Sunday, June 1, 2014

Armchair BEA Days 5 and 6: YA, Wrap-Up

I skipped the topic of choice because I am a bit short on blogging time at the moment. On Friday I picked up a friend of mine at the airport and we have been busy catching up and sight-seeing here in Stockholm. Naturally I think it is poor form to shut myself up in the kitchen and blog while I have a visitor so I've missed the last couple days (and will have to keep it short and sweet). And since a topic didn't even present itself to me right away, I take that to mean I don't have a burning desire to talk about anything that's already been covered (diversity is my ~thang~ but we touched on that earlier).

Our final genre of discussion is one that we know is a popular one these days: books for the younger crowd, from middle grade to young adult. If you do not normally talk about this genre on your site, maybe you want to feature books that you remember impacting you during this stage in your life. If this is where you tend to gravitate, maybe you want to list your favorites, make recommendations based on genres, or feature some titles that you are excited to read coming later this year. 

I'm of the firm belief that YA doesn't exist. You know how bookstores decide what is YA, nine out of ten times? If the protagonist is a (pre)teen or child. That's it. Maybe some places make some content considerations, such as for violence or sex or so on, but that's not the defining aspect.

"Easy" reading and "hard" reading certainly exist (along a spectrum), and "easy" reading is where I sort most everything that people call YA: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, John Green's entire oeuvre, etc. etc. And to be honest, most of the time I think they're crap.

(This includes Harry Potter. I am the only person on Earth writing about books who doesn't like Harry Potter. I positively loathe the series, as a matter of fact. I am a hater, and I am gonna hate.)

So which YA novels do I like?

There are, of course, books that are considered YA that I do like, even love. For example, right now I'm reading Sarah Maas's Throne of Glass series. I studied Creative Writing with her at college and admired her writing even then, so I'm glad to see her succeed at BEA and around the world.

Roofbeam Reader mentioned another series that has long gotten the short shrift: The Dark is Rising sequence. I love these books and  have compulsively re-read them, especially the eponymous second volume, from elementary school up until adulthood. If you haven't read this series, you should. I don't think it's just nostalgia tinting my love of these books; they are really and legitimately great stories with great Arthurian/magical world-building.

This is the closest I could find to my edition of the book. Same image, but less dorky font.
The new covers they're printing now are butt ugly; I hope they don't permanently replace this one.
I read a lot of other fantasy in middle school: I devoured every Brian Jacques novel in the school library, and bought some of my own, though I fell out of the series eventually. I don't think I'd ever buy the series to own for myself, but they are nonetheless a fond memory. The same goes for Tamora Pierce's series Protector of the Small and Song of the Lioness. They were the only series I read from Pierce, but she is a prolific and productive writer. The one-off A Plague of Sorcerers by Mary Frances Zambreno impressed me and did a lot to influence my own ideas about fantasy. I also enjoyed the few John Bellairs books I could find, most notably The House With a Clock In Its Walls.

Fortunately the library editions weren't from JUST FOR BOYS, but even if they were, I would have ignored that appellation.

Science fiction goes hand-in-hand with fantasy, of course. I was maybe 15 or 16 when I first read Neuromancer and my enthusiasm for William Gibson has never waned. Prior to him, I enjoyed the books of William Sleator, particularly Interstellar Pig.

Fantasy wasn't the only thing I read, though. I also enjoyed a good mystery, too. By middle grade I had outgrown my Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown, and Nancy Drew books and traded them in for some Agatha Christie. Who is not considered YA but nonetheless was a staple of my childhood. The same goes for my dad's old copies of The Thinking Machine stories and The Boys' Book of Great Detective Stories. (Again, I conveniently ignored the "For Boys" imperative.)

The latter was especially interesting because it had mostly true detective stories and also the history of detective work. That's where I first learned about Alphonse Bertillon, the French criminologist who determined a way of identifying suspects  by measuring their body parts: like height, around the head, wrist, feet, and so on. It wasn't a terrible method, as the odds are quite significantly stacked against two people having the same name and having similar facial features and having identical or even similar identifying measurements and ratios. In fact, Bertillon's system helped the authorities in France capture quite a number of repeat offenders, and it was soon used by police forces around the world.

But in a stroke of ultimate weirdness, when Americans booked and measured a man named Will West, there was a nearly identical William West already in prison. Identical measurements, identical ratios, and their facial features were even similar to each other. The only truly significant difference between them that anyone could spot at a glance was their fingerprints. That case (and the fact that it's easier to take fingerprints than measure lots of bobs and bits) was probably the biggest factor in the switch over to fingerprints.

The final author I want to mention here is Wendelin van Draanen. How I Survived Being a Girl and the first few books in her Sammy Keyes: Detective series were a lot of fun.

In the meantime, we want to know how you felt the week went.  What were some of your favorite aspects of Armchair BEA 2014?  What were the most intriguing conversations or the posts you recommend everyone read?  Did you want to summarize your own posts all in one spot?  This is your opportunity to share your wrap-up for the week in the way you feel most appropriate.

On Day 2 I had a really fun and interesting conversation about book reviews on Good Reads and why I'm not going to read The Fault in Our Stars. That and finding all these new, interesting blogs to read has been the best part.

If you go back through my posts (beyond ArmchairBEA), you'll notice I have eclectic, though generally thematically connected, tastes and posts on topics that, for whatever reason, I can't find a whole lot of active-but-small blogs posting on. I'm not a Christian, I'm not a wife, and I'm not a mom, so the typical ~blogging~ community is generally on a different wavelength from me. But this week it's felt a little like I have found my people, so to speak. I hope those of you who have found my ArmchairBEA posts worth reading and commenting on will stick around for the long haul and future posts that have nothing to do with books!


  1. I'm in love with this whole post! I agree with many of your points and wrote about similar opinions in my BEA posts. I don't like most "YA" books (I call it so for simplicity, but I see your point). That's funny that you hate Harry Potter so much, I don't think I've heard someone say that before! I think HP is alright, but I'm not a huge fan. I didn't read the last two books. I don't know why you don't plan to read The Fault in Our Stars, but I found that to be very over hyped as well. I was also really pleased/impressed with all the bloggers I met and read this week. Like you, I'm not a mom/wife/super religious person so many blogging communities don't really fit me or my blog.

    1. I am allergic to hype, lol. Harry Potter wouldn't have bugged me so much if the entire goddamn reading world hadn't lost their mind over it. Someone misguidedly bought my little brother the series all the way up to Goblet of Fire, back when Goblet of Fire was first released, but I ended up being the one reading them to see what all the hype was about. So I powered through them all on Christmas break and walked away with a big "meh." Sure, some parts are cute, but on the whole It's not particularly imaginative, the writing isn't that great, and it's this bizarre mishmash of cartoonishly simple morals with dedication to realism. All my respect to JRowls, she is demonstrably a woman of integrity and character and I'd love to be friends with her in real life, but her books were not worth the frenzy they inspired.

      Which is why I don't want to read The Fault in Our Stars, either. I've seen quotes from it all over Pinterest with accompanying commentary like "OMG so true" or "I cried IRL" or so on and so on, and I am just plain unimpressed. All I can see is John Green writing for John Green the teenager and being really smug and proud of himself. Not For Me.

      It's rough being a young unmarried childless blogging woman~~~