Dear Readers Writers and Precious Patrons,
Today on All Authors Monday Memories we bring you a great flashback. We leave you with "Slick Wit Lore with Author Nicola J. McDonagh"
Slick Wit Lore: Nikki's YAF Lounge: Winds of Change.
A wind can be gentle and warm, blustery and cold, tornado-like reeking havoc and laying waste to everything in its path. A breezy day can refresh and soothe the troubled mind and rock a hammock to and fro. A wind can blow away the cobwebs, refresh the spirit and slap against conformists cheeks to waken the liberal inside.
Okay, I am waxing lyrical here, but there is a point to all this. No, really. The point is that YA literature has perhaps become stuck in a dystopian rut. I know there are loads of different YA genre novels out there, but the most popular, the ones that are made into films, are very similar to one another. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins, Divergent - Veronica Roth and Uglies - Scott Westerfield, all have similar themes. Set in the future where teens must struggle for survival, blah, blah, blah. A few years ago and it was Vampire twinkling and pale faced fifteen year olds fantasising about hunky long toothed old yet young guys, who would take them away from this boring real life into a sparkly world of un-dead romance.
So what's next?
"In 1897, London, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne is running. She s been viciously attacked by a young
Surely we are all getting slightly fed up with gloom and doom? Aren't we?
Please say yes. Okay then. It must be time for change. Should YA literature step out from the grey shadows, lay down its bow and arrows and maybe take up knitting? Why not? Perhaps the world of YA literature needs a new hero/heroine that can knit their way out of trouble. No? Right then, how about the next big novel to topple The Hunger Games can be about a future where adults are nice to their children and everyone is kind and gentle. You know a Utopian society where there is no hunger or war, where everyone gets along and helps each other. Where…
Nah, me neither. I mean where's the drama the conflict, the baddies, the goodies, the interesting story line. YA novels deal with angst, with teens wanting to leave the nest and make a name for themselves in the big wide world. Find out who they are and how they fit into the grand scheme of things. Agreed? Well for the most part. We all like a good story with action and romance and adults getting their just desserts. But, maybe this can be dealt with other than sci-fi/fantasy or dystopian worlds. Perhaps Steampunk will be the next big thing.
Steampunk seems to be either bodice ripping romances:
Or wild west/robotic mash ups. Not a genre I'm too familiar with to be honest. An example is The Flux Engine. My guess this would appeal to the male readers out there.
"John Porter didn’t expect his experiment to go horribly awry and send every Tommy in town on a rampage. The steam-powered metal men tore down half of Sprocketville before they were stopped. John anticipated a visit from the sheriff, not a robber with a gun who stole his heirloom crystal and then shot him in the chest for good measure. In a day filled with the unexpected, the biggest surprise of all was surviving to be interrogated, and then deputized, by legendary lawman, Wild Bill Hickok.
Now John must accompany Wild Bill and track down his stolen crystal before his would-be murderer can use it to create the most powerful and deadly weapon ever known."
Maybe YA chick lit is on the rise. Please, please, please don't let it be a Fifty Shades of Grey type thing though. Girls, just say NO.
Then again perhaps YA literature can change by targeting more male readers. As far as I can tell, nearly all YA novels are geared towards the female market. They tend to have female protagonists who, despite their appearance or popularity, are sought after by more than one handsome suitor. Especially so in YA romances such as Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. In these books the girls are anything but attractive and are often portrayed as loners out of touch with their peers. Yet they get the twinkly hunk despite their differences. Or engage in a dangerous mission only to find themselves in the arms of rippling muscly guy.
The blurb from the YA Romance series The Mortal Instruments:
Sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is an ordinary teenager, who likes hanging out in Brooklyn with her friends. But everything changes the night she witnesses a murder, committed by a group of teens armed with medieval weaponry. The murderous group are Shadowhunters, secret warriors dedicated to driving demons out of this dimension and back into their own. Drawn inexorably into a terrifying world, Clary s begins to learn the truth about her family - and the battle for the fate of the world .
Just look at the covers! Buff males, and some with tattoos! How can any normal teenage boy possibly compete? Also, the covers are really, really girly aren't they? I doubt any young man would actually go into a shop and buy a copy, even if he were interested in the story, and he might be. Maybe they could make the covers less like a cheap Mills and Boon Romance to reflect the action adventure content that both novels contain.
Blurb for Twilight:
When 17 year old Isabella Swan moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father she expects
But in spite of her awkward manner and low expectations, she finds that her new classmates are drawn to this pale, dark-haired new girl in town. But not, it seems, the Cullen family. These five adopted brothers and sisters obviously prefer their own company and will make no exception for Bella.
Bella is convinced that Edward Cullen in particular hates her, but she feels a strange attraction to him, although his hostility makes her feel almost physically ill. He seems determined to push her away - until, that is, he saves her life from an out of control car.
Now, where are the books that portray Nerdlinger boys who get the perfect girl because of their personality? I'm racking my brains to think of one and I can't.
So, perhaps the real change for YA literature is to attract male readers and write about teenage boys as heroes setting the world to rights. I know that there are some books were there are male protagonists such as Harry Potter, Chaos walking and Unwind, but I wouldn't describe them as Romantic Fiction and in all of them there is a feisty female sidekick/love interest on an equal footing and not necessarily gorgeous. Which isn't a bad thing at all. I suppose the point I'm trying to make here is, that maybe young male adults don't get the chance to read about ordinary lads without any supernatural powers having a relationship of the romantic kind, with a girl that is sparkly and brooding.
I'm wondering if teenage boys can possibly come up to the standards of all these gorgeous muscle rippling, sensitive and talented studs that pepper the pages of nearly all YA novels with a love interest. Even the dystopian worlds have attractive males to be there for the female leads to lean on in times of extreme danger. Do young males feel disempowered by such male protagonists? How can your average teen boy compete with all these fictional perfect males? Maybe it is time for our young male writers to start penning some books that are aimed at their own generation and gender. Now, I'm not a young male, so I wouldn't dare to assume that I know what said human wants to read, but I bet it isn't doe-eyed drippy girl finds happiness with a glittery flying dead guy whilst avoiding the advances of a ware wolf.
The question is then, would YA literature benefit from a tornado that rips its current trend of female protagonist saves world has love triangle to sort out, apart and leaves behind a story that appeals to a male readership? Would teenage girls want to read a book about a sport loving, LARPER who vegetates out most nights in front of his computer until one day his geek knowledge of all things Star trek, Star Wars and Lord of The Rings, play a vital role in preventing the invasion of slug-like aliens from taking over the world. And along the way he manages to impress the beautiful and talented female counterpart and they both get it on. But not necessarily fall in love, because that would be a bit of a girly story. Who knows? Maybe I'll write it anyway and find out.
I have been looking at some books that could break the mould. They still adhere to the YA formula but have a little bit more going for them in terms of actual story line and character development. One is quite off the wall and so different from any other YA chick lit book I have ever read that it could almost be a genre in itself. I Don't Know How She Will Do It by Kobby Tetteh Gyampoh is published on 3rd February and I have permission from the author Kobby (who is only 18 years old) to paste a little extract for you all to read. In my opinion this young man has a real talent and I'd love to see him do well.
First the blurb:
Join Lily in her quest for freedom as she poses as a couple with Clare behind a camouflage of flashy cars and cupcakes in order to get that inheritance. Follow this hilarious recipe of a low self-esteem girl, a sassy self-employed actress, an Aunt whose quotes would get you raising brows and two grannies who are willing to help low self-esteem girl. But watch out, one has a pistol, which she stashes in her underwear.
"It is Saturday. I used to hate Saturdays. But with Clare holding my hand through dinner with the Ford women, I couldn't wait for Saturdays. Clare and I were surprised it was no longer the normal brunch we had. This was taking place in the enormous dining hall of the manor. There’s a large table stretching to the fifty women with their husbands, if they were alive. The walls held portraits of past Ford women, and a window wide as a doorway poured light into the hall…
If I ever thought marriage with Clare was a good idea, I am now second-guessing. All the husbands are staring at us like we are insane. It is hard avoiding their stares since we are at the head of the table. Lynn's new husband, Tom, is fawning over Clare. I can see Granny Lindsay kicking him beneath the table, but he is so distracted that the pains caused by Granny's boots are unnoticeable. Her gun would have been pointed right at him if she wasn’t handcuffed to her chair on special family gatherings such as these. If Aunt Lizzie hadn’t chinked her glass with a spoon to announce the dinner of baked potato soup with bacon, onion and cheddar was to commence, the sun would have come up for a new day and the meals would have gone untouched."
The other book, Itch, written by a British DJ Simon Mayo, was recommended to me by one of my fifteen-year-old students. Now, I thought, I'm not going to like this. But I did. It kind of breaks the mould for YA novels, although I think it is aimed at the younger end of the genre, it really is quite quirky and engaging. The narrative style is very conversational and relaxed, which helps with the humour side of it, and it certainly rattles along at a fair old pace. The description is definitely not that of the normal YA novel:
Fourteen-year-old Itchingham Lofte, nicknamed Itch, has an unusual passion: collecting specimens of every element in the periodic table. So what if that means he's had a few ... mishaps? But when he gets his hands on a suspiciously warm rock made of a new, previously unknown element, things really begin to explode. Soon, a malevolent teacher, an evil-doing corporation, and a top-secret government agency are all after Itch. Can his science know-how keep him one step ahead of everyone...and help him stay alive?
"Amid the teenage intrigue and heart-in-mouth escapades there are sequin flashes of real science: reminders that physical chemistry really does make things happen" (Tim Radford Guardian)
"'Enough! Stop! No more experiments. At all. NONE.’
Itch said nothing, and now his mother slowed down. ‘Have I made myself clear? I want all your kit –
chemicals, powders, potions, flasks, and whatever else you have hidden away in your wardrobe – outside in the garden after school tomorrow. No explosions, no “volcanoes”, no burning hydrogen bubbles. Nothing.’
Itch’s jaw dropped. ‘But I can’t just leave everything in the garden. It isn’t safe!’ He felt a bit panicky now. His ‘kit’, as his mother called it, had taken a long time to assemble and was his pride and joy. His friends at school talked mainly of football and surfing; he had no interest in the first and only a passing one in the second. His passion – his ‘really lame hobby’, as Chloe called it – was about to be cleared out of his room for ever.
‘Well, you should have thought of that before you tried to blow up the house. And what have you done to your face?!’ Jude had stopped looking around her son’s bedroom and had just noticed his eyebrows. Or lack of them.
‘Oh, they burned off. Sorry.’
‘SORRY?’ shouted Jude. ‘Sorry? You could have been blinded! Really, Itchingham, you are an idiot sometimes.’ She put her hand under his chin and tilted his head up to the light. ‘Well, they’re gone.’"
A story about a boy obsessed by the periodic table could attract more male readers, if I were to stereotype all geeky boys, but like I said, the book was recommended to me by a girl. So, maybe this kind of science without too much of the 'fiction' aspect to it is one way to go to attract a different audience to YA literature. A reader that would be turned off by the more generic and popular works that dominate the top selling rankings.
Is it a time to change, to aspire to something more than unrealistic portrayals of the perfect young male or female in YA literature? I suppose there will always be a place for dreamy romance and depressing dystopian worlds, since they are so far removed from the every day life of a teenager. We all enjoy a story that takes us into a time and place that is foreign and a million miles away from our own fairly mundane lives. Places that promise excitement, love, and danger will always thrill and satisfy our need for escapism. I just think that there is a need for a fresh start in YA literature. I would enjoy reading novels that deliver more than the usual format, with stories that show us characters we can readily identify with. Environments we recognize and plotlines that deal with the unusual and dramatic through the eyes of teenagers that realistically resemble young people from all walks of life. To see the joys and woes of growing up via a bit of action and adventure that doesn't necessarily rely on the attainability of physical perfection. We are all different and all beautiful. That's a fact. Don't let anyone suggest otherwise.
Perhaps the biggest change we are about to see in YA literature is that more of it will be written by teens and young adults. Instead of us old fogies trying to remember what it felt like to be young, and then attempting to make young people buy into that, some young writers are out there writing about things relevant to what they are experiencing right now. Not as a memory, but as a happening taking place in the present not the past. Does that fact make the read more exciting, believable and contemporary?
Or, are young writers so influenced by novels penned by an older generation, that they simply mimic it. I have read some indie novels by teenagers that although well written are really just Fan Fiction books that have nothing new to say.
I challenge all you readers and writers out there that are under 25, to break the mould, to look for stories that aren't about dystopian future worlds, or vampires, or zombies, or witches and the like, and start reading/writing gritty urban stories about real teens in real life situations; that don't necessarily involve unwanted pregnancies and hating their boring parents. Or some truly different kinds of sci-fi/speculative fiction that dares to go beyond depressing future worlds where girls are plucky and save the world yet are so, so pretty. You do realise I am shooting myself in the foot by suggesting this. I don't care. It is time for a change, for a fresh blast of new and dare I say - original YA fiction to hit the shelves. (Or kindle).