Dragonfly Words

The Shame of the Grown-up YA Reader

August 12, 2010
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If you love reading YA/Tween/MG books, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, I still invite you to keep reading. You may learn something new about this wonderful group of books.

Many of my friends and coworkers are bookworms, and I mean that in the most loving of ways. Unfortunately, they don’t read what I read. They tend to focus on the more ‘literary’ books, you know, the books that have some deep meaning and make you think. The books you have to work for to get through. Now, there’s nothing wrong with these books, and I read them occasionally, but they really aren’t my cup of tea. I think all day at work and I get upset and frustrated with everyday life. When I take the time to read a book, I want that book to allow me to escape. I want it to move. I want it to excite and entertain me. I want to be treated like I have the attention span of a 14-year-old, which, by the end of the day happens to be the case. I turn to YA books to fulfill these needs.

Today, as happens most days, I was sitting at work and the subject of great books people are reading came up. Everyone in the room started naming obscure books or tear jerkers that leave you hating your life or sappy novels about finding your meaning in life. And I sat quietly, hoping no one would look to me to contribute. The same happens when the dreaded question “reading any good books?” comes up. This question comes up often. I usually say ‘nothing at the moment’ or I try to avoid the conversation all together.

But why should I feel that the books I read have any less value? Certainly they are meant for a younger reading level, but they are still well-written, carefully crafted stories. Sometimes I think the imagination that goes into YA books is far greater than what you see in grown-up books. And with YA you aren’t bogged down by the “cynicism of our adult selves,” as Pamela Paul suggests in her essay The Kids’ Books are Alright.

And so I have decided to quit disguising the books I’m reading in nondescript book covers as I bury my face in them in shame. Starting now, I will proudly tell anyone who asks what YA/MG book I’m currently reading. I will not use the excuse of research. I will tell it like it is – that I’m reading said book because I want to; because it engages me and keeps me entertained. There is no shame in reading what you like.

In light of my new resolution, I am proud to announce my excitement over beginning The City of Ember tonight. A full report to follow once I’ve finished the book.


Online ‘choose your own adventure’ style books

July 30, 2010
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Simon & Schuster will be releasing an online, serialized novel, Loser/Queen where readers (young adults) get to vote on what will happen next. Having been a huge fan of the choose your own adventure books, I can see the appeal to such a format. But as a writer, it stresses me out.

Readers vote by 5 pm Thursdays. A new chapter is posted on Mondays. That’s pretty quick turn around. I assume that, like a television show, multiple chapters are already written, but the fact that there are two choices at the end of the chapter, and who knows how many chapters means that a lot of content would need to be pre-written that will never see the light of the computer screen. Additionally, based off of reader responses, minor characters could take on a more major part if the readers are particularly drawn to a character, which leads to even more changes. If writing a traditional book often seems like an out-of-control beast, I can’t imagine what this project must feel like to the author, Jodi Lynn Anderson. That’s a lot of creative control she is giving up. But then, the price is a huge platform ready and waiting when the book publishes. It’s not even finished and you can already pre-order the paperback edition.

Which leads to another question. Will people want to buy a book that they have already read for free? I’m inclined to say yes, because people like owning something they were a part of. The readers voting on the book will feel that they invested something into it, and they will want the hard copy to show their hard work. But will those who didn’t vote, or who came in on the final chapter, feel the inclination to buy it? Will potential readers who did not have the opportunity to vote feel left out? And isn’t this just adding to the technology addiction that’s running rampant across society?

I’ve gotta say though, Simon & Schuster did grab my attention, and I will definitely be following along with Anderson’s readers to see where it goes.

Writing adolescents in a non-adolescent way

December 30, 2009
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I think many YA writers miss the mark when they write for the YA audience. Just because someone is a young adult, or an adolescent, it should not be assumed that they are uninterested in reading adult constructed prose. Quite the opposite