look up or list all the artists from any comic.
I was so, so glad to see a character with Indian heritage in Chasing Shadows (Avasthi), but then, in most of the novels I read afterward, the representation paled.
At least we have Miles Morales in the newest Spider-man (Bendis), who is all kinds of adorable and becomes a more tortured hero than I believe Peter Parker ever was. Plus, don’t forget Ganke. Don’t ever forget Ganke.
As a person who happens to be white, I’d like to say I’m also tired of characters looking the same. I’m trying to fix that in my own novels. I really am (and it’s not even that difficult to do). Let me also go on a mini-rant here and say I could not, for the life of me, tell the difference between four white male characters in the Divergent movie, and they were usually all in the same room together! It was like watching an ABC Family marathon.
I need to have another HYoYA just to seek out more representations of people. I know for a fact there are more culturally diverse novels. I have seen them myself at the library! During this challenge, though, I tended to focus first on plots that intrigued me in my random book-binging, and second on reading lists thrust upon me by others.
Well, my friends, it’s time for me to thrust a list upon you! The following novels are my top five from this challenge based on writing and story alone and they’re somewhat diverse in terms of authors and main characters. (Click on these Goodreads links. You know you want to.)
What makes these five books great? All of these authors aren’t afraid of quieter moments. They’re able to find meaning in the smallest things. This is a quality I’m trying to sophisticate in my own writing, so these authors’ efforts are worth a lot to me.
In conclusion, this was a great half-year of guilty pleasures. I’m not the least bit sorry most of the books I read were comics. Superheroes are getting a larger, much deserved fanbase, and this must include teenagers based on all the merchandise you see in department stores. I’m finally, once again able to embrace some of the first fandoms I had as a child.
Will I do this challenge again? Absolutely. When? Maybe not during the same time next year. I have a month-long challenge coming up, which I’ll announce in a few weeks. After that, I should decide between this and four other potential reading challenges. Whenever I do another Half-Year of Young Adult, it will have a more tailored approach.
Read all my posts on the challenge here, in the Young Adult Challenge category on this blog.
Is it just me or did the standards for Young Adult Fiction all but disappear between 2006 and 2011?
To research my own novel, I recently started reading a work by someone else.I wanted to compare my novel to others of the same subject. I wanted to stick my foot in the water and see how many piranhas there were. There is no better inspiration to publish your own work than to read something horrible.
I don’t get competitive with writing. Not usually. When I read a book I feel “meh” about I don’t go out and try to do better than that author just because I know I can do it. When I read a brilliant piece, I don’t try to be better than that writer, either. Rather, I purchase the book and place it on a pedestal (or as some may call it: a bookshelf) to give me inspiration when I’m down in the dumps.
This novel I’m currently reading, which shall remain nameless, reminds me that I’m a better writer. When I say this, I’m not being haughty. No. I’m furious. Here I am reading a book that needs so much attention, a character’s name changes in the same chapter he’s introduced! He’s a minor character, sure, but this is the least of this book’s problems.
Instead of a call-to-editing rant in which I could go on about the state of young fiction these days (you’re putting this in print; why won’t you read your own ****ing book just once from someone else’s point of view to make sure nothing’s wrong with it?!), I’m enraged about something petty but dear to my heart.
Another character belonging to this guy shares a name (and some physical qualities) with one of mine. It’s an uncommon name—trust me—and he was the first to use it. However, I’m glad for this. This coincidence inspires me to make my book (and character) of a higher standard. It inspires me not to change my character’s name but instead make him more meaningful to the reader. I was putting off writing this character’s most important scene (sorry about what happens, buddy) until today. He’s probably more important to my book than this guy’s character is to that terrible novel. (Again, I’m sorry about what happens in your big scene, but you know it will do [another character of mine] a lot of good.) I’ve become quite fond of mine in the past few months (*poke* love youuuu) and the more I know him the more it’s a joy to work with him.
No, I’m not competitive with writing, but when I see another author putting one of my characters to shame I can’t stand for it. Look out, people! This literary world may be big enough for the two of them, but that doesn’t mean it should be.
A year after writing out the plot to my new series, I’m still excited for it. Several years in and many drafts later, there will finally be justice. The terrible state of Young Adult Fiction will come to pass and any young author who takes good care of her imagination (I said I’m sorry, okay?!) will release her babies into the world to entertain. Between now and then, my experience with poorly written stories will inspire me to do better because I know this name for a certain type of character can belong to someone readers will adore. The genres for this age group is already improving, and I want to be part of it when my story is finally in print.