We talk a lot about the importance of representation here at The Hub. Your friendly neighborhood bloggers are incredibly passionate about the ways in which YA literature is not only capable of expanding horizons, but of affirming the existence of teens who might otherwise not see themselves reflected in media-whether it’s because they’re a person of color, or gay, or trans, or all of the above, or whether they are simply just going through a difficult time.
Now I want to tell you a story.
Picture, if you will, the year 2003. It was a different time. Cropped tops were worn to display pierced belly buttons, not over structured high-waisted pants. Teens on the Internet mostly frequented blogging sites like Xanga or Livejournal. Most of us still didn’t have cell phones. We had not yet begun to make “fetch” happen (by the way, Happy 10th anniversary, Mean Girls!). And the LGBT young adult literature scene was a delicate, fledgling baby bird.
2003 was also the year David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy came out. I was almost a freshman in high school. I wore studded belts, wanted to dye my hair purple, wrote really sad poetry, and had just recently [spoiler alert] watched Tara Maclay die on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although I believe this episode had aired about two years prior. Tarawas the first lesbian character I had ever seen who wasn’t straight off the pages of a Virginia Wolf novel (I was a precocious kid), who talked and looked like most other girls on television but just so happened to be gay.
The ubiquity of trilogies (particularly if they are dystopian or otherwise fantastical) in young adult literature has been a topic of frequent discussion in the past few years. And for good reason. It seems like just yesterday I read the first in the epic The Hunger Divergent Mortal Legends trilogy. All joking aside, these books have all sold countless copies, sparked film adaptions (or rumored films) and had an incredible amount of crossover appeal. And I want to make it clear that I don’t consider myself immune to the hype surrounding dystopian trilogies, or trilogies in general. I was there opening weekend for Divergent and Catching Fire just like you, and I love those worlds.
But I also suspect that some of us are burnt out. It’s become commonplace to read a YA novel cover to cover with the understanding that all of this will be explained in the second or third installment. I’d argue that while most novels are judged like films for their ability to stand alone as a piece of media, trilogies work more like watching a miniseries. You know there’s more coming later, so it’s okay if you miss something the first time around. I’m not sure why three is the exact magic number, either. I think we can speculate–personally, I think one sequel is often one too few but by the fourth book one starts to wonder if the author gets paid by the word. Or perhaps there’s an inherent literary quality about trilogies that a full series lacks. The Lord of the Rings does tend to have a more erudite quality than, say, the Fear Street Saga. (Which, by the way, I love. You should all re-read the Fear Street Books. Trust me on this.) Continue reading Three’s a Crowd? The Future of Trilogies in YA Literature
To be honest, Vampire Academy has flown under the YA radar compared to, say, Twilight or The Hunger Games. In the age of supernatural teen romance, separating one series from another can be confusing. And that’s a shame for Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy (a 2008 Teens’ Top Ten winner), because there is something refreshingly snarky, self-aware and interesting about the series. In a sea of vampires and werewolves Vampire Academy stands out because of its acerbic tone and surprising focus on a strong friendship between two young women, as opposed to romance (which there is still plenty of). And when I heard the Waters brothers (famous for Mean Girls and Heathers) were set to write and direct this film, it became even more imperative that I check it out opening weekend.
Rotten Tomatoes has given Vampire Academy a horrifying 9%, which just goes to show that I don’t care how adult men feel about teenage movies (unless they are actually the Waters brothers). However, the audience rating is 78% and gives the film an average of 4 out of 5 stars, which is exactly on point, in my opinion. It wasn’t a perfect movie, but I’m inclined to rate it somewhere near Jennifer’s Body in the tradition of “movies parents just don’t understand but that speak authentically to the teen girl experience as supernatural metaphor.” Continue reading Vampire Academy Movie Review: Smart and Self-Aware
The Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia had its hands full on Monday, January 28, as a room full of excited librarians, publishers, authors, and other industry professionals breathlessly awaited the start of the annual Youth Media Awards. In fact, by the time I arrived (bleary-eyed and bushy tailed) at the convention center, it was 7:55 AM and there was no official room left for audience members. Instead, I found a seat in a “spillover” room where the awards were being broadcasted live on a screen. By 8:30 AM, the spillover room was entirely full.
My friend who called the YMAs “the librarian Oscars” was pretty spot-on, after all.
It’s hard to describe how incredible it was to witness people applaud, groan, cheer, whisper, and even shed tears over children’s and young adult literature. It’s even harder to describe how it felt to sit next to perfect strangers at 8 AM on a Monday morning knowing that they were just as passionate as you about youth media. Suffice it to say that I have never seen a room full of introverts whoop and holler so loudly before. For those who aren’t “in the know,” I would describe the purpose of the YMAs, in part, as providing “those fancy silver and gold stickers you see on the covers of books.”
In the 2012 film 21 Jump Street, Channing Tatum’s character enjoyed his popularity quite a bit in high school. When he goes back, years later, as an undercover cop, he assumes high school has stayed the same–that homophobic jokes, making fun of nerds and not trying hard in school will help him relive his glory days. In fact (spoiler alert) he discovers that the landscape of high school has changed. The new popular kids are good students, LGBT-accepting, and nice to everyone. The tables have turned, and what follows is both hilarious and oddly realistic.
I’m worried that some YA authors are making the same mistake. Why does young adult literature assume that all its readers are coming from a particular social situation? Why do we lump together entire groups of people as “shallow” so that our precocious narrator looks down on them? Even the Harry Potter series, my all time favorite, leaves a bad taste in my mouth regarding Lavender Brown, Ron’s first girlfriend. She and her friends are portrayed as simpering and idiotic compared to the virtuous, brilliant Hermione. Or how about in Twilight where Bella instantly writes off practically an entire school of people? Is it fair to say that some authors are projecting their own high school insecurities by writing thinly-veiled versions of themselves who orchestrate revenge, or at least quietly devastating wit, on the social elite? Perhaps. Continue reading In Defense of Gossip Girl