I love book bloggers. I am grateful every day for these guys and (mostly) gals who spend their free time reading books and posting their thoughts about them on the internet. Without these wonderful people, we authors who are with small publishers (and the self-published ones) would have a much harder time getting the word out about our books. When I ask a blogger to review my books, I am ever hopeful it will be a good review, but I know it has to be an honest review, which isn’t always the same thing. Interestingly, with my YA titles the biggest discrepancy between book blog reviewers seems to be whether or not they like the teenager-ness of the books – the struggles with parents, friends, teachers and other teen drama. Is it too much? Is it too little?
Some like it. “Something I like about these books is that even though Juniper has these extraordinary things going on in her life (mermaids, talking trees) she also experiences average teenager problems – boyfriend dilemmas, overly dramatic friends, school complications, and clashes with her parents. I admire Juniper’s courage and determination – she knows who she is and where she wants to go.” – Books & Such about Whisper of the Woods.
Some really don’t. “I didn't much care for all the high school drama when I was in high school. I like it less now. It's only because of that aspect of the book that I wouldn't outright recommend it to my adult friends.” Behind the Willows about Cry of the Sea. (Although she goes on to write: “But, I think back to myself as a teenager, and I would have loved this, drama and all. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to the young adults it was written for!”)
When I first wrote Cry of the Sea, my original draft was only 45,000 words and solely about Juniper’s discovery of the mermaids and struggle to save them. When I did my major revision of the manuscript, I added the high school characters (Haley, Regina, and the evil vice principal) as a subplot to help fill the book. In adding those characters, I wound up changing the main plot of my book too (when Haley shares the video online to gain popularity and subsequently causes a huge problem for Juniper, her parents, and the mermaids). Frankly, the story was very short and plain without all that extra high school stuff, and the book never would have been published.
So, how teenage-ish should a YA book be before it gets annoying? Well, in my opinion, if the teenage aspect of the book is annoying to you, then you probably shouldn’t be reading YA books. Why? Because the main characters are teenagers. For them to act any other way than like teenagers is unrealistic. You’ll find the teen characteristics in all YA books, but some have more and some have less.
Let’s look at some examples.
In the Harry Potter series, while dealing with the fight of good versus evil through amazing storytelling and fantasy, we also see the three main characters dealing with first crushes, first loves, jealousy, bullying, schoolwork, pressures at home, and even issues over clothing and appearance. All teenager-ish.
In the Percy Jackson series, while dealing with the terrors of Greek gods and monsters, Percy and his friends are also dealing with strained relationships with their parents, popularity, self-esteem, first loves, and competition, among other coming of age issues.
Want to go for the serious issue books like Speak, Faking Normal, 13 Reasons Why, The Fault in Our Stars, Eleanor and Park? It is the drama of being a teenager trying to understand the difficult world of growing up with pain and learning how to handle it that underlies each of these stories. Contemporary YA drama is so popular because it is realistic. To adults it can seem over-dramatic. To teens it is eye-opening and gives them a place to feel sympathy.
Historical novels like Between Shades of Gray and The Book Thief rely on the character being in their teens because teenagers still have the hope that adults have lost in tragic situations. A story like this might not have regular high school drama, but it is the fact that normal life doesn’t exist anymore for a characters like these that we care all the more. Look at Anne Frank. The fact that her “normal” teen life was taken from her is what made her story all the more compelling.
Now, there are stories like Divergent and Hunger Games where I’ll admit the fact that the characters are teenagers seems a minute detail. Katniss could just as easily be twenty-two and the story would still work. We don’t see much of the normal life kids today relate to in these dystopian novels. Yet Tris and Katniss are teenagers, and because they aren’t full grown, it makes the horror they experience more intense and tragic. It makes these characters seem that much more courageous than if they were more mature. It also explains why they are much more impulsive, doesn’t it?
Of course, there are lighter YA books that are simply about being teenagers in today’s world: Gossip Girls and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, for example. I recently finished reading Exit Stage Right by Gail Nall which was literally about high school drama – well, a high school Drama program. A lot of YA books are read by adults, but these titles are truly targeted toward teenage readers (and people like me who write YA and therefore read lots of YA).
So, I will never take offense to a reviewer saying that a book of mine is too teen for adults. It wasn’t written for them. However, I certainly get a thrill when a reviewer says something like: “It is promoted as YA fiction because both the main characters are still in high school, but actually this is a love story for all romantics.” (A Woman’s Wisdom review of Passing Notes).
What are your thoughts about teenage drama in YA? Love it? Hate it? Have a favorite example? Please feel free to comment.
Fun! Fun! Fun! I'm participating in the Young Adult Faeries & Fantasy Blog Hop! I'll be giving away 1 print copy of Cry of the Sea. (It'll be signed if you're in the U.S., and it'll be from Book Depository if you're not)
Cry of the Sea is the story of Juniper Sawfeather, teen daughter of environmental activists, who discovers mermaids washed up on the beach during an oil spill. In her efforts to save them, she finds herself in the center of a struggle between her parents, the media, a marine biologist and his handsome young intern, the kids at school, and the oil company over the fate of the mermaids. Can she prevent them from being exploited? Or killed?
Learn more: www.dgdriver.com/cry-of-the-sea.html
How do I enter? All you need to do is at least one of these things:
1. Sign up for my mailing list. (over in the margin ----> )
2. Follow me at Facebook and leave a note that you're entering the Cry of the Sea giveaway
3. Follow me on Twitter and tweet me a note that you're entering the Cry of the Sea giveaway
A winner will be chosen on January 15th.
Now, head on over to the hosts of this event, BloodhoundsYA, and find the next stop in the hop!
Good luck and happy reading!
According to the list I've compiled all year on Pinterest, I've read 33 books this year. I'm going to say 35, because I'm more than halfway through 2 more and should finish them this weekend. To the world at large that's probably not a lot, but it's ten more than last year, so I feel good about it. I work full time, am a parent and wife, and write and market my books in the evenings and on the weekends. So, as much as I love reading, I really only get to read on my lunch breaks, while sitting in my car waiting to pick up my daughter after school events, and at bedtime. It takes me a while to get through even a short book, unfortunately.
During my commute, I'm an avid listener to NPR, but during my summer vacation, my husband and I picked up a copy of Holes on audiobook for our drive. I've been addicted to audiobooks ever since, and that has seriously helped me get through my TBR list.
I've made a vow to read more books by indie authors I've met online, local authors, and fellow Fire and Ice YA Book authors - trying to be supportive. However, this means that I miss out on some of the bigger titles. The audiobooks have helped me catch up on a few of those, although I can't seem to ever get my hands on The Diviners by Libba Bray. Someone always has it checked out.
Here's my list of favorite books I read this year:
Book That Made Me the Happiest and Smile the Whole Time: Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle. This is seriously the cutest MG book I've read in a long time. I'm a theater gal, and all the references to musicals (that they cuss by using the titles of failed musicals, OMG!) just made me giggle. Plus, I listened to the author read this to me in my car, and his voice was way better than my inner voice would have ever been. Love, love, love this book.
Best Big Publisher Book of the Year: The Raven Boys (and the 2 sequels) by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved these so much I gave them to my bookworm nephew for Christmas. Great characters. Great fantasy. Had me on the edge of my seat, literally (as I was driving as I listened to them) the whole time. The audiobooks were narrated by Will Patton (Falling Skies), and I loved how he did all the character voices. Great acting.
Best Small Publisher Book of the Year: Isabella's Libretto by Kimberly Cross Teter. You probably haven't heard of this book. It's a beautiful historical novel about the girls that played Antonio Vivaldi's music in an orphanage for girls in Venice, Italy in the 1700s. It's a great story about friendship and perseverance. Perfect for any teen who loves music. I adore this book and want you all to discover it.
Best Indie (self-pubbed) Book of the Year: Sticks and Stones by Shawn McGuire. This is the beginning of what is so far a 4 book series about a genie who rather unwillingly helps teens with their wishes. It was charming and very well told. I am eager to read more of these books. Plus, the covers are absolutely gorgeous.
Best OLD Book of the Year: Few of the books I read this year were published in 2015, but there are some older books, award-winning books that I've been meaning to read for some time. Of the small number of these I got to this year, Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian takes the cake. I didn't love it at first, but by the end I didn't want to let it go. What a stunning and sometimes heartbreaking story. I see now why it's so popular, banned, and important. I highly recommend you take some time to read it if you haven't yet.
Best Grown-Up Book of the Year: I write YA and MG, so surprise, surprise I mostly read YA and MG. I try to sneak in a grown-up book once in a while. My mom recommended I read Nicholas Sparks's The Longest Ride because it had some elements that are in my own book Passing Notes (like love letters and multi-generational storylines). Well, Sparks never disappoints. The book was very moving and made me cry. The movie is disappointing, though. Skip it and just read the book.
Best Book from Fire and Ice Young Adult Books (besides my own, of course, wink wink): I read several books from my own publisher this year. They are all pretty solid YA books. My favorite so far was Swimming Alone by Nina Mansfield. I think it is also the book I read the fastest all year. It is a pure mystery with all the red herrings it could hold. I loved the flow and setting and found it to be a very fun read.
Best Short Book of the Year: The Blue-Haired Boy by Courtney Stevens. This was a companion novella to go along with Faking Normal, her successful YA problem novel. Faking Normal is good and deserves all its praise, but I liked the novella better. It's a delicious little prequel featuring my favorite character from the novel and an encounter he has on a long bus ride. It's inexpensive and you don't have to have read the novel to enjoy it.
So, there you have it. My list. I have half a dozen books on my Kindle still to read and a stack of books I got from various print book events I attended last year still to get through. Everyone keeps publishing more books, so I will never, ever catch up. I hope you enjoyed my little round-up. Would love to hear what you enjoyed reading this year, so please leave a comment.
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.