Thursday, April 09, 2009

Things I Hate About YA Literature Today: An Open Letter to YA Authors and Editors

First, a caveat: I've always loved YA literature. Always. Thought it was better than every other kind. More artistic. More solid. Better stories. More fun to Read.

And then I had to read through a random sample of 212 YA books.

And the problem: as statisticians are well aware, you can't really say, "I've read 1000 YA books, so I know something about YA literature," because your 1000 books might consist of a skewed sample. I might have read 1000 books, but if they were all Newbery winning books, or books that my friends raved about, or books that sold a gazillion copies, then they're not representative of YA literature as a whole. You need a *random* sample to say anything about that.

It turns out that what I thought was YA literature was a skewed sample.

Which is depressing.
And necessitates the following rant.

Be warned, as this is a subject I feel so passionately about, I might not be able to keep myself from swearing.

Things I Hate about YA Literature Today:

1) There is a world outside of NYC. And it's not LA.

2) Most kids are not that rich. Nor do they know anyone that rich. Nor do they care.

3) Whining really, really loud about something does NOT make it a conflict. i.e.: "OMG! I can't afford this $3000 Marc Jacobs purse like my friends because my AWFUL MOTHER put a $2000 limit on my credit card!!" = not a conflict.

4) Using more !!!!!'s will not make me more emotionally involved with your story.

5) Speaking of story, just because your book is "edgy" (i.e. everyone is drunk all the time except when they're doing blow and having indiscriminate sex with indiscriminate genders at indiscriminate orgies with lots and lots of indiscriminate boners and indiscriminate F words) doesn't mean you don't need one! Shock = not a story.

6) Speaking of F words, why the &^%$ are so many of your protagonists ungrateful, spoiled, entitled, b*tches and @$$holes who are utterly unlikable? Why would I want to waste my life reading about people who I wouldn't want to hang out with in 1000 years?!

7) And they really drink THAT MUCH?

8) And their parents really DON'T CARE AT ALL?

9) And speaking of unlikable protagonists, just because you made your protagonist exactly like you doesn't mean I'll find them charming. I'll just find you both annoying.

10) And if you wanted to publish a memoir about your youth, why the *&^% didn't you do THAT? Don't call it fiction and force me to wait for the *&&^%ing plot to appear.

11) See, fiction needs to be *believable* but it can't be *real.* Real life doesn't follow the fiction-required elements of story arc: conflict/complication/escalation/climax/resolution.

12) Small towns aren't always horrible. Neither are parents.

13) There are other professions more interesting than: actress, model, fashion designer, writer, heiress.

14) If your book is 500 pages long, then FOR THE LOVE OF LITERATURE SOMETHING BETTER HAPPEN!

15) Please decide which is more important: what you NEED to say, or entertaining your audience. If you chose the first one, stop writing for teenagers and get a blog.

Random samples = TOTALLY DEPRESSING. We can do better than this, people.


David H. said...

You're pretty awesome.

You should rant more often, because it makes me laugh. A lot. :)

Verification word: boost - what YA lit needs.

ann cannon said...

This was just SO GOOD!!!!!!! And yes. I am using a lot of !s. But still.

Kerry, I wish you would send this someplace--I don't know where--PW? Kirkus? New York Times? I think people need to see this.

Coral said...

Thanks for that. I really truly agree with you. I used to work in book retail, and it got a little ridiculous to try to recommend books to moms who just said "Well, she really loves those books about Gossip Girl." your kid reads random trash and you want me to recommend more....

Kerry said...

Yes. What the world needs is a lot of my *&^%$ing ranting. I agree. ;-)

Fiona said...

Have you ever noticed that A LOT of writers for childern/young adults don't even have kids? They have cats. It's hard to connect with things you don't connect to.

whirligigdaisy said...

Wow. I guess I'll just stick to books that real people (like you!) recommend. %$# random samples.

Swanky Mommy said...

I love you. I miss you. And not in a perverted way. And I love that Ann Cannon posts on your blog. Why am I such a schlump? We need to do lunch. Sigh.

Kerry said...

yes, let's do lunch. and I love you, too. though I'm not sure about being able to promise it's not a little bit of that thing you said... ;-)

Kerry said...

(email me your schedule and we'll figure something out!)

Swanky Mommy said...

It's so WAY not perverted. You pervert. Hahahaha.

emily said...

You're hilarious. Really. I'm just finished reading the Gregor the Overlander books by Suzanne Collins, and I thought they were really good! Is that considered YA lit, since it's about an 11-year-old boy? No cussing and no sex = my favorite kind of book.

starryeyed.kid said...

I was searching for YA Literature critiques for a research paper, and this came up.

It really amused me, because all the academic journals I've read focus on the select few that are well-written (or the ones that no teens would ever pick up because they're so lifeless).

And the exclamation point thing? It's okay to use excessive punctuation in internet conversation. Not in a novel. Isn't that a "no duh?"

I'm writing a YA Novel, and thank the Lord it's set in a small town in Washington that the protagonists like, it's meant to be entertaining, the one who is rich doesn't like it or flaunt it, they whine about the kids who whine about ridiculous things, and has realistic parents (well, you know, for the most part- for me, a realistic parent IS one that doesn't know what's going on. But there are four sets of parents, so we cover all the bases).

I'd be terrified to face your wrath if my novel was ever published.