Monday, December 11, 2006


Bernini's David.
Which at times I like better than Michelangelo's more famous and more static David.
Though the second did advance my knowledge of male anatomy considerably.
I like to think Bernini caught the moment that follows Michelangelo's pose: the fierce and vehement expression, the committed action after the cool assessment.
Wonder if one could claim the story of David and Goliath as among the first YA narratives?
Neither of these Davids looks particularly juvenile to me.

After Harry Potter and LOTR ( the movie), everyone and his cousin thrice-removed seems to be flogging a fluid category called YA and no one seems all that certain what the parimeters are.
Suspect that a lot of former fantasies, if they were reprinted and refurbished, would be marketed as YA.
Perhaps they should be.

Just finished re-reading Gabriele's favourite hate, The Sword of Shannara, by Terry Brooks, first published in 1977 by Random House.
An epic fantasy described as "adult fantasy."
While three of the main questors are defined as young men, they act like adolescents.
Passing over the passives, the repetitions, the endless tellings and other shrieking solecisms of style - a critique of which would fill a book longer than the 726 paperback pages - I concluded that my most profound irritation was excited by the fact that the hero and several other characters are frequently TSTL.
Like dumb, idiotic and asinine.
To wit: experienced travellers/border guards/hunters on the run note the silence of animals and insects in the perilous forest, with much indrawn breath and alert eyes left, eyes right - who then proceed to forgetaboutit and la-la-la on their way into ambush.
The young and inexperienced reader might swallow that sort of scenario as well as other convenient memory-losses of that ilk.
But I wonder.
I hope the recent YA crop sometimes features main characters who are not totally and largely useless idiots.
Who are like David.


December Quinn said...

Aaaw, more critique! More critique!

I think there's a tendency among people to think writing YA is easier--kids aren't as familiar with cliches, the books are sorter, and hey, JK Rowling made a few bucks!

But then, I'm feeling awfully cynical today.

Ric said...

Having just finished Eragon, - in anticipation of the movie opening this weekend - it is easy to say that young writers do the same thing. Lord of the Rings Lite.

The trick is "can you make be believe this? Can you draw me in so strongly I forgive the TSTL moments?"

I'm easy - give me a good narrative. David vs Goliath. That works.

Bernita said...

I was shocked at the clunkies, December.
Think his style improves in the later books of the series.

Don't know about readers, Ric, but writers cringe.

anna said...

hey Bernita, as always thought provoking - as for your comment to Ric ... well aren't we really writing for readers?
If readers like it who cares what writers say - you know the laughing all the way to the bank business (g)
as always in this line of thinking Danielle Steele comes quickly to my mind

Ballpoint Wren said...

In current movie-making at least, main characters forgetabouting it and la-la-laing into an ambush is a revered tradition!

MissWrite said...

YA is probably one of the most mis-described genre in the writer's world.

Personally I think the very moniker Young Adult is a misnomer. At least as it is curently used to describe books for teens between 12 and 18. In MY opinion a young adult is not some pre-pubescent child, and not one hitting the hormonal peaks of teendom either. A young adult is (or should be) exactly what the words proclaim, a young woman or man 18- oooo say 25. They ARE adults, but they are YOUNG adults just learning this vast new world beyond the saftey net of parental housing, and allowances.

So far the actual field of YA is so widely described based on individual opinions of what that name should imply that it really doesn't have a stable meaning.

Carla said...

I haven't read much YA, but the two I've read recently (a Harry Potter and Wolf Girl haven't struck me as having notably dim characters. Harry and his friends work out the mystery for themselves in traditional boarding-school-story style, and Wulfrun in Wolf Girl was as sharp and capable as any adult. (Elfled's behaviour was juvenile, but then she's aged 9 or 10 so she's still very much a child). I was beginning to wonder the opposite to you, ie whether kids are more demanding of a decent story? Maybe I was just dead lucky.
I have a feeling that epic fantasy was hot stuff in the 70s, much as chick-lit was immediately after Bridget Jones, and that might have made publishers, ahem, less discriminating? Or maybe tastes have changed. I don't think I managed to finish Shannara so I can't really comment (except that for me not to finish a book says something in itself).
I do like that statue of David.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Anna.
The irony is, to get to the readers one has to get through agents and editors, who universally, for first time authors and now, at least, will immediately discard MSS with certain established clunks.

Which may explain, Bonnie, why I don't watch many movies.

You're right, Tami, no stable meaning.
To me, if the chief characters are 18 or so they are adults - otherwise I would hate to label all those Harlequin romances about nubile nineteen year-olds as YA.

Bernita said...

I don't know whether tastes have changed or not, Carla, or just marketing terms, but your take on epic fantasy sounds like it might be correct.
I thought The Sword writing sucked - and wondered.

Amie Stuart said...

Keep in mind it's been oh 21 years since I read my first Terry Brooks, but I still remember them fondly. Wonder how I'd feel if I picked one up to reread today.

I started Eragon last week too and so far I'm not dazzled, and I LOVE YA fiction (Holly Black and Scott Westerfield come to mind as two stellar writers).

Robyn said...

My almost 15 year old just finished Eragon. She liked it. She writes herself- just gave short stories to all her friends for Christmas, featuring them all in Scooby-type situations, but she still prefers the Japanese anime/manga stuff. Which convinces me she's out of her mind, but I'm not the target audience. For YA, I always loved Madeline L'Engle.

Bernini's David. Thank you. I have always preferred this one. He just looks so much more interesting.

Bernita said...

That's another point, Amie.
I, too, read it first some years ago, and, if I remember correctly, while I thought some stuff was rather dumb, couldn't wait to get my hands on more.
Perhaps because I was a new reader of "epic fantasy."

Bernita said...

That's truly an original and personal gift, Robyn!

The baroque approach does have something going for it.

raine said...

I've never really read YA fiction, even as a YA. The few I did pick up were, I thought, rather patronizing.

But must say, the idea of David as YA hero is intriguing. He was wise beyond his years as a youth. Waited until he was an older adult to act like an ass.

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

Another wonderful post, Bernita. While I’m most definitely not a fan of TSTL characters, whether in YA or adult fiction, I am a firm supporter of promoting literacy and the joy of reading. J K Rowling has succeeded in bringing our TV-watching, video-game-playing youths--and their parents--back to reading books. And by so doing, has started a wonderful new (albeit old, actually) trend.

Bonnie Calhoun said...'s kinda' hard to figure out what is classified YA these days...LOL...most of the kids I know are way more savvy to the world than I am!

Bernita said...

I rember being fond of Nancy Drew, though she really old ( she had a driver's licence, after all).

You're right, Raine, perhaps I should amend that to David as a youth!

That's so true, Daisy.
Harry, of course, is not stupid, and Rowling did reading inestimable benefit.

Makes two, Bonnie. Feel that way myself sometimes.

Amie Stuart said...

Bernita LOL so was I!!!!!!

Bernita said...

Hee, Amie.
Only years later realized the girl would be totally punch drunk from being hit on the head so often!

Candice Gilmer said...

TSTL makes me nuts no matter the genre. And when my four-year-old catches TSTL, it makes me wonder.... ;)

Though I can't wait until she's a bit older, and can read for herself, and we can read some of the more interesting childrens and YA books that I was fortunate enough to read when I was a kid.

Bernita said...

"...when my four-year-old catches TSTL..."
But then, your child, Candice.

Shesawriter said...


Two great YA books I loved:

Major Crush, Jennifer Echols (comedy)

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer (paranormal) I'm in the process of reading the sequel (New Moon) right now.

As far as not knowing parameters, I'm stumbling my way through my current opus. It's YA and I'm learning as I go.

Miss Write,

I completely agree. A young adult is not a teen. I'd say a young adult is 18 plus (17 bare minimum).


M.E Ellis said...

I'll be giving that book a miss then!


Bernita said...

To me 18 is simply adult, Tanya.

The writing in the rest of the series gets markedly better, Michelle.

writtenwyrdd said...

Honestly, I've been trolling the YA or Youth shelves for good reading for years. At least fifteen years. Some of the old favorites are only found there.

I've considered why some of these books, which aren't just for kids and weren't issued as for kids, are in these locations. I asked a bookseller, got a startling revelation: Some of these books have been edited to dumb them down for kids! Some haven't. There isn't any way to know the difference! But Philip Pullman *was* dumbed down, and the result is an insult to the original work, in my opinion. I read Moby Dick at five. Kids can do that. It's the themes we don't get as kids.

The other factor (and this is my conclusion based on my reading) is that, if it doesn't have what we might call "adult themes" (nekkid flesh and naughty bits) it's for young adults.

Otherwise, I don't see why they are on the shelves where they are.

writtenwyrdd said...

For YA books, if you want my favorite, it's Blood And Chocolate, a werewolf story.

I have to disagree about what is YA. It's the teenage years. By the time someone is 18, they are graduating to more adult stuff.

Bernita said...

The term continues to confuse me, Written.

SassyJill said...

When I was a YA reader it was Nancy Drew, Christopher Pike, and Judy Blume. They were good, and except for Nancy Drew, not always easy to find.