Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why I Review YA Fiction

Keep reading--you'll see why I chose this pic...
This is sort of a continuation of my last blog post, which in large part was about whether or not as an author I ought to be leaving negative reviews of books by other authors. First, I want to point out a few things I didn't mention in that post.

The negative reviews I leave are pretty much just on Amazon and Goodreads, there for people to see when they are researching a book already and trying to decided whether or not to read it. I don't make a point of driving people to my negative reviews so they can get an earful about a book they had never even heard about before. I don't even post them here for the most part. Yes, I've written a few posts about books I didn't like, but they tended to be rather big, well-known books already, and my tiny opinion is easily lost in the sea of reviews both positive and negative. I do, however, try to drive people toward the books and authors I love, by posting reviews here and tweeting the links to my positive Amazon reviews.

Now, yesterday I found myself giving more thought to why I feel I really do need to continue reviewing books I don't like. You see, I finished a book that about drove me crazy. The teen protagonist was portrayed as shallow in a situation that necessitated true depth of character. The story involved very--VERY--I mean, really, really VERY--serious subject matter, but the teen protag was more concerned with her clothes and being quippy with her friends.


The author of said book has been writing no longer than I have, and yet she's signed with a very large press. You may say, "Well, see, you're jealous, Kat."


If I never, ever get signed with a big press I still want them to STOP producing dribble like this. There is a lot of talent out there. There are books that handle topics like this perfectly, books that are written with such incredible skill and care. And yet, the YA market is getting filled with more and more junk.

I want to stop being subjected to books that:

  • Portray teens as shallow.
  • Dumb down the language so I feel like I'm being talked to like I'm a four-year-old. (Or alternate between a too-adult voice and a childish voice.)
  • Tackle 87 different "hot button" issues in one book and handle none of them well.
  • Are written by adult market authors trying to join the bandwagon of YA.
  • Are written by any author who seems to have never met a teenager in their whole life.
  • Are written by authors who couldn't relate to teens even when they were teens themselves. (Read author bios, folks. Seriously.)
  • Think that a few current slang words and pop culture references make the book YA when the writing has nothing like a YA voice. (BTW--having your character say "chah" for "yeah" doesn't make them sound like a teen, it makes them sound like Crush from Finding Nemo.)

Also, from some recent surveys I've taken online about pet peeves in YA fiction, we readers would very much like no more:

  • Stereotypes. (Dumb jock, perfect cheerleader, ugly/shy nerd girl, etc.)
  • Dramatic romances.
  • Love triangles.
  • Mary Sue characters as protags.
  • Parents/adults who are idiots.
  • Characters who lie with no real motivation. (One of my top peeves, btw, and one found in the book I just finished. As was the parents/adults as idiots thing, which I think tied together.)

Oh, and we need MORE GUY PROTAGONISTS. Please. As a GIRL who loves to read, I'm begging for this.

I think that about sums up my thoughts for today. BTW--if you do want to follow my reviews on Goodreads, just CLICK HERE. I welcome follows, fans, and friends!


Kessie said...

LOL! Someone in a book actually said "Chah"? Lameo!

I used to fill my books with slang, but that's because I was a young adult using words that I actually used. People used to laugh at me for using "pry", as in, "It'll pry rain tomorrow." But in California, everyone says that. For me it was perfectly normal.

The cliches you're tired of--I'm tired of them, too! And yes--MORE MALE PROTAGONISTS!! The stories can be just as girl-appealing with a male protag. Just look at Shiver.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Slang is fine, but not if it's being used just for slang's sake.

Too many writers don't understand dialog and how to make it realistic--or that "realistic" dialog is NOT *exactly the way we talk in real life." It's an abridged version of real-life speech, otherwise we'd have long, laborious conversations and lots and lots and lots of "um" and "you know" and other such. Yes, some kids do use a ridiculous amount of slang in real life--but you're experiencing real life in real time. You don't notice it the way you do in a book, where real time is compacted down to a few hours for the reader, so you must be sparing.

And I made that "more male protags" request in caps with you in mind, Kessie :).

Donna Farrer said...

I totally agree with you on this. Slang when it is used correctly is fine, but to just use it because you can is too much. I hate having to censor my kids books due to language, I know it's out there but they don't need it all the time. We came across Shari Whyte, and author from here in the Pac NW and she writes brilliant YA fiction books. She has her Stelladaur series and my oldest is on Finding Tir Na Nog. It's just so great and she loves the series and it's well written. Whyte also runs an online educational academy that uses the books as curriculum. Just an all around great author that writes something I don't have to worry about. Her Academy site is which I think links to the booksite as well but just in case is that one. Worth looking at!

Lyn said...

Fine line between having the requisite and familiar elements in our books (readers expect a bit of formula to their chosen genre, love triangles often allow for the needed tension in a plot, for example) and serving up stock characters, cheesy dialog, etc. Good thoughts here, though. And btw, I reference your last post in my next post on my blog (goes up tomorrow). It's a tightrope writing what people want and what you want to write. Every author probably experiences that. I know I do.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Very true, Lyn. I do agree that many readers like some formula in their fiction--but not when it gets overdone. Gotta figure out where that line is.

And looking forward to reading your post!