Tag Archives: YA

I Read kid-lit

I wish, as I am sure so many people do, that I had more time to read. After all, it is the first piece of advice given to aspiring writers… “read!” When the work of the day is done, from the ministrations of my little family to the writing and efforts to get the writing read, I reach for middle grade and YA fiction. Every time. I know, as a writer for this age group, some of that inclination is for research and assessing the ‘competition’ but I read for the 10-15 year old set long before I put pen to paper. Not only that, I used to be embarrassed about it.

 I wish I could get through an entire blog series as a middle grade writer without mentioning JK Rowling, but it’s too hard. That’s like writing about fantasy without Tolkien or horror with King. The first toe I dipped in the pond of kid-lit was The Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosophers Stone in the UK). I was reluctant as could be… ”I do not like stories with cute little names for things, like ‘Quidditch’ and ‘Muggles’,” but out of respect for the recommender – who was 65 at the time—I gave it a try. To this day, I break out in an enormous grin if I see an adult on the train reading a Potter and I wonder, enviously, if it is their first time. What I wouldn’t give to get back my first time!

 Being transported back to your early teen years, to all that wonder and possibility, without the horror of actually having to live through the hormones, the acne and angst, is a delight. Those years are so long-past there is no painful yearning, just the pleasure of exploration and newness. I have a passion for fantasy but when I dip into YA I am just as thrilled to cry over Fault in our Stars or The Hate U Give and guess at the outcome in The Lies You Never Told Me. The worlds in many of these stories is no less horrifying, and often a great deal more so (Hunger Games, 5th Wave) than our own, but it still feels like escape. The heroes don’t have to hold down jobs, pay mortgages or make marriages work. They can thrill from head to toe over the possibility of a first kiss and don’t have to get bogged down in sexual politics. My first kiss was a dud; I wait with anticipation for that first kiss between Sophie and Fitz (Keeper of the lost Cities).

 If you pour through your book lists, churn over the quality of the prose with your book groups and quiver in anticipation over the turn of phrase or the spiritual reawakening of middle age, I commend you. As for me, every evening I am happy to clip 35 years off my life and experience youth again here, or in an imaginary other place. I read like a kid, maybe one day I’ll live more like one.

 Now I have to pay a bill, and walk the dog….

My take: The 5th Wave-Rick Yancy

Full disclosure, I haven’t fished the Rick Yancey trilogy and I’ve ‘read’ the first two on audio book. This brings me to my first comment… we want our kids to read, we love it when they forget their chores (and even their manners) because their faces are planted in books. Oh, wait, is that just me? Never the less, I feel a promo for audio books coming on… I’ve always been a big fan and now that I am writing middle grade fantasy it feels like there is never enough time to read and research. In comes audio. I cook, I run, I walk the dog… probably upwards of three hours a day. Much of this time can be filled with audio books. I tend to listen to books that I don’t feel I need require too much attention. Often, I raid the public library’s audio section to borrow books I might not otherwise read. This is a digression for new writers, but it is always good to dabble in other genres and pick up ideas on plot development, dialogue, world building etc… I’ve traversed many a long mile with the pup in tow listening to Grisham, Patterson and Dickens… yup, eclectic! And, it’s all guilt-free because it’s from the library.

OK, sorry, back to Yancey. I have no interest in writing book reviews for MG/YA books. Goodreads and Common Sense Media are great places to go if you want ideas for your kids or to get an idea what they are reading. Here’s where I share what I thought about whilst reading these books. Like so many wonderful dystopian stories, I hear them differently pre and post Covid and I wonder if kids’ appetites for world destruction will ebb in the coming months/years. In the 5th Wave a plague is the second devastation to blight the planet. Decidedly more fraught now. Yancey, however, focuses on the question of what it is to be human in a way that is satisfying. For many young readers, exploring relationship is the central interest, the devastation of humanity a side-line. My daughter and I enjoyed a robust debate on whether we were on team Evan or team Ben Parish. I won’t digress into a discourse on whether books like the 5th Wave could do without the romantic tension or whether Cassie may have too much reliance on the boys in her life. Cassie is badass, not cut from the Catniss mould, but somehow more real in her vulnerability.

What I really want to explain is that I adore MG and YA stories. Are there holes in this story? Yup. Why trick and train a bunch of kids to kill humans when you already have flawless alien killing machines embedded in humans? If the alien entity is just a consciousness that can occupy a human hull, why bother killing humans at all, why not just occupy them? (Especially if they are super cute like Evan! Please don’t point out he could be my kid, I know!!) But I love the playfulness, the ability to create worlds without having to explain all the science and reason behind them. I’m looking forward to seeing how this series goes.