Friday, March 28, 2008

A New Twist on Sleep Walking


I want you all to take a minute and imagine something with me. What if, while you sleep and dream of your wants, dreams, desires, and fears, someone else could look in on all of this? What if someone could see every little thing that happened in your mind, while you slept? What if someone knew everything about you, even the things you might not know about yourself?

And what if you were the person that could jump from dream to dream, discovering all of these things?

In Lisa McMann's new book WAKE, this is exactly what seventeen-year-old Janie does. She moves from dream to dream, looking in on people's personal thoughts and passions and anxieties. But, while this might seem like a cool and awesome power that you'd love, it's anything but that for Janie, who can't control her power. Day and night she finds herself sucked into dreams she'd rather not be part of, experiencing things that even the dreamer doesn't want to experience. And then, in a twist, she learns that she can change the dreams she falls into.

I bet you have chills running up and down your spine now, don't you?

Well get out and get the book to see how things turn out!!

I remember hearing about WAKE a few months ago and putting in on my wishlist. I bought the book when it came out earlier this month and read it in a single night. I seriously could not put it down.

McMann, through an interesting and fresh dream-like prose, captures the reader and pulls them into Janie's life of other people's dreams. With twists and turns, mystery, romance, action and more, there really is something for everyone in this novel.
And (drum roll please) WAKE will hit the NYT Bestseller List for children's chapter books at #9 on April 6th!!!!!!!

So YAYA members and YAYA readers, if you haven't already, get out and get yourself a copy of WAKE! You will not be disappointed and maybe we'll raise this book to #1 on the NYTBL!!!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

On what I am supposed to be doing

It's possible that I'm not supposed to be posting...my computer is having technical difficulties and I can't check in with my fellow YAYArs and see if I'm supposed to wait until the E. Lockhart reviews are all done.

I'm supposed to be upstairs in the hotel room, socializing with le fam. Or lying on the beach because I am, after all, in Jamaica.

I am BREAKING THE RULES.

*gasp*

Okay. So here's what I've been wondering.

I'm remembering Suz's post about continuity through multiple books. If you've read more than one of my books (and oh, lucky you, if you have) you might have noticed a few things they all have. Brothers, some kind of addiction, someone taking care of someone else (yeah, that one's kind of huge. I'm thinking it might be some sort of fetish or something. Sort of an issue), soccer players, angst angst angst, struggles with religion, lots of things happening in extremely short amounts of time...

I'm not saying I copy one voice from book to book, but my main characters are similar. They are all young and male and somewhat sarcastic. They all have a best friend and a brother.

There's always a scene where my main character walks through his town and considers his life.

The point is that every manuscript I write is easily recognizable as MINE. So here's what I'm wondering. Is this a problem?

One of my favorite authors is Adam Rapp, purely because Under The Wolf, Under the Dog is undiluted literary brilliance. If books were sex, UtWUtD would be a really messy, really really drunk hook-up. It makes you dizzy sometimes and the next morning you're not quite sure which part of it was real and which part you made up.

I must have read UtWUtD about five times before I read any of his other stuff. And the common motifs are pretty specific and obvious: People peeing on other people's beds for no reason, abuse of painkillers for sciatica, scary teenagers who just want little boys to give them blow jobs, anatomically correct (or exaggerated) snowmen...

Yeah, it's sort of strange, and sometimes I'd get the feeling he lifted one sentence out of one book and threw it into another. And it's sort of like a kiss from your aunt.

It's nice and everything, and it's comforting and smells like home, but at the same time it makes you squeamy because God WHY does your aunt have to kiss you all the time?

(Just in case...Emily, Ruth, and Stacey, you are wonderful aunts and I love you very much. Kiss me whenever.)

(Good.)

At the same time, you've got authors like Chris Lynch. I love Sins of the Fathers, absolutely love it, but the rest of his books I really just want to flush down a toilet (sorry man.) I look at Sins of the Fathers which LITERALLY makes me cry with jealousy when I read it, and then I look at Freewill and Inexcusable and I think...the same guy wrote THESE?

One things for sure--if you're reading a hannah moskowitz book, you'll know it's a hannah moskowitz book.

But you won't find a sentence repeated in another manuscript, either.







By the way--I miss you guys, Jamaica is beautiful, and I'll be home soon. Hope it's okay that I posted. Hugs and kisses from down South...


<3 hannah

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Disreputably Fantastic Read


I was first exposed to the genius that is E. Lockhart through my fellow YAYA Bloggers not too long ago. I quickly devoured Fly on the Wall and The Boyfriend List and I have Dramarama and The Boy Book on my future reading list. As a young male, I’m probably not the target demographic that Lockhart has in mind when she writes, but I have to say that her books can hold my attention and interest in ways that no “boy book” ever has. And Lockhart’s newest book, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, did not disappoint me.

The story follows Frankie during her sophomore year at a boarding school after a summer of a few, ahem, changes. Frankie finds that her return to school brings with it a new interest from boys, notably Matthew Livingston. Along with her new boyfriend, Frankie makes new friends and basically gets a whole new life. And she’s completely content…until she finds out about the secret society on campus.

The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, as the group is called, has been on the campus since Frankie’s own father was there. She wants to know more about them, and maybe even be part of the fun, but the Order explicitly states that girls are not to be allowed. For Frankie, this excuse isn’t at all acceptable and she goes on a hunt to find out just what the Order is…and then she decides to beat them at their own game.

Some of you reading this are probably wondering just what I’m talking about. So far I’ve told you that Frankie goes to a boarding school, that she grew up, that she gets a boyfriend…and that there’s a secret society somehow thrown in this mix. I bet you want me to tell you how these all connect and what the Disreputable History really is, or maybe just what’s so disreputable about it. Well, guess what. I’m not going to say.

That’s one of the beauties of this book. There’s a wide range of information and action going on that seem to be disconnected at first, but later you’ll see how everything comes together in ways that you never would have imagined. In addition to being a humorous drama, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a mystery with just the right amount of suspense to keep you turning page after page without becoming an intense rush for the finish line, as sometimes happens in mysteries. While reading, you’ll learn about Frankie, her friends, her school, and even a little about life in general all while unraveling the mystery of the Order.

Seems like a lot to have in one book, doesn’t it? Somehow, Lockhart pulls it off with complete ease and smoothly flowing language. I never felt confused, but always felt surprised. How she does it, I can’t even begin to guess. But I do know that fans of Lockhart’s other works will not be disappointed with this one, and this will most certainly capture some new Lockhart fans as well.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is available Tuesday, March 25th at a bookstore near you. So get out, buy it, and find out exactly how Frankie Landau-Banks goes from being a mildly geeky girl to a criminal mastermind in less than a year.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Vlogging

Hey everyone--since this is my first post that doesn't involve PR, I guess I should introduce myself. I'm Amanda, but everyone calls me Mandy. I write YA and YA non-fiction, I pretend I can play the guitar (as evidenced), and I randomly decided I'd trying vlogging today.

And I'll let this video on The Magic of Prewriting tell you the rest.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

THE DREADED QUERY

The other day, just for fun, I went back through all of my rejections. You could imagine my surprise when I found my first query. I would never show it to you, because it is that BAD! It started off, no joke, “My name is Suzanne Young…” (Covers face)

Well, I’ve come a long way since then, and I dare say, I’m pretty good at these query things. Just like with writing, there are all sorts of styles with queries. I think the most important thing to know is, it’s a query, not a synopsis. Think about what you would want the back of your book to say. And use the tone of your novel without going too overboard.

But I’m better at writing queries than describing how to write them. Haha. So, I’m posting one of mine in the comments, maybe two, and I ask that if you’d like, please post your query!!!!! I love looking at and rewriting them, so if you’d like advice, let me know. You can check some of my shorter queries on my website, too. It's under books on http://suzanne-young.com or visit http://suzanne-young.blogspot.com/ I'd be happy to take a look.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

People Who Don't Get YA

Exhibit A: The 2008 Delete Key Awards, courtesy of One Minute Book Reviews

Now I don't exactly want to hate on anybody, but when I read that a book I had just ordered had been considered a finalist for the worst writing in 2007, I was a little concerned. Like any discriminating book lover, I investigated further.

The Delete Key Awards are based on the reviewer's choice for worst line in the book. Which makes total sense, until I read the write-up for Sherman Alexie's The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (which just so happened to win the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature). I was expecting maybe something along the lines of clich├ęs, bad grammar, dumbing down, psychobabble, stereotypes, mispunctuation, stilted dialogue, unintentionally comic sex scenes, and overall tastelessness (per the site's guidelines). Instead, I got:

“ARGGHHHHHHHHSSSSSPPPPPPGGGHHHHHHHAAAAAARGHHHHHHHHHHAGGGGHH!”

Which, after reading the reviewer's comments, only made me more eager to get my hands on this book.

People, there are stylistic conventions in any genre. They are things you must come to expect, accept, embrace or ignore. And in YA, one of those conventions, along with footnotes, Randomly Capitalized Words, and the much beloved list, is the inclusion of words that don't necessarily exist--especially words that describe humorous situations such as a 747 'landing on a runway of vomit." (Now I really can't wait for this book to come in the mail! What kind of genius comes up with this stuff?)

Now admittedly, this reviewer is not very well versed in the world of YA literature. (In the comments section she admits to never having heard of Lauren Myracle's New York Times Bestselling ttyl, after having made the off-handed comment that sooner or later a book will be written entirely in emoticons.) Nevertheless, seeing things like this makes me a little sad. I'm not entirely convinced the above excerpt is bad writing. Maybe I'm too close to the genre, or maybe I'm quick to defend a book I just paid good money for, but I find the offending excerpt somewhat entertaining.

The reviewer states that this is evidence of how "the language of e-mail – or perhaps Hollywood screenplays – is infecting novels for all ages." Yappers, what do you think? Are the stylistic conventions of YA bringing us farther and farther from the well-established literary Norm, and, is that such a bad thing?


Link via Bookslut.

Victims As Heroes

Heroes tend to get the short end of the stick. To drive the plot, so often the villain gets a head start, and their goal in the narrative is usually to make the hero’s lives miserable.

Just take a look at the early Disney movies. Snow White, Cinderella, Dumbo, Bambi… Even according to Mayerson On Animation, the more active the protagonist, the less money Disney made in the box office. The conclusion this blogger made was that characters need to be either helpless victims or entirely altruistic to be sympathetic characters.

Well, what works for Disney doesn’t work for YA.

Even if it were true, just making a character a victim doesn’t make them sympathetic. I have so many examples that I could use, but I’m going to take the high road and mention Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. The main character, Billy Pilgrim, is a victim through and through. His entire life is one big injustice, and the worst of it is that you have to see all of it. Even outside of his life, there seems to be nobody but assholes and injustice on a grand scale. Nothing is fair, nothing is meaningful, and nothing matters. Slaughterhouse-Five may be one of my favorite books, but it’s an absolutely terrible example of a sympathetic character. No one can sympathize with Billy Pilgrim because he does nothing. He’s simply a vehicle with which the story is possible. The story works because in the book, it’s not important that you sympathize with Billy Pilgrim, but the same thing happens in other works of fiction where it’s essential to the story; the victim just becomes a vehicle.

I’d say it’s even more important for YA stories to include sympathetic, active characters than any other genre because of the nature of the audience. Teenagers are inherently reactive, and the lay-down-and-die mentality is openly mocked – ever heard of the emo subculture? It’s openly mocked by about every subculture for essentially being about being a victim. ‘Young people’ as news-sources likes to call anyone age 18-30, have been considered the movers and shakers of so many political movements. These ‘Young People’ set out to do things, and teenagers often think the same way, but because they’re unable to vote feel alienated by the political process, and really most other authority. The government considers them children and unable to decide for themselves, yet they’re still able to be tried as adults for crimes. Because of this, it’s exciting to see something done by somebody their age.

Part of the reason for the need of active protagonists is that teenagers don’t want to be weak and ineffectual, but another has to do with the simple archetype of the Hero’s Journey, common in all works of fiction, but most common in YA and Fantasy. Its appeal is that the hero’s Journey is about somebody growing up. Essential to the hero’s journey is that the character cross from being reactive to being active. There was a shove at the beginning, and then it's the hero’s job to push back all the way not only to stop from being the victim, but also to improve themselves as people. The hero can’t continue to mope or be victimized if they’re going to destroy the evil that put them there in the first place, so it can stop tormenting anyone once and for all. To do this, the hero needs to decide that something has to be done, and that they’re the only one willing and able to do it, so they do it.

A victim is the best way to earn pity and can be good to start of a story, but it can’t continue until the end. It makes the hero weak and unable to cope with their own problems, and that’s something that teenagers, above all other groups, can’t stand. So, don’t follow Disney’s early examples; give us some active heroes.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Belated


These are things I always find out about after the fact:
  • Blogs. I disappear from the Internet for a week to take care of the matter of my soul and there, waiting for me in my poor, poor neglected inbox is an invitation to join a certain group blog by the name of YAYA.
  • Music. Due to the unfortunate date of my birth, most of my favorite rock stars are dead. Usually I find out about this when I wonder out loud in a group of seasoned adults: "How come they don't make music like this anymore?"
  • Library due dates. I know. I'm renewing them now.
  • The Printz Awards
That one struck me upside the head and woke me from a dead sleep at five in the morning on a day I should have slept in past sunrise at least. YAYA did not do a writeup of the 2008 Printz Award Winners.

And that makes me sadder than a book award has any right. Last year I made an effort to read a whopping two of the winners (An Abundance of Katherines and American Born Chinese, if anyone's keeping score), since it was apparent I was becoming a YA writer and so I had better familiarize myself with the cream of the crop. Whenever I go into one of the larger bookstores in the area, I pick up copies of Looking for Alaska and The Book Thief and caress their glossy covers, imagining how I would look reading them. This past week I finished Fat Kid Rules the World (which was excellent, by the way, and a 2004 Printz Honor book).

This year it was different.

Oh sure, I was right there when the winners were announced, eager to discover who had won, but when I heard, I was saddened to discover I didn't know a single one of them. (Except for The White Darkness, which I'd read a review on Chasing Ray some time ago and had been wanting to read for ages now. But, as I've learned, just because Jordan wants to read something doesn't mean she actually will.)

I don't usually pay attention to awards. The Oscars came and went without my knowledge, the Golden Globes zipped on by with nary a glance from my camp. But the Printz Award is one I really should pay attention to, because there are some great great books out there and the lovely people on the Printz Award Committee know about them.

So, without any further ado, here are the 2008 Michael L. Printz Award Winners!

The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean
Dreamquake: Book Two of the Dreamhunter Duet by Elizabeth Knox
One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke
Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins
On Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill

Now you know. If you didn't already.

What really bothered me about this whole to-do was that no one here had done a writeup of them. We're supposed to be YA experts. Well, I hope this very belated post makes up for the obvious absence in your life, and I for one know I'm going to read at least one of these books I've heard almost nothing about (probably The White Darkness, something about being on my to read list for ages and ages?)