Wednesday, October 10, 2012

YA Rant

I'm in a bit of a trench at the moment when it comes to reading young adult novels. I've been spending a lot of time with a book, Reading like a Writer by Francine Prose (best author name EVER. JEALOUSY). The entire novel focuses on a type of reading that doesn't let a single word pass through our notice. Word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph we break apart a novel and get to what the author was really trying to say. With brilliant classics, this technique is like salt: it brings out the amazingness and why it is a classic. However, with many a young adult read, I've found this technique begging not to be used.

Immediately after a young adult novel gets huge in the industry, all of the aspiring writers out there want to write that book. They are looking to become the next bestseller, the next J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. Literally. I was one of them that wanted to be Stephenie, but when I figured out, oh hey, I want to be a better writer, I don't really care about the fame at all, that was when all of the words started fitting better. I didn't write for me, I wrote to find a precious sentence amidst the muck. Which is really difficult. But anyway, aspiring writers took huge elements from Twilight or The Hunger Games and tweaked them a little bit. And by little, I'm serious. Tiny bits were changed.

A novel that I'm reading right now is exactly like The Hunger Games. It's The Selection by Kiera Cass (Best. Cover. Ever. WANT). I've been hearing great things about this book since before it was out. I was excited to read it. Now that I am, every single thing jumps out at me. Allow me to make two lists.

Hunger Games

  • Dystopian World, far in the future.
  • Districts, each specializing in some industry, bettering the whole (apparently).
  • Competition for fame and power
  • Love interest before said competition, although minor. Help each other get food.
  • Main character doesn't want to go into the competition.
  • Main character can sing.
  • Main character goes into the competition.
  • An announcer--in a blue suit--is loved by all the people, and is a regular for the competition.
  • Interviews before competition.
  • Random draw for competition
  • Designer and new wardrobe for main character.
  • Main character has young sister that looks up to her.
Get the picture? Oh, look, a list about:
The Selection

  • Dystopian World, far in the future.
  • Castes, each specializing in some industry, bettering the whole (apparently).
  • Competition for fame and power
  • Love interest before said competition. Main character helps him get food.
  • Main character doesn't want to go into the competition.
  • Main character can sing.
  • Main character goes into the competition.
  • An announcer--in a blue suit--is loved by all the people, and is a regular for the competition.
  • Interviews before competition.
  • Random draw for competition
  • Designer and new wardrobe for main character.
  • Main character has young sister that looks up to her.

See what I mean? I'm not even past page 65 and all of these things are way too similar. It's a copycat, and it's this kind of thing that I'm super wary of both in reading and writing.

Another red flag that I keep seeing is that tons of these YA books are being tossed into the market, but none of them are any good. Seriously. They are just published because it is what is trending, or hopefully trending right now. The writing is poor, the idea is somewhat sound, and the genre is perfect. A recent example that I struggled to get through was the Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross. There were typos. Typos. Seriously? Seriously. For reals. And they were obvious ones, like "fist" instead of "first"...which is a whole letter missing. Blaringly annoying. These books aren't being edited, and typos are a huge sign of that. And the writing was ok, but nothing compared to Laini Taylor or Maggie Stiefvater. At least those writers know how to describe a setting. It makes me angry because I want to read good writing, but it is becoming really hard to find without reverting to classics. I know it's out there...somewhere...

Last, but my biggest peeve of all time for this genre.

Freaking love. Love triangles. Multiple love interests. In any genre, this is something that is repeated, and is dry, and is overdone, and put in just for the sake of being there. Especially when it is the main point of the book too. I can vividly imagine the author explaining to her friends (it is usually a her, not surprisingly) in an almost hysteric tone that their main character, which found out she can do x thing because of her ancestors/mystical forest endowed her with it, falls in love with a forbidden person, and they're not supposed to do that, but they find a way, and la de freaking dah.

Please, please. Give me a great YA read that doesn't have a love triangle, has great writing, and is (for goodness sakes) original in some way. Recommend it now. Please.

Monday, September 24, 2012

If you're wondering where I am...

I'm taking a Creative Writing class. For it, we are required to have our own blog for it where we post just the prompts, or whatever we do in class. I've been doing weekly posts on it, and although it is no substitute for my real blog ;) I am there most of the time.

And yes, Aluminum Otterpop is my pen name. I don't even know...

Monday, August 6, 2012

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey is about a mental ward controlled by Big Nurse. Spoken from the POV of a supposedly deaf and blind Native American Chief, he tells the story of a McMurphy that "swaggers" into the ward and basically turns it upside down and backwards. While it wasn't a surprise that it ended sadly, it was just how much it pulled me in.

The writing was superb. Using the chief, we were able to see both a beautiful side of things, and a hallucinatory scary side that defined the ward. And it was immaculate in the details it gave. Sometimes when I stepped back, I was genuinely surprised to be back inside of my room or house because I was completely immersed inside of the asylum. I seriously have a mental map of the entire ward. Which is really difficult for me to do, but it was accomplished.

Some of the backstory with this book comes from the author himself. I love the little biography in the front of it that says he was a championship wrestler and he lives with his family in Oregon, making it seem like he's a pretty normal guy. But with a tiny bit of further research, I found that Kesey was an experimenter with drugs. He loved LSD, and while he was on one of his highs with it, he had a vision of the chief in this story. He spiked things with LSD and gave it to other people, toured the country with it. He was a very drugged-up dude. And when he got the book published, he hated the movie that came after. Hated it so much that he sued the producers and later quit writing because of it. Sensitive fellow.

Anyways, it was a fascinating read that was edgy and dark, and kind of told me how it was going to end all along. The game between Big Nurse and McMurphy was a game too large to be left alone to hurt feelings and stern words. There was always someone that would end up dead, and although I didn't realize this until the end, the prose spoke of it all along.

Great read that I never would have picked up if not for its shortness and on the list for AP.

This one will be an easier essay to write :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Poisonwood bible

A novel that I've had the recent pleasure of spending some time with is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbra Kingsolver.

The severely baptist Price family set out to the Congo in 1959 on a missionary trip to baptize the locals. Expectations are high for them to be successful. They bring seeds and cake mixes, hoping to change the landscape of the African fauna, but from the first step they take off the plane, they know that no one can change Africa; it changes you.

It is written with five POV (point of view) characters. The mother, Orleanna; Rachel (16 yrs, brat, wants OUT of Africa); Leah and Adah (twins, Adah is crippled on the right side, but she is BRILLIANT. She thinks in palindromes, and she goes on to be a brilliant doctor.); and finally Ruth May. I know, a lot to take in, but it was sincerely beautiful.

The prose was perfect. Every word in every sentence spoke to my freaking soul. I couldn't believe how many things Kingsolver used to describe things. She used familiar to describe the unfamiliar since most people haven't set foot in Africa. At least I haven't.

I think the most interesting bit to me was that at the beginning of each part, the mother, Orleanna, gave her point of view on what was happening. While her children were out frolicking and trying to either avoid the wildlife or embrace it, Orleanna was scrambling to find ways for her family to survive. Her daughters' points of view were all about exploration and figuring out who they were and who they were going to be in this new place. They made friends and learned the language. They were blind. When Orleanna spoke, it was haunting. Every way, every possibility, every horrifying option for her children to die was always in front of her. She told her story in a way that left me jittery and angry at the father. While she knew what was happening for what it was, everyone else in her family was oblivious to it and kept sprinting to danger.

Each voice was very unique. Which is very difficult to do for any author of any age. They each need to sound individual without losing the authors own voice. It's a juggling and balancing act a the same time, yet Kingsolver pulls it off with wicked precision. From the first paragraph I was ensnared. Let me tell you about it.

You know what, I can't. This is brilliant. It sets the tone for the entire book, haunting you the way Orleanna can.

     Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened. First, picture the forest. I want you to be its conscience, the eyes in the trees. The trees are columns of slick, brindled bark like muscular animals overgrown beyond all reason. Every space is filled with life: delicate, poisonous frogs war-painted like skeletons, clutched in copulation, secreting their precious eggs onto dripping leaves. Vines strangling their own kin in the everlasting wrestle for sunlight. The breathing of monkeys. A glide of snake belly on branch. A single-file army of ants biting a mammoth tree into uniform grains and hauling it down to the dark for their ravenous queen. And, in reply, a choir of seedlings arching their necks out of rotted tree stumps, sucking life out of death. This forest eats itself and lives forever.

With single sentences, she gives you vivid images with color and depth, slow-motion or blindingly fast.  And doesn't it leave you kind of itchy too? You can hear it!

This is some of the reasons why I love this story, mostly focusing on the writing obviously, but I hope that you read it. And I hope that you feel the maturity of the writing and the pure freaking genius of it all. I hope you keep reading the last 100 pages even though they were pretty pointless (even to me ;) )

And plus this was the first draft of my 3 page essay on it... :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Lazy Blogger

Hello again 



It sincerely has been too long. Can we pretend things never happened between us? Can we forget that I started feeling negative about blogging? Can I make this a safe place again?

I hope I can. I'll start where I left off.

So, the last post was about the writers conference back in march, I see. I made it seem like a bad experience. It really wasn't (I almost used sincerely again). I had a fun time, and the memories I have are positive ones.

I went to the Teen Writers Conference back in June. The Keynote speaker was Elana Johnson, who was at the teen author bootcamp conference thingie. She was wonderful, and she helped me see her point of view as a writer. I learned more about myself, and I had a blast. And I had a great entry, great characterization everyone said. Very proud of it.

Another highlight was my friend Amanda, who blogs at Amanda's Writings and lives a bajillion miles away, visited Utah and was able to go to the conference! And it was her first one, so extra happy that she  came. We had a blast, and we both learned tons.

A second thing that happened is I finished editing Infinite Cold. The old idea that just keeps coming back? Yeah, I finished editing just in time to get ten copies of it in an offer from Createspace by finishing NaNoWriMo. While it is not a finished manuscript yet, I got the first round of edits done. That is quite an accomplishment for me. I've written three full books, but I've only ever finished editing on one officially now. I've posted all about it on my facebook, but here it is again because I love it.


I designed the cover and did the back text at about two in the morning, so I'm actually surprised that it has correct grammar and everything. As you can tell in the one of me and my book, I am absolutely thrilled. I signed the title page, I broke it in, I carry my copy with me everywhere I go. I love it. I can't wait until it's a real book.

Until then, I'll be trying to work out making the second book awesome (I really don't want second-book-syndrome. But who knows.) and editing Infinite Cold until I think it is as perfect as I know it can be.

So thank you for forgiving my lazy blogging, but it hasn't been in vain!