05 November 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading 11


  • Chuck Klosterman IV - Chuck Klosterman
  • Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs - Chuck Klosterman
  • No one belongs here more than you - Miranda July
  • Love is a Mix Tape - Rob Sheffield
  • Geek Magnet - Kieran Scott
  • Model Spy (The Specialists) - Shannon Greenland
  • Westminster Abby (S.A.S.S.) - Micol Ostow
  • Cindy Ella - - Robin Palmer
  • Plus many other YA books flipped through
  • I can't really report that I finished my stated goal of reading a dozen YA books. Goal, unaccomplished. However, starting and finishing are two altogether different things and in that respect, I probably did shoot through about ten YA books on hand and kind of got my fill and got all inspired -- which was the point. Now that I feel like I'm a semi-accredited YA author, I take interest in the debate about "What is a young adult novel?" Some people feel like a young adult novel would basically be dumbed down versions of adult books. Like cartoons versus live action shows. Obviously this is a broad, and very faulty, stereotype. Cartoons are real too, just like YA novels.

    But there is a difference between the two, so what is it? Well, it's hard to say. It's not the language, that's for sure. Teens probably have a better vocabularies than most adults so you don't have to shy away from using big words or anything. So that's certainly not the difference. I do like this quote, which attributes some of the difference between young adult and adult books to a matter of perspective.
    "The protagonist in YA fiction is almost always a young person, from a teenager to late teens to early twenties. Yes, adult fiction has characters of this age, but generally adult fiction looks in on the young person's life, whereas YA fiction lives out the young person's life. This is perhaps the biggest difference between the Young Adult titles and adult titles. YA titles will tend to be told from the point of view of the young person."
    -Ian Bone, Playing with the Big Kids-
    To be honest, I was confused and not entirely sure of the definition myself until I really started doing YA research. In the beginning, I wondered if YA books were the equivalent of PG-13 movies. No nudity, less swearing, drinking and drugs only as a morality lesson, and not too much on-screen violence. I wondered if you could touch upon themes that were dark or serious. Well, now I know. You can do anything you want. A good book is a good book and the young adult classification isn't there to put some sort of gauzy happy filter over everything.

    The best example of a book that's always in the YA section nowadays is "The Outsiders," which everyone read in school. I don't think I would have associated it with YA until I kept seeing it shelved there and realized that the fact it's about teenagers, told from a teenager's perspective, and S.E. Hinton was fourteen when she wrote it makes it the prototypical YA book. But The Outsiders has violence, death, cursing, murder, alcohol, drugs, and all sorts of bad things in it. And it's a timeless classic.
    "The language can be chaste or peppered with all sorts of choice profanities. Such a story could deal with vaguely sexualized 'crushes' without there being graphic portrayals of sex; another such story could deal with the confusion that revolves around the unfolding of one's sexuality. There is nothing inherently 'fluffy' or 'light' in such stories, even if the emotions expressed might seem puerile to those of us who are older and more cynical about matters of the heart and loins.

    I have found that the best-written YA lit (defined here as being stories that focus on common adolescent themes and worries, often with a teen protagonist) is very frank and honest with its audience, even if the said audience is as disparate and divided as the stereotypical school lunchroom seating arrangement."
    -OF Blog of the Fallen-
    I've never experienced this -- and I can't wait to! -- but YA authors are often looked down upon in the literary world. There's a NY Times editorial from an author who comes to terms (sort of) with her book being bought by a YA imprint. Like it's not "real" that she's a YA author. It all sounds like the snobby stereotyping that comic books, cartoons, board games, and other childish pursuits have to fight against; that they're not as serious or important as other types of art. This is definitely a fight I would gladly suit up for.

    And don't look now but YA novels are huge money makers. The YA market attracts all sorts of "real" authors and more than ever, shows and movies are based on fare aimed at young adults. Hello Twilight, I can't wait to watch you soon!
    "'I see now that dismissing YA books because you're not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you're not a policeman or a dangerous criminal, and as a consequence, I've discovered a previously ignored room at the back of the bookstore that's filled with masterpieces I've never heard of.'"
    -Nick Hornby-