Tag: YA Lit

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (almost) as Awesome as Me, by Carrie Ann DiRisio

“Of course you can write a book about yourself. That’s your favorite topic.”

“It is not!” he thundered, his eyes flashing. Broody was 5% rain cloud, on his father’s side.

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I’m a fan of the Twitter account @BroodingYAHero, so when Sky Pony Press offered me an ARC of Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (almost) as Awesome as Me, I broke my own resolve of not accepting books for review and jumped at the chance.

For those of you who do not know @BroodingYAHero is a parody account run by Carrie Ann DiRisio that dismantles popular and overdone YA tropes one tweet at a time. Here’s an example:

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The Brooding YA Hero book is an extension of this parody account. So does it translate well to this longer-than-a-tweet form? Let’s find out.

We are introduced to Broody McHottiePants. He’s the self-centered, narcissistic, brooding male protagonist of (almost) every YA novel, right from Romeo to Mr. Darcy to vampires to zombies to… well, you get the idea. In his words, he’s “the one with the most adjectives.” However, of late he has been out of work. For a while now, authors haven’t been requesting his services. He is so frustrated that he decides to write his own book – a self help guide on how to become a main character just like him. Once in a while, he falls asleep or leaves the room, and his evil ex-girlfriend Blondie DeMeani takes over the narrative. How do we know she’s the evil ex? Cos for one, she’s female, plus she’s blonde, she wears makeup and high heels – basically the opposite of the “main love interest” (who’s usually the demure, non-high-heels, non-ambitious type).

So far so good.

The book is funny and there were several laugh-out-loud moments. It cleverly (satirically) addresses the issues in most YA books, such as the marginalization of POC/WOC characters, how every story is essentially the same with a different setting – a love triangle against some conflict-inducing backdrop, how the same tropes get repeated etc. It also ends up becoming a How To of writing a novel – it describes elements of plot twists, POVs and so on, types of characters (from Broody’s POV of course, so they’re all less important than him). It also helps break certain stereotypes – Blondie reminds us that we think of her as evil only cos the stereotype exists, and throughout the book, her narrative makes more sense (as intended) than Broody’s.

However, there were a few inconsistencies that I noticed. For one, it’s often confusing to figure out whom Broody means by “you”. For the majority of the book, he’s addressing the reader (who, as the title suggests, is becoming Broody himself with the help of the book). There are other parts where by “you”, Broody means his love interest. That got a little confusing for me. I also noticed some repetition – for example, there is a section about the main character’s “rivals” – usually the third corner of a love triangle. This whole section is repeated in a different chapter. Another inconsistency I noticed is how at the beginning of the chapter, Broody mentions he’s traveled through space and time (refer to my statement about Romeo above). However, towards the end, he mentions it was his ancestor Broodington Hottietrousers who worked with Shakespeare. This also calls to question the existence of the Deleted Files Hall, where outdated characters go to die.

For the most part, this book is really funny, but in an attempt to go over the top, Broody begins to sound a little… repetitive and Broodsplainy (although yes, he admits that “as a man, I greatly love explaining things”). But still, consider this:

What if you and your friends uncover mystery revolving around a strange object – a goat. You unravel the mystery…
And it has nothing to do with the goat.
That goat was a red herring.
Not literally.
It’s still a goat.
Not a fish.
Anyway.

As readers (or future authors), we are intended to listen to Broody, but not take him too seriously (given his whole self-important, I’m-the-best air). Blondie of course makes some great points about writing a book. Keeping this in mind, I believe the below paragraph should’ve been part of Blondie’s narrative instead of Broody’s.

Young adult literature gets made fun of a lot by so-called grown-ups for always having love stories (even though it doesn’t) and for over-using “ridiculous love triangles” (even though there are plenty of stories without one) and for “always being about vampires and silly girls” (Seriously, it’s like these “adults” read one YA book ten years ago and based all their opinions on that.)

To these critics, I say, I’m sorry you’re so incredibly bitter and miserable that you can’t feel the rush of joy when your crush at imagine what butterflies in your stomach feel like. Also, please read some YA before insulting it.

I so completely agree with what is written here – I know YA gets a lot of flak that it doesn’t deserve. However, my point is, this is so true that it doesn’t go with the rest of Broody’s attitude towards everything. Now if Blondie had said this, well yeah, Blondie made sense throughout.

This was a great start to the new year for me, books-wise (where I hope to do better than last year). I do believe this book could have been edited better, to iron out those inconsistencies I was referring to. But overall, it was a good read, poking fun at all those YA tropes and stereotypes.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads | Amazon

Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC of this book from Sky Pony Press. My review is honest and unbiased.

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Sad Girls, by Lang Leav

rainandabook-sadgirls-langleavAt the outset, let me mention I didn’t finish Sad Girls. Let me rephrase that a little bit – I couldn’t finish Sad Girls. I rolled my eyes so many times while reading about the lives of these (terribly sad) girls that I was worried they would fall out of their sockets. At one point, I rolled my eyes so hard that I think saw the edge of my brain!

Some may argue it is unfair to review a book that I abandoned midway. You wouldn’t be wrong – it is unfair. But here are my reasons to go ahead with my thoughts anyway.

To summarize, Sad Girls is the story of Audrey, who lied to her friends about their classmate Ana and the lie spread like fire. Unable to stand the rumours, Ana committed suicide. At the funeral, Audrey meets Ana’s boyfriend, Rad (I tell you, I hate even the names of the characters in this sad book). Audrey and Rad hit it off instantly, and decide to leave the funeral and hang out elsewhere.

All of these people live in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business (to a level that can only be described as creepy). The whole town is now talking about Audrey and Rad (if the hot topic in your town is the whereabouts of two teenagers, you need to move to a better town). They are even talking about it in the grocery store, where Audrey’s mother hears about it. She forbids Audrey from speaking to Rad, but hello, rebellious, angry, mother-resenting teenager at work here. Later, Audrey’s boyfriend (oh, did I not mention that she already has a boyfriend?) gets uncomfortable and tells her not to see Rad again, and she reluctantly agrees. The more she stays away from Rad, the more she misses him, and the more she feels her current boyfriend is “not the right guy for her.”

From a literary standpoint, Sad Girls has way too many issues to even keep a track of. The plot is blah. The dialogues just keep running one after the other. They are inane, the characters drone on and whine on. The language sounds like it was written this way to appeal to the YA crowd, but most YA isn’t written half as badly. Young Adult books aren’t supposed to be stupid; you don’t need to dumb anything down for its audience – but that’s how it is in this excuse of a novel. There are characters in this novel who don’t have much to do. They sit along in the sidelines, mouth a few dialogues, create a bit of drama, cry a few tears, speak a few pretentious profound things, then just vanish. Sad Girls is a literary fiasco.

What bothers me most isn’t the above points though. The literary reasons aren’t why I decided to go ahead with this post in spite of not finishing the book. My biggest problem with this book is how it trivializes things like suicide, panic attacks, anxiety, depression etc. We live in a world that’s finally waking up to the true horrors mental disorders and of late a lot of emphasis is being given on seeking out help and getting the right treatment. As someone who has suffered from depression, I find it most irritating when a book – especially a book whose targeted audience is of the age that’s most vulnerable to these disorders – treats it like it’s a silly thing. Nope. Not done.

This isn’t just me getting triggered either. Lang Leav is a subpar writer with a ridiculously wide reach. Her audience mostly consists of an impressionable crowd – is this the message you want to give them? I mentioned in my review of Lang Leav’s book The Universe of Us that she confuses abuse for love. In some of her other works (I refuse to call it poetry) as well she has glorified sadness and grief. I understand that some good art comes out of pain, but to glorify it? To be so addicted to it? Not a healthy message to send out to the world.

I never had much respect for her (so called) “poetry”. After reading whatever I’ve read of Sad Girls, I have no respect for her fiction either. What I do have is anger and disappointment, but I’m gnashing my teeth and swallowing it for now.

Note: An ARC of this book was available on NetGalley. The opinions expressed here are my own. 

Goodreads | Amazon

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon

Local Teen Trapped in Parental Vortex of Expectation and Disappointment

28763485Natasha Kingsley is about to be deported. Daniel is on his way to attend an interview to get into Yale, pursue medical studies and become a doctor. Their paths cross thanks to a series of coincidences. Although, no two people could be less alike – one is a science geek, who believes love is just chemicals in the brain and nothing more; the other is a dreamer and a poet (who has absolutely no interest in becoming a doctor). But now that their paths have crossed, how do they spend the one day they have got with each other? Is it just one day, or does Natasha somehow manage to stay in the country? Told from alternating POVs of the main characters, and punctuated by the histories of the sub-characters, we watch this light-hearted story unfold.

My interest in The Sun is Also a Star was piqued because it gave off a distinctly Eleanor & Park vibe when I read the blurb on Goodreads. Now that I’ve read it, I know I was wrong. Aside from the simple fact that both the male protagonists are Korean American, the two stories don’t have anything in common. I’m choosy about YA – either I enjoy the books tremendously or I’m left utterly cold. TSIAAS lies somewhere in between. Of course there were things that I would normally call out as issues – such as the instalove between the two characters, Daniel’s conviction that everything is rosy and poetic (it’s VERY unrealistic – he’s always dreaming!), the fact that despite being blatant opposites, in their individual narratives their voices are strikingly similar. I have to admit though that it’s a cute story. It’s not badly written; by that I mean, while I don’t believe anyone could fall in love with anyone in a day (love is a big word), I didn’t feel as cynical as to not enjoy the book either. It allowed me to suspend my disbelief and as far as books go, that’s not a terrible thing. It’s not a terrible thing at all. So I forgave the instalove and the dreaminess, and I closed my eyes and enjoyed it. Maybe you will too.

Mind you though, it is no Eleanor & Park. It’s a book that’ll get rid of reality for a few hours, in a complacently pleasant way (if that makes sense).

Note: I received an ARC from Netgalley/Penguin Random House Children’s Publisher. My review is honest and unbiased.

Suffer Love, by Ashley Herring Blake

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When it comes to YA Lit, there are simply too many books to choose from nowadays. The numbers are out there, you could pick up whatever you want as long as you’re willing to read. Which I doubt most young adults nowadays are. Keeping this in mind, the next bit might come off as a bit preachy. I have no intentions to offend anyone with my next statement, but here goes nothing:

Shouldn’t young adults be reading better books?

The best books to read as a teenager, pretentious and condescending as this sounds, are classics. No other time in your life will you have the time or the patience to read them, or the wisdom to grasp their underlying textures and not-so-smooth surfaces. On the other hand, what teenagers have nowadays are capsules – swallow with water, forget before you pick up the next one. All YA nowadays fits into either romance or dystopian sci-fi. Think about it – 99% of YA lit can be classified in one way or the other into these two broad categories. Which really isn’t giving the most impressionable age of our lives a good mouthful, is it?

So that was my mini rant against the grim state of YA Lit. I don’t hate all YA. But it feels like kids these days have limited options, despite the numbers. Now, on with the review.

Genre: I was just ranting about YA Lit. So the genre this one fits into, in case you haven’t guessed it yet, definitely isn’t Shakespeare (upcoming pun unintended).

Summary: Hadley St. Clair, a girl with an unusual name and massive daddy issues, has earned quite a reputation at her school. Sam Bennett, a new student, is also from a dysfunctional family, falls for her the moment he sees her, but when he learns her last name, he realizes they can never be together (too melodramatic for a bunch of seventeen year olds, but whatever). He knows something about her that links the two of them together, but he really does not want to reveal the truth. A few months before the occurrences described in the book, Hadley comes home to find a bunch of notes about her father’s affair. No points for guessing with whom he’s having said affair.

Narrative technique: Told from both Hadley as well as Sam’s points of view in alternating chapters. This would have been great, but their narrative voices are almost identical – this results in the reader getting constantly confused about whose dad is involved with whose mom. Not that taking away the infidelity/dysfunctional family will change this story in essence.

Language: Amateurish.Some editing errors.

While we’re speaking about the language and narrative, I feel I must mention this subtrend I’ve noticed in YA Lit lately – all the characters make a gazillion references to notable works of literature. As if the author is trying to tell the reader “I’ve read these books. Take me seriously.” It all comes out looking pompous and callow, though the intent was probably the opposite. In this book, both the main characters become friends while working on a Shakespeare project (the title of the book is from a line in one of his plays). All the subcharacters are into TS Eliot’s poetry and conversations often end up being synonym wars (not kidding, I swear). Authors nowadays seem to be going out of their way to prove their grammar is impeccable by turning their characters into grammar nerds (I hate the phrase grammar nazis). This would have been fine, had the book not contained sentences like, “Her eyes literally lit up.” This reminded me of a cartoon I saw once where Tweety pulls a string to “turn off” Sylvester’s eyes.

Large chunks of the book could be taken out without affecting the overall story. Avoid the done to death cliche of girl-with-daddy-issues-and-a-reputation and you have the same story. Remove the dysfunctional families, you have the same story. Remove the obvious “big reveal at the end”, you still have the bloody same boy-meets-girl story.

There are some books that you go in hoping to love them but you don’t. With this book, I went in prepared to hate it (I believe the first words I said after reading the first page were, “I’m too old for this shit.”), but in spite of everything I’ve said above, I did not hate it as much as I thought I was going to. It’s an extremely lazy read, a silly story, an escapist novel that does not evoke any emotions. If there’s too much on your mind, maybe this book will help you forget it for a few hours.

Rating: 2.5/5

Goodreads | Amazon (Pre-order)

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group