Monday, April 9, 2012

YA Ventures by Best-Selling Authors

In the last few years, quite a few best-selling authors have started publishing young adult books. Perhaps it's because YA sales are still in the stratosphere. Or maybe people, authors included, are increasingly able to recognize that YA fiction isn't a watered-down  stepping stone for kids getting ready to read "real" fiction, but a vibrant category that includes great stories and brilliant writing.

Having enjoyed two recent Nick Hornby books--you can read my reviews here for A Long Way Down and Juliet, Naked--I picked up Slam recently. I thought Hornby's sharp observational skills and sly wit would be perfect for YA. 

For this YA title, Hornby chose a first person POV that is determinedly conversational with a what's-up-dude, chummy tone. Add to that the often unnecessary spelling-out and explaining of events, and I find myself wishing he had stuck to his regular style of writing. 

What I appreciate the most about Hornby's books is how he presents his characters' flaws and self-absorption in a way that evokes sympathy and understanding: there but by the grace of God. Sam the 18 year-old, like protagonists in the other books, is certainly flawed. But instead of gaining a better understanding of him and finding him more sympathetic over the course of the book, I just felt my sympathy erode. I don't see any signs about the way he treats people or makes decisions that shows real growth in his maturity, compassion, humility. And the way the book ended, [Spoiler alert} with him making out like a bandit, just seems incredulous.

Now, granted, I'm not the target audience (although I do read a lot of YA and have slept in the Holiday Inn Express) so my reaction is to be taken with large pinches of salt. Maybe teens are in fact unable to see outside their own concerns. I don't completely buy that idea. But say that I do, then here is my question: would these teens have any inclination to read about other teens who are completely self-absorbed? 

Or maybe this whole thing is a satire and I just didn't get it.

Another author whose work I usually enjoy, Harlan Coben, also ventured into the YA world recently. This NY Times bestseller, The Shelter, is tied in to Live Wire, his latest Myron Bolitar books. The tone and voice of his YA book are not that dissimilar to those in his general fiction ones. Good choice. He got across the character of Mickey Bolitar, nephew of Myron, without resorting to gimmicks and cheesy cultural references and fake teenness.

While doing research on the web (ahem) for this post, I came across Book Aunt's much more extensive post on the topic. She lists at least a dozen titles written by authors better known for their general fiction. She also includes a top-ten list of what not to do when writing for young adults, which is definitely worth a read. 

Have you read any of the YA novels by crossover authors? What do you think? And speaking of crossover authors, are you excited about J. K. Rowling's venture into general fiction?

Monday, April 2, 2012


Variations On A Theme is published! I wasn't able to post it here earlier because other things in life took precedence over blogging this past week. What a thrill it was to hold copies of it in my hand! The variety of stories in this anthology is amazing, given that all of them are supposed to have been inspired from the same two tales. 

If you haven't read got a copy, do go to Amazon and get one, or eight.

So the above is the "sweet" part of the title of this post. 

Today, I learned that The Literary Lab will not continue as an active blog. Davin, Michelle, and Scott will keep it available as a static, meaning anyone can read their archived posts. 

Part of me hopes that it's an April Fool's prank --although I think I may just go wring their individual necks if that's the case--but part of me recognizes that every good thing must come to an end. I will miss the thought-provoking posts, lively interaction among their loyal readers, and sublime silliness that can happen in the comments section. I wish them the best.

And that, was the bitter part of the post. 

Maybe I should have titled my post "dark chocolate" today.