Through a Glass Darkly: The Appeal of YA Dystopia

I did not think I was going to enjoy this book. I’ve always been ambivalent about stories that emphasize how unique their particular protagonist is from their peers. Society is full of sheep! Except for this one special boy/girl, the only one who recognizes the flaws in the system and strives fruitlessly to enlighten the masses. I think people are more complicated than that and I always want to hear the perspectives of the cast that the hero sees as uniform. So when I read the summary describing Maxwell as “more observant than the average Middletown teenager” who were “frighteningly obedient” I did not have the highest expectations.

Happily, that is not what this book does at all! Continue reading “Through a Glass Darkly: The Appeal of YA Dystopia”

YA Sports Lit Or How I Learned to Love the Game

Settling on a topic for this week’s blog entry was difficult. Write the response to Aya: Life in Yop City that I got derailed from last week? Compare David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing and Madeleine George’s The Difference Between You and Me? Put on my old political science hat and talk about intersectionality?

Nope, nope, and nope1. Today I want to talk about YA sports stories! Specifically, I don’t like them.

Or at least I thought I didn’t. I’ve never been able to get into watching sports. I don’t mind playing the occasional game but there are few things more intrinsically uninteresting to me then watching other people toss around a ball. That distaste extends to reading. Describing a novel as a sports story is a pretty good way to get me to dismiss it. Reading Chris Crowe’s “Sports Literature for Young Adults” got me thinking though and I realized I have enjoyed sports stories in the past. Just not as novels.

Gentle readers, today I’d like to introduce you to the wild and wonderful world of sports manga.

Continue reading “YA Sports Lit Or How I Learned to Love the Game”

YA’s Single Story: Musing Over YA’s Diversity Problem

I often work on my assignments in the GRC, a specialized library on our campus devoted to resources for the faculty of information and media studies (FIMS). At one point last semester, I wanted a break from the paper I was writing and began browsing some of the library journals on display. I’ve had a long term interest in multiculturalism and depictions of race in YA literature so when I noticed an article in one of the journals on multicultural YA I used my break time to skim it. It left me feeling very sad.

After getting a couple paragraphs into Sandra Hughes-Hassell’s Multicultural Young Adult Literature as a Form of Counter-Storytelling I realized it was sounding very familiar. Surprise! It was the mystery article from last term. Reading it more closely did not lessen my initial sense of disappointment. Why, you ask? It’s a great article. The point she makes about multicultural YA “[challenging] the stereotypes often held by the dominant culture, [giving] voice to marginalized youth, and [presenting] the complexity of racial and ethnic identify formation” is a good one. Continue reading “YA’s Single Story: Musing Over YA’s Diversity Problem”

Thoughts on YA Poetry: A Creative Exercise

Each week in my Young Adult Materials class we’re assigned a list of readings. Some of them will be books (this week was two fantasy titles: Sabriel by Garth Nix and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman) while the others are articles or videos on a topic related to YA materials (this week was poetry). As you may have noticed in the past two months, I typically chose to respond to one of the novels. I’ve been writing book reviews for years, when I’m stuck on what to say it’s easiest for me to default to the review format. However, after reading Jimmy Santaigo Baca’s “Making the Rounds” and watching Billy Collin’s TED Talk Everyday Moments, Caught in Time I decided to try something new this week. These two pieces got me thinking about my relationship with poetry.

Do You Like Poetry?
No. Can’t say that I do.
The trouble with poetry
is that they always make you dissect it
pick out the metaphors, allusions, similes
until it’s no longer a living thing
broken into puzzle pieces
when it should be a song

The trouble with poetry
is that they insist on teaching it to you

Yes!
Of course I do
I was a kid once, weren’t you?
Singing a song
following a rhythm
that’s what poetry’s like
when it’s a breathing thing

The great thing about poetry
is how much fun it is to play

Another nice thing about poetry: it can be very concise.

Thoughts on ‘Dark’ YA and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The_Absolutely_True_Diary_of_a_Part-Time_IndianThree years ago I was heavily involved in the YA blogging sphere. At that time a discussion sprang up around an article Meghan Cox wrote for The Wall Street Journal criticizing what she perceived as the presence of too much “darkness” in current YA publishing. One of my favourite responses to her argument was Sherman Alexie’s Why the Best Kids Book Are Written in Blood, an article I returned to after reading his YA novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

The Absolutely True Diary is a fantastic book. It follows Junior, a fourteen year old boy living on the Spokane Indian Reserve when he decides to transfer to a high school off the reservation. There’s a lot to recommend the book: Junior is an incredibly likeable character with a funny honest narrative voice and the cartoons he uses to illustrate his thoughts are fantastic. What really impressed me though was how Alexie addressed a lot of what Cox would term ‘dark’ content — poverty, racism, death, eating disorders, and alcohol abuse, among others. Listing out those issues makes it seems like The Absolutely True Diary should be a depressing novel. It’s not. Junior goes through a lot of difficult events in the year of the narrative but the realizations he comes to are ultimately compassionate and hopeful. I think it’s incredibly important to have books like The Absolutely True Diary in a YA collection, books that validate the experiences of teenagers facing difficulties and give them the tools to deal with their lives.

Sherman Alexie puts it beautifully in the conclusion to his article:

I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.

Image in Walter Dean Myers’ Monster

I read a lot of books by Walter Dean Myers in middle school. He was a staple at every library I went to, probably because so many of his novels lent themselves well to curriculum building. It’s been awhile since I read his work so I was looking forward to seeing what I might get out of his book Monster from an adult perspective.

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Monster follows sixteen year old Steve Harmon as he stands on trial as an accessory to murder. He is accused of being the lookout in an armed robbery that left a drug store owner shot on the floor of his store. The novel is communicated in dual formats, Steve’s journal entries and a screenplay he creates of his trial in an attempt to distance himself from what is happening to him and assert some control over his narrative.

Continue reading “Image in Walter Dean Myers’ Monster”

YA Contemporary Romance: Reviewing Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park

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Not a lot happens in Eleanor and Park. The New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2013 summarizes it like so: “A misfit girl from an abusive home and a Korean-American boy from a happy one bond over music and comics on the school bus in this novel, which our reviewer, John Green, said “reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.””

Continue reading “YA Contemporary Romance: Reviewing Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park”