Friday, May 23, 2008


We all have them, right? It’s not just me? There are some things that I just love in a book no matter how cliché they are, or corny. Or…scandalous.

Name three.

1. Best friend betrayal. Is it really a betrayal it they aren’t your best friend? I don’t think so. And the good ones end in a cat-fight.

2. A love triangle. How can you know that the MC loves her guy if there isn’t another one tempting her? Give me choices!

3. A happy ending. Boo and hiss if you want, but when I read a book, I need to know that the good characters are okay. And yes, to me, okay means with a super hot guy. Making out.

So there are my favorite three guilty literary pleasures. Care to share yours? And don’t just try to sound cool. LOL. The more embarrassing the better.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Book Review: Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

Move over, Generations X and Y. The new kids in town are Generation Dead.

All over America, recently deceased teenagers are getting up and walking around. They have no heartbeats. They don’t breathe. But they do have minds and emotions. They ride the school bus and struggle through math homework. One of them, Tommy Williams, even plays football.

Living, breathing goth girl Phoebe is fascinated with Tommy. It’s that age-old attraction to a guy who lives on the fringes—a guy the girl thinks maybe, if she can just love him enough, will come around and be the person he almost is. You know, Rebel Without a Pulse. The trouble is, living people are pretty freaked out about a live girl dating a dead boy. Not to mention that Adam, Phoebe’s best friend, has secretly been in love with her for years.

Generation Dead manages to be funny and dark at the same time, with none of the cheesy horror and melodrama we usually associate with zombie stories. Instead, it’s a new twist on the issue of accepting differences and learning from people who come from other walks of life—er, death. I felt a lot of great tension between the desire to see Phoebe and Tommy overcome the prejudices against their friendship and my wish for Phoebe and the likable, tough-but-sensitive Adam to end up together.

Each character in Generation Dead has a distinct voice, and Daniel Waters writes refreshingly authentic-sounding boy dialog. Generation Dead, published by Hyperion, is more than just a YA urban fantasy. It’s a novel about social awareness that will appeal to readers with a broad range of genre preferences, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The more things change...

In high school, my teachers loved that tired old joke that goes, “When I was your age, back in the Dark Ages—” Funny, now that I’m the same age many of them must have been at the time, my school days seem like they could have happened only a few heartbeats ago. And yet something important has changed between then and now. The World Wide Web went public three months after I graduated from high school (thanks to Wikipedia for the date), which means my high school years really did take place in a darker age than the one in which we live now. What are the implications for YA fiction?

Let’s start by taking a look at the implications for YA reality. On a typical day, one of my fellow YAYAers who happens to be in high school might be chatting back and forth with me, discussing her latest manuscript via email-capable cell phone while she’s in Spanish class. At the same time, another teenage YAYAer might be checking in and connecting with friends across the country when she drops in at her school library. Physically, they’re in school, surrounded by fellow teens, desks, and textbooks. But their minds aren’t focused on those potentially bleak surroundings—or at least I hope not. Instead, they’re connected to a larger world. The writer on the cell phone is sharing mutual feedback with me—a mom, yoga teacher, and multi-genre writer on the opposite coast. The writer in the library is researching agents, connecting with a select group of people all over the country who share her specific interests, and putting the finishing touches on a manuscript. Their lives are, without a doubt, far bigger than the walls of the school buildings that contain their superficial daily activities.

When I write YA, on the other hand, I draw on memories of a time when if you didn’t have a car and you didn’t have change for a payphone, you were stuck spending the school day trapped in your school as if it was an island, an eight-hour-long mini Lord of the Flies scenario—or at least that’s how it felt some days. A lot of the impetus behind my choice of YA as a favorite genre—why I find it so compelling to read and write—comes from remembering and embellishing on what I saw happening to the human spirit as we attempted to grow and interact under the strange, largely artificial circumstances of high school. The situation brought out both the best and worst in people. Combine the trapped isolation with the fact that teens are forming adult identities and—supposedly—deciding what to do with the rest of their lives, and you have great kindling for an infinite number of hot stories.

Now, high school life is probably not quite as isolated as I knew it to be. I went through some of my days as a teen feeling lucky if anyone wanted to have a conversation with me, even if it was the guy at my table in art class telling me how he stole a bunch of candy from the local convenience store. I couldn’t have imagined that someone in a different part of the country would be interested in talking to me.

Note that I’m not saying life is easier for teens now than it was two decades ago. In fact, some of the changes have made adolescence harder in some ways. Here’s my question: Does that old sense of isolation in school still occur just as strongly despite the ease of internet access? Despite the fact that if you’re a teen now, your world is much bigger than mine was as a kid in the eighties? Tell me how—and if—you think this affects YA plots!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Too Much Suspense Makes for One Confused Reader

So I'm reading this book. The book reading, in itself, isn't a big deal. I also am in love with this book, if only because the author is one of my favorites.

But there is a problem.

Every. Single. Chapter. Ends. With. A. Cliffhanger.

It's like reading a page-long paper with every word as its own sentence. Did I mention the chapters are about three pages long? No? Well, the chapters are about three pages long. Every three pages the author decides to throw in a cliffhanger. Thusly, I have no frikking idea of what's going on in the book.

Okay, so that last statement was a lie. I understand the plot. I know the characters very well. The problem is, I can't tell which moments are supposed to be important. Then, when the author switches viewpoints between chapters, I find myself rushing through, missing important things, and then rushing back.

It's very frustrating.

On the other hand, I understand how challenging it is to write a page-turner. In the author's previous books, a smattering of cliffhangers and three-page chapters was very effective at pulling me through the story. I'm wondering if it's the constant bombardment of OMG moments that is making this book so tiring.

So I have a question to pose for you all: How do you allocate the time for suspense in your novel versus the time for... um... non-suspense? Do you have any preference for suspense in the novels you read? Any particular kind of suspense you prefer?