glitter_n_gore: (emma)
This was brought to my attention via [livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire.

Rachel Stark has made a disturbing observation about a recent trend with book covers for YA fiction: Cover Trends in YA Fiction: Why the Obsession With Elegant Death?

Go on, read that first.

Now, when I first heard about this, I had a "What's the big deal?" approach. I'm into horror as well as YA, so my interests tend towards the macabre anyway--which probably comes as no surprise, considering the name I chose for this blog. Images of (fake) dead things don't particularly bother me as long as they're artfully done, as most of these seem to be. In my head I likened it to that opening montage from the movie Ginger Snaps, in which the two girls pose themselves in various gruesome photographs for a school project--drawing both applause from their classmates and a loud, disgusted diatribe from their teacher in the process.

Furthermore, since dark YA is mostly what I write, I imagined that maybe the subgenre is opening up a bit, which for me would be a good thing. Because why would the folks who decide things like what to put on book covers be using images of dead girls if not to draw an audience that likes dark stories?

So I took a look at some of the other book covers in my collection. You know what I notice? All my adult horror doesn't seem to favor images of dead girls to draw that audience. It's all shadowy silhouettes, dark forests, and eerie still lifes of things like empty chairs or abandoned buildings.

Then I took a look at some YA horror covers--proper horror, not just paranormal with a hefty dose of romance.

Here's what I found. )
glitter_n_gore: (underworld)


Another long post about one of the bigger-name paranormal YA titles out right now: Lauren Kate's Fallen. I actually like this series a lot, but I want to talk about some disturbing buzz I saw in the Amazon reviews, particularly for the second book. I don't put but so much stock in those things, because they are incredibly biased to start with, but I do like checking out the two and three star reviews every once in a while because I think they're the most useful. The five and four stars are mostly gushy and brimming with fangirl squee; and the one stars are hateful and non-specific. Mostly. Not all the time, but mostly. Thus, I like to see what the middle-of-the-road folks tend to think.

Before I get into what happened with the comments, let me give you a brief rundown of both books and my take on them, because you'll need the context to understand why I was so disturbed:

Warning: Rambling, Spoilers, and Twilight Comparisons Follow )
glitter_n_gore: (chiaki)
THIS IS NOT A JOKE. I say that only because I know what day it is, and I want y'all to know that I'm not kidding.

There is an upcoming anthology called "Wicked Pretty Things" in the paranormal YA umbrella, which, if you don't follow these things, is hot right now. The anthology, as I understand it, calls for fairy stories with a theme of the macabre and a touch of romance.

One of the authors, Jessica Verday of the Hollow Trilogy, contributed a story in which the romance was boy/boy. Editor Trisha Telep asked her to change one thing, and one thing only: the gender of one of the characters. Verday instead decided to withdraw the story entirely, and then blogged about her reasons why. Twice.

Guess what happened? )
glitter_n_gore: (Default)


I mentioned this book briefly, in my rant about YA a few posts back. Several things prompted me to read it myself--curiosity, plain and simple; my bizarre liking for books that make me angry; my previously mentioned and still relevant belief that if you're going to scold the teachings of any book, you better read it first to hold your ground in your arguments; and the existence of real life teenagers who flock to dangerous partners against all sense and reason, no matter how hard the people who love them try to talk sense to them. This last one became all too real to me after spending some quality time in the court house, on account of my new job. I won't go detail, but I will say that it made it easier for me to see why some girls might pick up a book like this and, unlike me, be able to see themselves in it.

Read on... )

Some examples of good YA fiction:

Scott Westerfield's Midnighters and Uglies series.
Catherine Jinks's Evil Genius
Koushun Takami's Battle Royale
John Connelly's The Book of Lost Things
Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book

And a couple more I haven't read yet, but boy do they look interesting:
Brenna Yovanoff's The Replacement
Rick Yancey's Monstrumologist

(Cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] glitter_n_gore.)
glitter_n_gore: (mikey)
That's "National Novel Writing Month," which for reasons I'm not entirely sure of, always happens in November. The idea is to write 50,000 words worth of material--doesn't even matter if it's any good, just something--in the space of thirty days. I did it last year and wound up with my first draft of The Carrion Girl, which turned out much better than I anticipated. It's the only thing that seems to shut down my inner psycho-editor, that part of my writer's brain that screams, "Must fix! Must fix!" at every poorly chosen word, extended metaphor, and purple passage I happen to get down until all I have left is a half-finished trunk novel that's been run so far into the ground that the kind thing would be to put it out of its misery. When you're trying to get published, the first thing you need is a full-length manuscript, even if it's not perfect, because otherwise you have nothing to work with. That's why I do this--to get myself from a mess of half-formed ideas to a full-length manuscript, which I then allow myself to edit to perfection.

My goal for this week was 10,000 words. I made it, but it wasn't easy. I have a story I really like (which I'll synopsize for you shortly), but whereas last year I was knocking out close to three thousand words a day, this year I'm barely scraping one thousand. In my defense, it's been a rough week. Between the house getting ransacked (they took some random things, like my high school ring and some silver dollars, but nothing outstandingly valuable), starting my new job as a legal assistant, trying to deal with various messes caused by the dermatologist's office and my pending switch in health insurance, AND MyChemicalRomance.com releasing a steady stream of epic, cheesy, awesome, ridiculous pre-album-release goodies that I WANT RIGHT NOW but can't have because I never buy anything for myself between Halloween and Christmas, I've been a bit preoccupied. (To be fair, some of the MCR stuff is free downloads, which rules, but still--distractions. Takes away from the writing bit, you understand.)

ANYWAY.

My NaNo story, at least what I've done with it so far, is shaping up thusly: Roughly five hundred years (give or take) into the future, Earth has been abandoned, and the human population has spread out across the galaxy, making friends with some of the alien species on other worlds. My protagonist, Paul Reid, is a "Pan Dimensional Anomaly Neutralizer," the best in the galaxy, and his team gets called everywhere to take care of pan dimensional anomalies wherever they occur. A "pan dimensional anomaly," by the way, is a ghost. The popular theory is that ghosts are not, as was previously thought, the spirits of the dead come back to torment the living, but small pieces of time folding in on itself which appear as people who have lived in the same place previously, and Paul's job is to mend the rip in the time-space continuum that causes these loops. However, when Paul investigates this phenomenon further he discovers the real reason for the time ghosts, and this knowledge might cost him his life--along with the life of his wife and child.

Inevitably some things change in the transition from idea to manuscript, but that's the basic gist of it. I'm working on making it make more sense. (Another job for the editing process.) My tentative title is "The Time Ghost." We'll see if it sticks.
glitter_n_gore: (samara)
Many of you know about the dysfunctional love/hate relationship I have with Twilight. Many more know what a gigantic success that series is, and a trip through any major bookseller will reinforce that success by all the paranormal romantic YA books on prominent display. I've decided to call this trend The Sparkle Phenomenon. If you don't understand that reference, let me direct you to [livejournal.com profile] cleolinda's fantastic glossary of all things Twilight: http://cleoland.pbworks.com/Twilight

One of the biggest criticisms directed at Twilight and its successors is the way the female characters are portrayed: they're often bland, weak-willed, and void of personal interests or goals outside of a relationship with some brooding, handsome boy, usually supernaturally inclined in some way, and the boy dictates the terms of the relationship and more in varying degrees of possessiveness and manipulation. The naysayers say these books are antifeminist and put the women's movement back several decades, reigniting the traditional gender roles we've fought so hard against for so long. There's a great essay entitled "YA and Rape Culture" here, which uses as its example Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush--a "romance" starring a fallen angel that sounds frankly horrifying.

To be perfectly honest, I don't mind fiction that upsets or even terrifies me. I'm a fan of dystopias and supernatural horror after all. The disturbing aspect of these books isn't the action that unfolds between the covers, but the reactions of young readers to them. I have no problem separating fact from fiction in these contexts--I have a zero tolerance policy towards controlling jerks in real life--but what worries me is that so many teenagers don't seem to notice that the relationships in these books are neither normal nor healthy, and often wax poetical over how much they wished they had someone just like Edward, or Patch, to come and sweep them off their feet. Here's another essay on that part of the Sparkle Phenomenon: Do Books Teach or Reveal? And another word from Cleolinda on the subject of bad boys in literature: My thoughts on Twilight, let me show you them. (Scroll down to Point no. 2.)

Amy and Cleo both raise some great points, and this is what I think folks need to keep in mind when they complain about successful books with bland, weak, or even masochistic female leads: There is no lack of strong females in YA literature. Katnis in The Hunger Games; Lyra Belacqua in His Dark Materials; Tally Youngblood in Uglies; I have many, many issues with PC and Kristen Cast's House of Night series, mainly the juvenile vernacular, but I do appreciate Zoey Redbird's stubborn streak and proactive attitude. The good stuff is out there. My point here is that writers of YA fiction have every right to do whatever they want with their worlds. Their job is to entertain, and as a writer, I'd be pretty pissed if someone told me to change the tone or theme of my work just because they didn't like the ideas some kids might get from it. The problem isn't with the books themselves. It's that the overwhelming majority of YA sales are going towards a certain type of book. If teenagers wanted to read about strong females kicking ass with or without a romantic partner, that's exactly what they'd do. The sales would reflect that--and with The Hunger Games, maybe things are already moving in that direction. But for the moment, they're reading about Mary Sue types falling hopelessly in love with big, strong, superheroes who push them around and tell them what to do. That's what worries me, because I don't understand how something like that became so popular in the first place.

I've always gravitated towards strong characters in fiction. Even if they have issues, such as being antisocial or even psychotic, characters who own their identity and get things done are always my favorites. (I'll be blogging about some of my personal favorites soon, but that's another project for another day.) Twilight lost me at the "lion fell in love with the lamb" line--not so much that I quit reading (to my occasional dismay), but that was the moment I realized I could never relate to Bella as a character. Ever. And I discounted her narration as biased and untrustworthy from then on out. If anyone calls me a "lamb" to my face, you can bet I won't take it as a compliment, and I might just have to prove how wrong they are. However, I was raised to own my identity and not let anyone else tell me who I am. Looking at the essay linked in the second paragraph showed me just how rare that is, because I can't see myself following any of the "rules" outlined about how polite females are supposed to behave. I err on the side of standoffish and bitchy (as my ex-boyfriend knows perhaps a little too well), but considering the alternative, I'm kind of okay with that.

What I'm wondering is just how widespread that mindset is. Obviously someone--many someones, all over the face of the globe--believes so strongly that validation by a man is required for one's self worth that they'll delve into a romantic fantasy with that very plot at the center. I know the teenage years are hell on self-worth, but I honestly don't remember feeling unworthy or "less" than my classmates on account of not having a boyfriend. I had crushes--oh, lordy, did I--but I had plenty of other things to occupy my time than pining over them. I've discovered over the years that I'm better than most with self-esteem, but I'd like to hope I'm not completely unique in this.

Anyone else like to chime in on this? I know I've rambled here, but I've been thinking about this a lot lately and wondering where all the attention given to this "romantic" YA trend comes from.

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