Monday, February 18, 2013

Am I Too Hard on YA Authors?

I'm participating in my library's Teen Read Challenge, which is basically a contest to see how many YA books we can read between Feb. 1 and April 30. So far I'm off to a rough start. I've ordered in books from other libraries. I've pulled some off the shelves, but I haven't hit the jackpot yet. This year I'm having a hard time finding teen and tween books that keep me absorbed and entertained.

What doesn't help is that I've just finished a stint of Terry Pratchett novels, and reading YA after that is the equivalent of drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth. Am I just expecting too much from YA?

To let you know what I've picked up lately, it's Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede, The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery, and Incarceron by Catherine Fisher.

So far Dealing With Dragons is a fun middle-grade with an MC that I really love. I'll be finishing this one. I just think I'd have enjoyed it more when I was the right age for it.

Anne of the Island is good as well. I loved the other books I've read in this series, but again, it's just not the right time for it. I'll probably hold this one off til later.

Ship Breaker promises to be an active, grungey, dystopian read, but I have too many other books jockeying for my attention. After I read it, I'll probably read the second novel The Drowned Cities. They have great titles and their concept is interesting. Not to mention, there's a male MC.

Incarceron doesn't remind me of anything I've read before - except maybe a little of the settings in Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series. It promises to be a good book as well, but I'll let you know more after I've finished it.

I've only gotten a little way into The Iron Thorn, but it bothers me and I'll tell you why. The concept sounded amazing when I read it on Goodreads, and I'm hopelessly attracted to the steampunk setting, but the beginning of the novel grates on a few different levels. I've read and enjoyed first-person post-apoc/dystopian before, but I really have to like the MC's voice. In this case, I don't. Also, Aoife's name is hard to pronounce, unless you're familiar with Irish girl names. She's also not 'one of the only girls in the School of Engines' she is the only girl. It feels a bit like a 'chosen one' trope and like the author is trying too hard to make her special.

I appreciate an author's nod to a writer she admired, but in this case, she's done more than just nod to H.P. Lovecraft. She's borrowed his lore with the Great Old Ones, she's dedicated the book to him, and she's named the main city after him. I haven't discovered what other Lovecraftian concepts she's used yet, but I've already rolled my eyes once or twice. This is where I ask, am I being too hard?

When I draw from authors I admire, I use their influence in as subtle a way as possible, to shore up and strengthen my own original concepts. I also borrow from many different sources and mingle them in a sort of stew of my own creation. I don't want someone to read my work and be reminded so much of another author they drop my book and pick up the real thing. I want to create a concept other writers want to imitate. And I expect other writers to do the same.

So, should I give The Iron Thorn another chance? If I hold on, will the wonderful, creepy steampunk concept I read about on Goodreads turn up and sweep me off my feet? Or is it just going to be a lot of references to Lovecraft and an MC whose voice grates my nerves?


  1. I haven't tried Scorpio Races yet, though so many say that they loved it. A few I know said they didn't, so I'm torn.

    As far as this book goes, I think I'll put it on hold until the timing is better, and until I can get past the first chapter without having to make a comment aloud at the pages.

  2. That could be why I'm so quick to give up on certain books. There are just so many YA to get through that one that doesn't sit right with me after a number of pages gets pushed to the bottom of the pile.

  3. Maybe it was the timing. It followed up a Pratchett novel and it's very hard to find a YA that can follow an act like that.


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