This is Mazy. She has nothing to do with this post, but she's the only one here right now, so I thought I'd honor her. She likes to watch me type because she believes that if I type enough, my computer will eventually produce a Snausage.
This is the part about YA -
When I first realized that Shape of Water was no longer a short story and was becoming a novel, I thought, "Ok, this is sort of an initiation story." At least that's what we used to call books like Catcher in the Rye. A friend of mine, a little older and a reading teacher, called them "Adolescent Literature" and said they always viewed those stories as one cut above watching tv. In other words, books, but not quite literature.
Yesterday, someone asked me what I wrote and I said, "Mostly young adult." Person nodded. "You mean like the Hardy Boys?"
I had to think a minute. This guy was maybe 35. Weren't the Hardy Boys way back?
YA is its own world now, with certain star writers and publishing houses and agents specializing in it. Sometimes I forget that most of the people around me think that writing YA is akin to playing Dungeons and Dragons, kind of a hobby that my family tolerates as long as I regularly make dinner and occasionally contribute to the light bill.
I'm pretty much used to that. I'm really used to the question, "Did you ever think of writing an actual novel?" (meaning for adults) and I even get that people who ask it don't realize how insulting that question is.
But here's what I'm wondering about - YA reviews. I just read one a woman wrote about a YA novel she finished (not one of mine - and I try never to mention titles). She said the teen voice seemed too mature for her age. I met this reviewer once, and I know she is about my age, has no kids and doesn't work with kids. Hmmm...the protagonist was 16 and I also read that book and teen seemed spot on as far as maturity goes - or at least as far as girl maturity goes. It was a good book. She didn't like it because of the maturity issue.
So maybe the actual readers of YA should write reviews then. There are lots of 14 and 15 year old reviewers. They have shiny, pimped out blogs and lots of stars and exclamation points to prove their enthusiasm. They tend to like the same book over and over (vampires or angsty books) and not like other types (say historical fiction or crime) and they get all their friends to agree with them. I think it's great that 15 year olds have blogs and are reading books, but I'm not sure if 15 is a vast enough age to form valid literary opinions on books that don't speak directly to their lives. And that's understandable.
So it's back to adult reviewers, and that's the problem: do adult reviewers respond to the writing or to the way teens are portrayed? I've never read a lot of reviews, but I have lately mostly because I've been asked to review books. I realized that I respond mostly to writing, and not the story as much, so I'm not going to review books. I think editors would probably be the best reviewers since they respond to story and writing; even better, YA editors should review YA books, MG editors, MG books, etc.
And here's my final YA question. If you don't have kids, or work with kids, or write YA, why do folks read and review it? It reminds me of the middle aged couples who walked around Disney World grumbling about the kids, how they were slow climbing onto the train seats or started crying when the lights went out on a ride. Well, Disney World really isn't for the childless middle-aged couple. There are lots of places for them, but riding the teacups isn't one of them.
I feel more and more like that about YA.
Last night, a high school student emailed me and said she read in a review, "...how you spent your childhood next to a graveyard and wrote a novel about your memories there..." I don't know who wrote that particular review, but it's not true. I lived near a graveyard in my adult life, when the kids were small. I guess the Internet has done away with fact checking.
Then again, maybe I've just had too much coffee. I don't really go by reviews. I read blurbs, and if I like the sound of it, I buy it or borrow it. I tend to go by covers, too, shallow as that is. And sometimes, weirdly enough, if I read a terrible review, I want to read it just to see if it's all that bad. But I still don't know who should review YA - it just seems everyone has an opinion on the genre.