Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Teen Angst Years Too Late?

I’m trying to get my brain to function, but the cursor is mocking me. There is no coffee in the house, the tea isn’t working, and I might have to throw myself into a cold shower to achieve full wakefulness. I’m hoping and praying that my customer (who looks like Anne Bancroft’s character forty years after her Graduate expiration date) has decided that we are no longer worth her time or persecution complex. Even her nice personality makes me jumpy now because I keep waiting for her to snap (“Will it be when I tell her that book isn’t discounted or when I tell her it is not in paperback?”).

But enough about me, we must celebrate because my SB Day entry made Erin remember Christopher Pike (and the Last Vampire series of which I maintain the first book is still the best) and a lot of people celebrate the works Zilpha Keatley Snyder (I loved the Egyptian Game), Ray Bradbury and others. So to carry on the discussion of YA literature, let’s talk about what works for you as a reader (or worked for you) and what doesn’t. For those of you who’ve read the newer titles, does the constant product dropping annoy you? Does it detract from the story? Are there books that involve teens and teen social commentary that don’t do this?

When was the last time you wondered into the Young Adult section and really took a look? Were you surprised at the changes in selection from when you were a kid?

Have you picked up a YA book to read lately?

I’ve been on a YA reading kick lately and I desperately want to talk to people about it. There are some amazing books out there as well as some entertaining ones that I forgot moments after reading. So tell me your thoughts on the subject of YA.

I’m going to go jump in the shower before I fall asleep on the couch.


Off topic:

Penguin dropped me a line yesterday to mention that Daniel Silva has a podcast up on their site. Silva’s one of those authors that I always hear amazing things about, but have never had a chance to read. I would love to hear your opinion of him as well.

25 comments:

web said...

Just have to be a hardass here... _The Egypt Game_ is very much an 8-12, not a YA book. For some reason, it bugs me no end when people consider anything with chapters to be a YA book.

Thanks for listening, on my way to anger management now. ;-)

Eileen said...

A few months ago after the hub bub, I picked up Sloppy Firsts and How Opal..to see the controversy for myself. Suddenly I was hooked on YA and have been smoking through the shelves, shoving young and weak pre teens outta my way.

Lisa Hunter said...

Catcher in the Rye was my favorite book when I was a YA myself, but when I picked it up recently, it seemed completely different from what I remembered. When I was a sulky teenager, I loved the anti-establishment rant. But now I see it's about a kid mourning his dead younger brother, falling apart emotionally, while no one will help him. It no longer seems hilarious, it seems tragic.

Milady Insanity said...

I've Laurie HAlse Anderson's Speak on the TBR pile.

Curiously enough, it's the only YA book on TBR--if I pick one, I have to get a few more too usually.

OtterB said...

My daughter just turned 14 and is an avid reader. I'm seeing YA through her eyes. She is mostly into fantasy, mostly dislikes things about cliques and the teen social scene. She reads & enjoys some things I read at her age (Lloyd Alexander, for example) but not others (she doesn't like SF and I was inhaling Heinlein juveniles, Andre Norton, etc.) Of course, much of what she likes wasn't written when I was her age. ;-)

I notice that she expects a faster pace and less complex language than the older classics - she has to work to get into Sherlock Holmes or The Little White Horse, though she often enjoys them once she does.

I read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer because daughter & friends enjoyed it so much. I don't like vampire romances as a rule, but found that one well done.

She ranges all over the library now - still checks some things out of the children's section, some from the YA, some from adult. The biggest surprise in her recent reading taste is that she absolutely loves the Dresden Files. I wouldn't have thought to suggest them, and in fact thought they were a bit too violent for her, but she picked up one lying around and then charged through them all.

Ally Carter said...

I'm one of those rare writers who wasn't a big reader as a kid. In fact, I didn't really read a lot of YA literature until I started writing it. But now I'm addicted. I don't know why (but I suspect it has something to do with shorter wordcounts) but as a whole I find YA fiction to be more engaging and better crafted.

Some of my recent favorites are AMAZING GRACE by Megan Shull and THE BOYFRIEND LIST by E. Lockhart.

As for school stories that aren't all about designer names, that was one of my goals in writing I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU. I wanted to create a world where those things didn't matter because the stakes were so much higher--so I created a school for girl spies. Judging by the number of emails I've gotten from girls asking if there really is such a school and, if so, can they apply, I think readers are responding to the idea.

Enjoy the YA aisle! There's a lot of great stuff there!

--Ally Carter

Diane P said...

I found a box of my YA books the other day. Some of the books were Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames and I loved Louisa May Alcott. My own children never read any of those books, but they found their own favorites. I was disappointed when my daughters stopped reading in High School and college. But thank goodness they have started up again.

One of our local author's, Roland Smith, has done a great job of hooking some of my students on reading. I have to admit that I am eagerly waiting the sequel to CRYPTID HUNTER.
Two other adult authors who have done well with my students are Carl Hiaason, and Maryjanice Davidson with HOOT, FLUSH and JENNIFER SCALES & THE MESSENGER OF LIGHT.
There is nothing more exciting than to turn one of my students on to reading.

Robin Brande said...

I write YA, so I read a lot of YA. One of the best ones I've read recently is Ned Vizzini's BE MORE CHILL. Absolutely hilarious and deeply thought-provoking.
Who wouldn't love the idea of having a computer chip implanted in your brain, telling you every step of the way how to stop acting like such a dork? Of course there wouldn't be a story if everything went well.

I'm also a huge fan of Meg Cabot's. I appreciate anyone whose books can make me laugh out loud.

Christine Fletcher said...

Now that I've discovered YA (I sort of fell into it by accident with my novel, so I wasn't aware of it before last year!) I'm loving it. My absolute faves are those set somewhere other than school--although Ally has such a different take on it, her book is high up on my TBR list!

In both reading and writing, I like exploring what happens when a teen is yanked out of all that structure and is on her own in the world. That was my setup for Tallulah Falls, and I've got something similar going on in the YA I'm writing now (totally different situation, though).

And yeah, product placement bugs me--whether it's in YA or adult books.

One thing I'm wondering: In YA, are people looking for a happy romantic ending, and disappointed if it doesn't happen? Or does it depend on the kind of YA?

Ally Carter said...

Hi Christine!

thanks for putting my book on your TBR list! Hope you like it!


As for the question of romantic happy endings, I think teens are maybe a little more in favor of the fairy tale--at least in my experience. Not to spoil anything, but my book has a bit of a cliffhanger at the end (there IS a sequel after all) and the only complaint I've gotten from readers is that the first book isn't summed up completely with sunsets and rosebuds and honeymoons. Even though the characters are 15.

I think adults are a little more aware that happy-ever-after isn't always a sure thing. But I'm going to keep writing the way I have been because some teens have LOVED the ending. (Plus, I want them to keep buying those sequels!)

Aly

Jana J. Hanson said...

We didn't have nearly the selection of YA books when I was a YA. I guess that's why I'm making up for lost time by reading YA's now.

Most recently, I finished MAJOR CRUSH by Jennifer Echols (because I'm a former band geek myself). I know I have a list of TBRs somewhere....

BuffySquirrel said...

Product placement in books can be funny, as often I've no idea what the brands are, and so can amuse myself with guesses. Often, though, it's just annoying.

I had a problem with a book I was writing, which was that I wanted to convey that the protagonist had lots of money spent on him by his father, which meant researching products. Then critiquers started on about how naming specific brands rapidly dates the book. Okay, it's hard to disagree with that, but how else do I get across that he drives a £40,000 car and has a very expensive watch?

But I digress.

I have been known to wander into the YA section, but more often my sister sends me YA books to read. I discovered Garth Nix that way. I ate up Sabriel and Lirael and then bought Abhorsen in hardback the moment it came out as I was desperate to find out what happened...I don't do that very often. About two-thirds of the way into Lirael I was looking at the number of pages left and wondering how on earth Nix was going to wrap up the story in the space left. The answer...he wasn't. It annoyed me that nowhere on the book's cover did it indicate it was incomplete. A little warning wouldn't have hurt.

I read a couple of Artemis Fowl books (because they were a present) but didn't much enjoy them. Not really the target readership, I'm guessing.

lady t said...

The closest I've come to YA lately would be Cornelia Funke's Ink series(they may look like they're for younger kids but some of the themes in those books are more like the later Harry Potter titles). To me,YA still means Judy Blume,Betsy Byers and Norma Klein(who I think is mostly OOP these days).

I almost forgot about The Book Thief,which I started and then stopped(too bleak for me at the moment). I know there's good books out there for teens but back at my old job,I saw alot of those Gossip Girl series and their counterparts being gobbled up like M&Ms and just those covers alone showed me that times are a-changin'.

barista brat said...

although i write YA, i hardly read it.
i'm more inclined to read it when i'm not actually involved with my wip.

that said - YA has changed a lot since i was i was in jr. high and although i think realistic portrayals of teen life can be good - somethimes it's too over the top and sensationalistic.

Michelle K said...

Oooh! I've been wondering where all these YA books where when *I* was a young adult!

Garth Nix, Jonathan Stroud, Phillip Pullman, Charles de Lint, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling's anthologies, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Patricia Wrede & Carolyn Stevermer, Libba Bray, Isabel Allende...

These books are all excellent, and since I don't care much for detailed boinking, I know I'm safe on that point as well.

Though I also couldn't get into Eoin COlfer's "Artemis Fowl" books. It was the dwarf that did it.

I have to say this leads to one of the things I love best about Amazon--I never would have read most of those books if Amazon recommendations hadn't drawn me to them.

Amie Stuart said...

I LURVE YA!!!!!! I have Flush (which I bought for the kid who won't read) in my tbr pile--might as well not let it go to waste LOL but I read Scott Westerfields Uglies, Prettis and Specials this last week and they were phenomenal. I couldn't finish Twilight but I liked Holly Black's urban fantasy books. And I"m saving all the ones I enjoy for when the kid who does read is a little older.

Kris said...

Like Christine, I didn’t realize the book I wrote was YA until the publisher told me, so I figured I better start doing my homework.

At first I thought the brand name-dropping was kinda clever, but I tired of it very quickly. It wasn’t so much that I felt the books were trying to sell me things, it’s just that it became a crutch for too many writers. Why bother creating a three-dimensional character when you can just draw up a list of the clothes he wears, the car he drives, and the music he listens to. I mean, he must be a sensitive guy; he likes The White Stripes!

literaticat said...

I am a bookseller, and I specialize in YA, so I read it a lot. A LOT. And I can count on one hand the 'brand-name-dropping' stuff I have ever read.

Of course, it's out there in the form of CLIQUE, GOSSIP GIRLS, A LIST, etc, but there is just so much amazing, astounding, freaking WONDERFUL YA out there that I don't feel the need to read things that don't appeal to me. I've got my hands full keeping up with the good stuff!

My faves of the last year or so: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci, Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier.

Upcoming: Boy Book by E. Lockhart, Octavian Nothing by MT Anderson, Wide Awake by David Levithan, Fan Boy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga...

oh and I could go on!

Kelly said...

I never read YA as a teen, but am discovering it now with review copies.

"How I Live Now" and "King Dork" are my 2 favorites this year so far.

Lee said...

I am a bookseller and I don't read a lot of YA adult titles, but like to try them once in awhile. I read "Stargirl" by Spinelli a few years ago and I really enjoyed that. A couple of months ago, after reading a review in PW, I tried "King Dork" by Frank Portman. I absolutely loved the book, it was very funny with just the right touch of angst and defintely brought back some memories. After I finished it, I turned it over to my 16 yo son and he enjoyed it as much as I did. I definitely had some sdult themes, but nothing that would keep me from letting him read it. I may be hooked now, I will definitely try to mix in some YA titles into my TBR list from now on.

literaticat said...

Oh yes! How could I have forgotten King Dork?

This is all very different from what I read when I was a teenager - I was all about Flowers in the Attic and Anne Rice. (Yes, I also wore lots of black and wrote bad poetry. Whatever, shut up!)

Still, I would have loved all the books I mentioned as much then as I do now.

Kendall said...

By the time I was a "young adult" (whatever that means), I read mostly SF&F; so I was unware of the "YA section" of the bookstore; I was in the SF&F section. ;-) I mostly didn't read fiction marketed to YA; I read "adult" SF&F. At a certain point, I probably would've found the idea of a book written for my age group absurd, due to my reading habits.

Nowadays, I find out about some so-called "YA" SF&F via my regular SF&F venues (e.g., review zines, Locus, blogs, et al.). I finally picked up Stroud's The Amulet of Samarkand & hope to read it soon; an amazing array of people praise it, including Miss Snark. Eragon dragged; I haven't finished the last 3/4. Le Guin's Gifts (recent B-day gift) was great, but the sequel's description doesn't grab me (sounds too "young"). I love Rowling's HP books.

Speaking of YA, Glenda Larke is asking how publishers decide a book's "YA" or not. ;-) She mentioned (as I also was thinking) that some "adult" SF&F is later repackaged for YA.

So I'm wary of YA (fear it's written too "young" for me, etc.). I probably have a distorted idea of what (non-SF/F) YA fiction's like, but I just can't imagine picking any up. ;-( But within SF/F, I'm cautiously open to it; maybe I'm just more familair with the blurry line between YA & "adult" in the SF&F genres....

Heather Brewer said...

Laurie HAlse Anderson's Speak is amazing! And, of course, I have Ally's book on my TBR pile. I also loved Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and John Green's Looking for Alaska.

YA so rocks the house!

Sarah said...

I got back into Tamora Pierce's YA fantasy when I was 22, and it occurred to me to wonder whether she'd written any more Alanna books... went on the internet and she had! I buy them as soon as they come out now.

are you asking me to dance? said...

I don't think I'll ever outgrow YA books; I even wander into the younger readers' section (I guess age 13? and younger) quite frequently. I find a lot of them hold up quite well on re-reads or first time reads, even as I get older (not that I'm old - I'm 21). I think good YA writers don't write down to the reader, which I appreciate, and their stories transcend the genre (is YA a genre?), which is why they're still enjoyable years later. About half, if not more, of the books I read are YA ones.

Brand name-dropping doesn't usually bother me unless I notice it, but then I haven't really seen it in the books I read. The most recent one I read (and has been published recently) is Sarah Dessen's Just Listen, which had a character with an iPod, but it didn't feeling like a name-drop. I liked the book a lot; I think it's comparable (if not better) than Speak (they're about similar issues, although I think Dessen's book is a little more layered). I like Dessen's other books, too, which for some reason seem like light reads at first glance, but end up being more indepth or complex, or more than only about teenage/growing up issues. A lot of the themes have more to do with one's relationship with one's family or friends rather than boys or makeup or clothes or things like that. Speaking of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson's Catalyst and Prom were also quite good.

Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light was also a lovely book, and it was given to me by an older friend (I think she's in her 50s or 60s) who also liked it (I can't recall if she picked up the book just to read or if it had anything to do with the university's women's studies department, which she heads).

I don't remember seeing brand names in Beth Goobie's The Lottery (based on a short story with the same title) or Carol Plum-Ucci's The Body of Christopher Creed or Kristen D. Randle's The Only Alien on the Planet (unfortunately out of print). These three have in common the theme of not fitting in, but in different ways; all good reads (and re-reads), imo - Randle's is a particular favourite of mine. I haven't read any of the Gossip Girl or similar type books, but they seem similar to the SVH ones, a few of which I read several years ago; I think they're the YA version of fluff/dreck.

A few good recent YA books:
-The Travelling Pants books (I've only read the first two, though)
-Feeling Sorry for Celia, The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty
-Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
-Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
-What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci

I'd think whether or not name-dropping works tends to depend on how well the writer writes, and not so much on if there are name brands; although I think those who write well do not depend on brands or famous names to describe something or someone, and if they do use a specific brand, there's a reason for it other than not being able to come up with their own description. However, I did notice just the other day that O.R. Melling rewrote a section in the recently re-issued The Hunter's Moon (another book I quite liked, and still do, despite the changes); she switched a reference from Costner's Robin Hood to LOTR; it doesn't affect the story much, but it makes me wonder if anything else has been revised (other than her adding a little more to the ending, which I'm on the fence about as I don't think it contributed a whole lot more to the story).

A number of the books in the Fairytale thread also appear to fall under the YA category. Pamela Dean's Tam Lin (which has been re-released (finally!)) and most of Robin McKinley's and Diana Wynne Jones's books are shelved in that section.

I have Twilight and A Great and Terrible Beauty (to name two relatively recent YA books), both of which I have heard good things about, on my TBR list. The SBTB site had a post several days (or has it been weeks) ago on YA romance recommendations - I liked quite a few of the ones mentioned (most of them aren't strictly romances). It was also linked to another post on books better than HP, and I liked a lot of the ones that came up there too.

"One thing I'm wondering: In YA, are people looking for a happy romantic ending, and disappointed if it doesn't happen? Or does it depend on the kind of YA?"

I can't speak for everyone, but I want an ending that fits the story -- Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown has a bittersweet ending that I think has the right mix of HEA and sadness. Some of Sarah Dessen's books also don't end with romantic pairings. Otoh, there are also some where the HEA fits and doesn't seem unrealistic or (even better) like the story is over just because the book is.