Tag Archives: YA

Romance is for saps. And other things I dislike about lit love.

Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday, the day for lit list lovers. This week’s theme on The Broke and the Bookish is the Top Ten things we dislike in literature when it comes to romance. Now I could be all judgmental and begin with the obvious – ‘falling in love because he buys you pasta’ is just not realistic. But that’s too easy – and I think Twilight has been picked on enough. So here is the top ten irritating things about love and love interests in my books.

  1. When they get Honour and Stupidity mixed up

For example: “Ill protect you!” – runs straight into a scene where the far more capable and intelligent heroine has everything planned and he fucks it up trying to save her. Pretty much everything Chaol (from Throne of Glass) does. Every time. Eugh I hate that guy.

  1. When he has long hair

Please tell me I am not alone in finding the windswept shoulder length hair the least dimitrisexy thing ever? Tied at the nape of his neck? Thick braids? Tucked behind your ears? Are you a female? Why are you making me question whose hair is bowing in the wind in every scene when the two of you are together?  I don’t care how many muscles you have. Cut your damn hair son! <waves cane at uncouth youth>

  1. When they make you mad! IBXBUETU!

This is different from them being stupid. They have a good reason but you can’t help but think – surely there is a better way of addressing the issue. Now I loved Will Herondale, but in Clockwork Angel when he tore up Tessa’s heart to make her hate him I was back to square one. I remember thinking at the time – ‘I know you’re going to have a good reason for this, but I don’t want to f*cking hear it! I really must find that scene to see if it was as dreadful as I remember.

  1. When they are both awful people

frankly my dearAaaand they don’t even end up together. I got all the way through ‘Gone with the Wind’. It was no small feat. I thought it was all going to be worth it, when SPOILER Rhett and Scarlett broke up. They were both awful, tacky, mean spirited, bastards individually and I thought at least they have each other and they can love each other in spite of the wretched flaws they both possess. Some physical violence ensued, I’m pretty sure Rhett pushes her down the stairs, she wants him to stay, he’s says: no fucks given… COME ON! This is not a romance for the ages.

  1. When they initially loved someone else to breaking point

You know how you know when you’re reading a romance novel? Because the main character has found their soul mate. Its romance, it is meant to exist. So it just shits me beyond belief when one of the characters has multiples. The biggest example of this is in Romeo and Juliette. At the beginning Romeo is head over heels, suicidal for Rosaline. How fickle is this lad? Did he really love Juliette or was he going to go die for any old girl off the street?

  1. When the sex scenes are so vague you don’t realise it even happened

When the author wants to handle the deed so delicately so as not to offend anyone – girl witheither that or they think their parents will read it and judge them… Then they will reference it later in the book and you’re all – wait one moment sir! That never happened. But yes. All those metaphors and beautiful dancing, or twister, or piercing someone’s ear was the sex. Wow. Why even bother.

  1. When sensual descriptions rub you the wrong way

I don’t know if I’m alone on this or not but irks me beyond belief when something is described poorly or in a way that gives you the complete opposite effect. ‘Sensual, sculptured lips’ – on a man. Now I’m picturing him with lips that look like he has been through a bee attack. ‘Creamy brown hair’? Now I feel like his hair is made of cream. I’m not attracted to this sensual-cream man. Is this a Cadbury ad?

  1. When they spend more time apart

jace hugI know it is all part of the suspense and they have to go on their own journeys to prove they love each other – or whatever the hell it is they do. It’s just so frustrating when someone is held captive for three books, when they have been magicked to forget love, or when they think they are brother and sister…

  1. When someone is immortal

You can’t help but calculate how long before shit starts to get really awkward. And it will obviously end sadly – with one immortal person roaming the earth alone forever, heart broken, never dying.

  1. When they leave them to die anyway…

There is one thing I really don’t understand in supposed YA love, and that’s when someone sacrifices themselves (usually stupidly) and the other will spot them dying/being captured/etc and then run. RUN! Do you even love that person?! Isn’t love when you care about someone more than yourself? Jeez…

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What Makes a Book ‘Young Adult’ (YA)?

Young Adult is one of those wishy-washy categories that no one really agrees on. Traditionally, Young Adult are ‘coming of age’ stories, with teenage protagonists for teenage readers. This creates a little too much wriggle room for marketers, and literary critics. For example in America, ‘The Book Thief’ is classed as an adult book, and in Australia it is considered Young Adult. Perhaps this is because the American market think young adults have no interest in war themes, or perhaps they don’t think it is relatable enough for teenagers. It’s anyone guess.

In my own opinion – Young Adult should not be categorised based on its readership age – just the content. Now I’m not one to go ahead and post a scholarly article to educate anyone, just my opinion. Though, now that I think about it… Theories are opinions only. So without further ado, see below for A. Wallin’s theories on categorising ‘Young Adult’ literature based upon content.

  1. Teen Problems aren’t Patronised

Young Adult differs from Adult in that the problems any teen character experiences, from running on no sleep and constant bitchiness, to mental disorders and traumatic experiences, aren’t belittled. In a lot of adult books I have read, the teenager is the theatrically irritable character that selfishly strives to create dramatics for the protagonist. In Adult Fiction – the teenager is almost sub-human. In Young Adult – nothing is trivialised, at least not to the audience.

  1. Raw Content Minus the Dets (jeez Amy this is a scholarly article, write the full word…)

There isn’t a lot that Young Adult won’t explore: rape, mental disorders, murder, incest, dating vampires… but everything is still a little censored. Nothing is described in the kind of detail that could scar a fellow. The truly gory stuff is danced around, hinted at, or made into metaphor. Authors and publishers want readers informed but not traumatised.

  1. The Protagonist Embodies the Teenage Condition

In an extremely general way of speaking, adults have gone on their journey of self-discovery – they know who they are, they know who they want to be, they are probably well on their way to becoming that person if they are not already. Teenagers and young adults – not so much. They (we) have self-doubt, they have desires to improve themselves or their situation. Notice how this doesn’t box in any particular age group – it is just prevalent in teenagers – and young adults.

As the current fandoms are aging out of the old YA target of 12-18 year olds, publishers have begun to market YA to 25 year olds. Which means the old definitions have to change also. The term ‘Young Adult’ has proven itself to be fluid in its definition and constraints. What has stood for YA in the past, now no longer applies. I fully expect my own definition to change as the reading environments continue to develop.

So let’s just say for 2015 at least, A. Wallin’s three conditions of ‘Young Adult’ literature based upon content are written in stone. On my couch anyway.

I’ll get to it when I get to it

It has been many moons since I did a Top Ten Tuesday. The reason is – I’m lazy and I didnt want to use my brain juice to think of ten books pertaining to whatever category. I may not have enough power to make one leg step in front of the other to shuffle myself to bed. The struggle is real.

But I’m here now.

This week’s theme on The Broke and the Bookish is: “Top Ten staple books from <insert genre here> that I haven’t read”.

Like most sane people I adore YA. Despite the fact that it is advertised as Young Adult, the themes and content are so much more adult than many adult books. Stay tuned for a whole other post on that concept. The subject matter is heavy and fraught with emotion, and I don’t have to read about a middle aged woman who doesn’t do any work and talks about how busy she is for 300 pages… Sorry I’m still upset that I read Landline. Terrible book…So my theme of the reading I can’t believe I haven’t done, will be drawn from YA – and what I consider to be staples – old and young (in terms of publishing that is).

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

passive aggressiveI told myself I was going to read the book before I watched the movie, but then I saw this awesome gif of Patrick and I caved. He’s just the coolest ever. Anyway I’ve gone and ruined the twist of the book by watching the movie first. I’ll get to it. Eeeeeeventually!

2. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

After the catastrophe that was ‘Landline’ I have been very hesitant to read any Rainbow Rowell. Landline was incredibly hyped up by the nonsense of Goodreads 2014 book of the year. Which was ALL LIES. Don’t let me down E&P, I couldn’t take the dissappointment

spoiler 3 & 4. Looking for Alaska & An abundance of Katherine’s by John Green

John Green can do no wrong. Well some wrongs (Margo is a terrible name), but ultimate everything is okay enough for him to be pushed into the right category. Besides the books look quite cute sitting next to each other on the bookshelf and if that isn’t a good enough reason, nothing is.

If I stay by Gayle Forman

I know I really don’t need more tears in my life, but this time I am determined to read the book and cry my eyes out, then watch the movie and cry whatever I have left.

  1. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Just because Neil Gaiman.

  1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

There is little more I love in this world than books about World War II. Except maybe when Peychaud makes dinner. Everything in my life is second to food. I have never read any Elizabeth Wein before, but I do love finding new authors to adore.

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

To be honest – I saw this one on a Goodread list – and I keep seeing it on Goodreads list so I feel like I must be missing out on something. 2534 people can’t be wrong right? Wrong. That many people can be wrong. See ‘Landline’.

  1. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I contemplated putting this one on the list because it is so clearly just the current trend, but it is also I trend I haven’t gotten around to yet, therefore it makes the list. I start playing fast and loose with my definitions when I’m getting through the staples.

  1. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Ditto 9.

‘Paper Towns’ by John Green

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

paper towns

Photo by Peychaud

I had roughly 300 words of a review written on The Bane Chronicles when I gave up. It was excellent. I don’t have much else to say about it, so you should all be impressed that I could bullshit those 3 words into 300. Point is, I read it because I was leftover sad from reading ‘Winter Girls’. Then I accidentally read a book and a half before I did a review. So we are skipping The Bane Chronicles obvious excellent review, and moving straight on to Paper Towns.

Paper Towns was pretty cool. It wasn’t incredibly insightful or subtle like a lot of young adult novels. However this meant that there wasn’t all those literature techniques getting in the way of a good old fashioned plot. Honestly a plot can be so overshadowed when really it’s the only thing you need to get published. A perfect example is Home and Away. For all of those non-Australians or people that have better things to do at 7pm, or 7:30 (I don’t know, I’m a part of the latter group) Home and Away is a terrible Australian soap. It has no foreshadowing, no metaphors, no symbolism, nothing really relatable or logical. However – they have a plot – and they have been on air longer than I have been alive. Probably. I’m not going to do a lot of research here. Let’s not start expecting too much scholarly work here.

100 words later, I was just trying to say. Awesome plot.

So just to make my ramblings seem worth it here is the actual plot. Q has a slight obsession (mistaken as love) for the girl next door, Margo. Margo is not your girl-next-door girl. She’s rather self-obsessed, her parents are kind of mean, and she likes to play along with paper people in a paper town. That’s what she calls her friends and family. She likens them to 2 dimensional objects. Then one day she runs away, hinting to Q that she is going to commit suicide, and leaving all the obscure clues to rekindle his obsession. Bitch. Of course this is all written as a love story instead. (I’m just reading it like I read everything – with hatred and skeptisism and a desire to find something to obsess over). It’s nothing as heart wrenching as The Fault in Our Stars. I still haven’t drunk enough water to replace all the tears I shed through that bad boy.

This is only the second John Green book I have read and I feel like they are both fairly excellent in depicting teens. I wouldn’t go recommending them into the reading curriculum of high schools – but maybe just for the few that will do personal reading. Still better than ‘Looking for Alibrandi’.

paper townsAlso fun fact – Paper Towns is currently being made into a movie. With Cara Delevingne as Margo. Margo isn’t actually the star, as many articles seem to imply or state outright.  She is sort of the villain. Sorry.

Not sorry. She’s totally the villain.

On another note, as cool as Cara is, I don’t think she is a Margo. I like Cara, I’m not fussed about Margo. That really isn’t another note. This is the same note in a different paragraph. Also so weird that her name is Margo. If her name is actually Margaret why would you go for Margo, as opposed to say Maggie, or Meg, or Peggy, or anything but Margo. Let’s just go ahead and finish the rest of her name. Margo. Roth. Spiegelman. Roth. Roth. Spiegelman. John Green the man with – lets face it – the dullest name since John Smith, has a fondness for gross sounding names. Gus. Margo. Hazel. The other one. Also the same 4 people are playing the same 4 teenagers that are being played in all YA-book-to-YA-movies. WHY IS THIS! HAS THE UNIVERSE STOPPED MAKING YOUNG SOULFUL LOOKING PEOPLE!

‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger

★ ★ ★ ★

One by one, my university friends read, loved, and named their goldfish after The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. I have read reviews on so many Young Adult (YA) novel – I could throw a stick and hit 20 per book that claim similarities to the infamous The Catcher in the Rye.

It’s the prejudice of old literature that it must be the standard to which all books are written. But I would bet my bottom dollar (because a dollar doesn’t buy shit nowadays – so I may as well bet it) that if it was written today it wouldn’t get published. Not because they are bad books, because they aren’t – but their style (I’ll explain that further) does not suit a contemporary audience.catcher

When I talk about style, I mean the writing style. Authors put a character into a verbal stockade and dare them to break free. They all have some sort of language tick – they really do. It can wear on you after a while. As a result, the characters will often come across as insane. It may also be that I only read about insane people. I wonder, if I took all the repetition out of all those classics: Slaughterhouse Five, Catch-22, and now The Catcher in the Rye – would they be half as long?

After I did my own review on Submarine, I read a few others to see if they were cut from the same cloth as mine. I came across this one review on Goodreads that claimed it was nowhere as good as The Catcher in the Rye, while also claiming that the protagonist did not do normal things that a teenage boy would do. By this he meant, talking to strangers in abrasive manner, making sex jokes etc. Now Holden Caulfield, Catcher’s protagonist is impulsive, arrogant, and superior. In one scene he is drinking (coke) in a bar and approaches three middle aged women asking for a dance. I ask you, what teenage boy has that sort of confidence? Where they all once like that? Or is he also unusual, as opposed to poorly written as might be claimed of new literature.

I got a shock when I read the first sentence of Catcher. It read just like any angsty teenage-boy book aside from the obvious olde-time flair. I was picturing something more worthy of literary attention. Someone older, wiser…loonier. Instead I get some vocabulary deficient, resentful nutball. Also, he pays $13 for a night out with three women. In what world!

lennonI’ve had people quote to me “the past is a foreign country”, and knowing Catcher was quite the controversial book back in its day makes J.D. Salinger way ahead of the literary times. Nowadays the majority of us would considered it your average YA fiction though the content back then had it banned. It has also been called an assassination trigger, as three murderers owned the book, though only one claimed it was the inspiration. Madness right?

There are some instances where I really feel this sonovabitch Holden is onto something, despite his obvious brain discrepancies. Holden really despises people who like something too extremely. His hatred of the hyenas laughing at the nothing funny in the cinema, showy singers with flashy notes and people in general, are the main focus of his worldly observations.

Fuck did the singing thing strike a chord with me. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but Australia is obsessed with singing shows. At any given time there are three singing competitions aired that any marginally talented man and his dog can enter. They all have ‘the voice’. The all have the ‘it factor’.  I have come to realise that every third person in this country can sing. I ask you reader, if a third of the county can sing with some ability does that make it a talent. I have lived below the poverty line before, less than a third of the country have. Therefore my talent of eating Weet-Bix three time a day is actually more impressive than any of those tune-savvy human trumpets. An argument for another day perhaps.

Maybe I see how this sort of thinking could inspire a psychopath…

On a side note: Salinger has a weird habit of italicising about six words a page. In some cases, just half of a word is italicised. Huh? Technique for voice? Or a sin as condemnable as overemploying an exclamation point? Or as totally necessary as 36,000 question marks per blog?

Despite my rantings, I liked it. Catcher is definitely one of the best ‘classics’ that I have read. Anything slightly fanatical and exceptionally controversial is a-okay in my book. Holden is a relatable character whose narration is frighteningly truthful with smacks of sarcasm. The story moves with just the right amount of pace and suspense. I would recommend it to anyone who struggles with ‘classics’ but really wants the honour of displaying one on their bookshelf. Having read this book will make you sound super clever and well-read if you just drop a ‘shows a resemblance to Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye’ on any given YA review, dinner party, or political protestation sign.

★ ★ ★ ★

Side-side note: If you have also written a Catcher review, please post me a link in the comments and I’ll check it out!

‘Submarine’ by Joe Dunthorne

★★★★★

Spoiler. This book is not about submarines. I have been let down a number of times by books with deceiving titles: To Kill a Mockingbird had nothing about fowl carnage. If you want to learn about Submarines. This is not the book for you. I don’t even know what ‘Submarine’ is a metaphor for. Hiding from society – three miles under water? Societal pressures like the weight of the sea? I just don’t know. Times like this make me miss the days of Animal Farm; a book about an animal farm, The zombie survival guide; a survival guide for zombie plagues, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; where Harry Potter rendezvous’ with a prisoner of Azkaban. Let me drop a truth bomb on you. Metaphors don’t sell. Which is a real shame because this book is phenomenal. And really. I should have known it wasn’t about submarines. The haughty English schoolboy on the front should have been an indicator. One cannot wear that getup on a submarine. I assume. I am still no submarine expert. Thanks to Joe.

Joe Dunthorne, first time writer, first time genius. I had a friend in university who absolutely raved about this book. I forgot the name until a recent Facebook post of said friend called it back to my attention. Then the stars aligned and QBD had a 50% off sale. It was meant to be.

It was page 14 when I decided that this would be one of those instant five star books. Joe Dunthorne snuck this moment of brilliance halfway through a sentence to bury it, but being the keen treasure hunter that I am, I found it. I halted breath in writerly appreciation. Considered getting it tattooed on me. Thought mum would kill me. Decided against tattoo. Went back to reading. Allow me to share.

“My parents tell me I have a fantastic view, but I don’t believe in scenery.”

Did you get a shiver? Me too. Again. Dunthorne had someone tell him that it was the best line in literature so he put it in again at the end of the book. I feel this is still pretty modest. I would have made it the title. Maybe that’s what ‘Submarine’ is a metaphor for – the absence of scenery. This whole book was filled with tasty little morsels like that. “The grace of a crustacean”, stop it! Oliver’s anti-victim pamphlet that he wrote for the second fattest girl in school was perhaps the best self-help guide I have ever read. It could be published on it’s own.

Oliver Tate is a fifteen year old boy, who in the beginning struggles because he has nothing to struggle about. Nothing is more irritating to a hormonal teenager than everything being okay. At first I thought his lack of emotion and brilliant observational skills made him a candidate for Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m still not convinced he doesn’t have a touch after the whole (SPOILER) dog-poisoning scene. Due to this, Submarine struck me as a mix between The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and an episode of The Inbetweeners. Oliver is one of the most fascinating characters I have ever read. He is both ignorant and clever, funny and awkward. In real life I would probably smack him in the face. I’m fond of characters as long as they remain 2D. (Unless Jace Herondale comes to life – then shotgun!)

It is always in YA (Young Adult) novels that I learn the most new vocabulary and the most about the human condition – having never been one myself. If you want to get a child into literature – and I mean more than the great Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, this is the book that you should give them. This is the book that they should have given us in high school – so rich with metaphors and death and sexual traumas. What else is there to offer your impressionable children?

Observational humour   √
Extensive vocabulary     √
Classic YA dysfunction   √
Sex scenes                    √
Submarines                   X

★★★★★