Category: Book Discussion

Deal Breakers

Adrienne here,

Deal breakers, those literary tropes, or latest annoying character attributions, or plot un-believability or all-round “you’ve GOT to be kidding me” that will make you stop reading a young adult book. This is a subject that I am planning to bring up with my *group of teens. Here is one of mine.

Deal breaker: Boring YA female main characters

Usually I can tell when I’m not going to like a book by its cover. Yeah, yeah, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover, but really, with the latest trends in young adults I can tell what’s going to happen in the story and what the main character is going to be like by the cover. You know the ones, there’s a girl standing on a cliff or in a field, usually somewhere remote and desolate, wearing a long dress that looks hot, tight and uncomfortable, hair gently wafting in the wind as she stares off into the distance. Then I open the cover and start reading only to find that’s the most this character does: stand places staring off into the distance.

These female characters do not make the action happen in the story thus they do not move the plot. What they do is have pages and pages of internal conversation about what is happening to them and how they feel about it and wonder how others feel about it, but they don’t actually do anything. At most they move along the teen life pattern of home, school, and meeting place(s) and home again. Home is defined as any place they rest whether it is their actual home or makeshift.

If it’s not conversation then flashbacks are used instead to explain either why they are the way they are or how their relationships with other characters came to be, what those relationships mean to the main character and how they feel about it. (My thought is if the background is so important why not start the story there instead. Over use of flashbacks is another deal breaker.)

Who does move the story? The secondary characters do. They are the ones who believe what is happening to the main character and are helping her solve her dilemma. They do all of the heavy lifting: the decision-making, the training, the fighting and the explaining. They also do a lot of shuttling the main character around and setting them to the side whenever any action happens. (Invariably something happens during the fight scene and the main character is standing off to the side get hit by some projectile and knocked out because they were too busy with their internal conversation to duck.)

Secondary characters are more interesting and exciting to me as a reader. They just do more. I start to wonder why are the secondary character much more interesting than the main character. Then I wonder what the story would be like if the main character hadn’t been in the story at all.

How I have been handling this deal breaker is by reading more and more books with male protagonists. Male main characters mix the internal dialogue with the action. You can see them make a decision and then act on it. They tend to be more impulsive and they react quicker to complications.

Tell me your deal breakers that you have in the comments.

Books with proactive male and female main characters that I’ve read recently:

  • “Not A Drop To Drink” by Mindy McGinnis
    “Winger” by Andrew Smith
  • “Wise Young Fool” by Sean Beaudoin
  • “Antigoddess” by Kendare Blake
  • “The Dream Thieves” by Maggie Stiefvater (must read Raven Boys first)
  • “Reality Boy” by A. S. King
  • “The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey
  • “Ashes” by Ilsa Bick
  • “Orleans” by Sherri L. Smith
  • “The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Liddell

*My group is unable to meet this fall semester because their library is moving and my library remodeling. I am looking forward to meeting with them during the spring semester

 

You Wins Big

Listeners voted and the book the CYA Podcasters will read, review and discuss in December is You by Charles Benoit.

The final votes were:

You with 29 votes
Kneebone Boy with 8 votes
Fat Vampire with 8 votes
Anna and the French Kiss with 5 votes
Half World with 3 votes
A total of 53 votes were cast

Thank you everyone for voting!

Stay caught up:

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams
You by Charles Benoit

Here’s how HarperTeen described the book:

This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go.

You’re just a typical fifteen-year-old sophomore, an average guy named Kyle Chase. This can’t be happening to you. But then, how do you explain all the blood? How do you explain how you got here in the first place?

There had to have been signs, had to have been some clues it was coming. Did you miss them, or ignore them? Maybe if you can figure out where it all went wrong, you can still make it right. Or is it already too late? Think fast, Kyle. Time’s running out. How did this happen?

You is the riveting story of fifteen-year-old Kyle and the small choices he does and doesn’t make that lead to his own destruction.

In his stunning young-adult debut, Charles Benoit mixes riveting tension with an insightful—and unsettling—portrait of an ordinary teen in a tale that is taut, powerful, and shattering. (HarperTeen)

Upcoming Podcast Books

CYA: Children and Young Adult Book Review Podcast

The CYA Podcast is underway. Cathie Sue, Emily, and I, Adrienne, will review every two weeks selected new children and teen books. Our first recording is May 20 with the podcast being released soon after.

Here are the books we’ve selected so far in recording schedule order:

  • White Cat by Holly Black
  • Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
  • The Wager by Donna Jo Napoli

Warning: Our reviews will be spoilers. If you haven’t read the book before the podcast and don’t want to know what happens, download the podcast and listen after you have read. Otherwise, join us for the discussion!

We are now reading: White Cat: The Curse Workers by Holly Black. (book trailer on website)

White Cat: The Curse Workers by Holly Black