The Hell Butterfly

Young Adult Blog Party edition

Double blog day! Hold on to your hats, people. This shit just got real.

It’s mostly a double blog day because I posted earlier forgetting about this neat little Blog Party started by The Little Engine that Couldn’t. It is a weekend thing so I had time to use tomorrow’s spot for this, but knowing me, more important things (eg. sleeping, napping, resting) would make me forget. Not entirely sure if I understood the theme right but I did my research (do we count Wikipedia?) and hope I have at least the faintest idea. I’d hate to have completely misunderstood it. That would be embarrassing.

Awkward …

Go here for the original post. Stay there for the rest of them. Seriously, there’s some pretty awesome shit going down on that blog. Check it out. Hope I linked your post up correctly.

The topic in hand is YA Fiction. To the best of my knowledge, this means Young Adult Fiction, primarily aimed at, and written by said Young Adults. Courtesy of Wikipedia, I discovered that themes include ‘identity, sexuality, science fiction, depression, suicide, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, familial struggles, bullying, and numerous others. Some issues discussed in Young Adult Literature include: friendship, love, race, money, divorce, relationships within families.’

For my little edition to this blog party fun I will have a quick look at the things I do and don’t like about Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider and Power of Five books (I’ve deemed them suitable for the YA topic. My apologies if they aren’t.) and, as vain as it sounds (and probably is), be making the unmissable similarities between my own writing and the above theme list.

 

First up – Anthony Horowitz. Though one of my favourite writers when I was younger, I do have a couple of issues with his Alex Rider and Power of Five sagas. Please note, I may accidentally reveal something plot related in the next few minutes so this is your ** PLOT SPOILER ** warning. You know, just in case. You have been warned. One big problem I have with the books is the age of the characters. Disclaimer – this is not a personal attack on fourteen/fifteen year olds. I’m sure you’re all fantastic really. However in the context of these books, I have an issue with it. Let’s take Alex Rider. The fourteen year old super-spy from Chelsea. It is understandable that a fourteen year old boy with a suspiciously ninja-like uncle might have a certain unique set of skills and the energy to put them to use, but I personally struggle to place a fourteen year old in the context of joining MI6 without so much as batting an eyelid, going on the crazy life-or-death missions across the country (and eventually the world) that he does, and getting shot in the chest only to join up with a rebel spy organisation and come back again. Perhaps if this lad were older, even just two years older, I may have found it more believable. But seeing as how when I was fourteen and in Year 9, the most stress I had to deal with was picking my GCSE options, I have a difficult time imagining being as confident, competent, and independent as our young hero.

Along the same lines, the protagonists of the Power of Five series are equally interesting and unique, but again are only fourteen/fifteen. First there’s Matt. An orphan who gets adopted to a cranky old lady in the country where he discovers an ancient coven that he, by the end of the book, manages to escape from, facing down evil bitches, ancient magics and some crazy face-melting acid, again without even stopping to panic-scream for a few moments. Throughout the first book, he meets Richard the Journalist, a kind twenty-something who decides to take him in. Okay, that bit I don’t mind so much. Richard is sweet, bless him. It’s the whole going to Peru on the word of an old man to find a Peruvian boy with magic powers without asking who in the hell wanted to ruin his childhood so badly thing that gets me. Like Alex, if Matt and the other characters were sixteen/seventeen I would find this headstrong independence a little more believable.

Just to reiterate, these books are still very good and worth a read. I’m just saying that, while aimed at teens, it still seems a little too unbelievable to me.

 

On the subject of my own book, I couldn’t help but notice that it is so typically a YA book. It involves the following:
Identity
Depression
Suicide
Alcohol abuse
Familial struggles
Bullying
Friendship
Love
Divorce
And that’s just what Wiki has to say.

Having started my book at 15 and now re-writing and adding to it at 20, I reckon I could probably sit myself firmly in the Young Adult lounge-chair. My characters are all between 17 and 23 aside from the teachers, and the parents – which only really make an appearance in a negative light, unfortunately. If you see this, I’m sorry Mum. Nothing personal.

Another characteristic picked up by Wiki is that of tension vs shock effect. Check. So much check. I’ve always struggled with writing scenes of tension, but when I do finally manage to achieve a fairly successful scene in this respect, I tend to go back on myself with a soul-crushing scene that makes you fall back with your hand to your face shouting at the pages “Woah? What the what? Oh my Jesus woah I can’t believe that just happened!” For example ** PLOT SPOILER ** as my main character is having a terrifying chase-scene dream (tension), it is then revealed that in the mean-time she is drowning (shock effect). This is only Chapter Four. I have a problem with shock effect in that I love it too much. A lot of crazy stuff goes down in this book, a lot of it hyperbolic and over-dramatised for the shock factor. I do it too much, but who can resist a good jaw-droppingly catastrophic game-changer? I’m aware that my shocking scenes are almost too shocking to be believed, but I think it’s this exaggerated nature that pushes the boundaries of the themes I’m addressing.

Returning to our faithful Wikipedia page, the following passage can be found: ‘YA novels currently in print include content about peer pressure, illness, divorce, drugs, gangs, crime, violence, sexuality, incest, oral sex, and female/male rape. Critics of such content argue that the novels encourage destructive or immoral behavior. Others argue that fictional portrayal of teens successfully addressing difficult situations and confronting social issues helps readers deal with real-life challenges.’

I personally have to agree with the latter statement that the portrayal of young adults in bad situations is a help more than a hindrance. That is the whole point of my book. A group of young adults, specifically focusing around two or three, who struggle with the everyday issues like peer pressure, gang violence and divorce. These things are so common in every day real life, and I, myself, believe it’s important to address these issues in literature. YA books for a YA audience. Just like Anthony Horowitz uses Alex and Matt (both orphaned at a young age and thrown into difficult, conflicting situations) to address the respective issues, that’s what my book is about. It’s about taking a common issue, placing a character into a situation and seeing how they would cope.

But Anthony, I have to hand it to you: your characters may only be fourteen, but your books are bloody brilliant.

 

My apologies for the long post. What can I say? I was enjoying the party.

Props to The Little Engine that Couldn’t for the genius plan. This was fun. You’re one cool dude.

7 responses

  1. 😀 I can’t say I’ve ever read any YA books, I don’t think – I did watch the British TV series Skins for a couple of seasons – man I felt old!

    November 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    • To be honest I hadn’t even heard of the term ‘YA book’ until two days ago! I may have read YA fiction without even realising 😛 Never got around to watching Skins though.

      November 15, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      • Lots of sex, drugs, violence, tragedy and teenagers pissed off with the world and each other, but loving every minute of it. It was OK!

        November 15, 2013 at 11:40 pm

  2. Don’t worry about the post being too long— you’re well below the limit of twelve billion words. I think my work in progress has the same problem Anthony Horowitz has. My characters are also fourteen, and while they don’t join M16 or anything, their age severely limits the plot. For instance, they can’t drive, and I’m a bit hesitant on having a fourteen year old kill someone. At the same time, parts of the story require them to be the age they are.

    Thanks for participating! And for the kind words.

    November 16, 2013 at 1:53 am

    • Yeah I see what you mean – that’s one of the reasons I changed the age of my characters. They were fifteen when I started but I’ve added a couple years because it felt more realistic. At the same time though I can understand that age shouldn’t be too much of a limit – in the instance of having them kill someone, I think anyone could kill under the right circumstances, it’s the reaction afterwards that might show their age. Like, a thirty year old might be horrified but get over it soon enough, whereas your fourteen year old might break out in a sweaty panic and have to be calmed by a logical-thinking individual. (**Plot spoiler** but my main character gets attacked and stabbed almost to death at age 15 by a classmate. Admittedly the guy was a crazy, angry, stereotype-hater, but still, it’s possible it could happen).

      And thanks for starting it in the first place – was interesting to blog on a subject I’d not heard of till now! Gotta like a challenge.

      November 16, 2013 at 3:48 pm

  3. Pingback: My Five Favorite Young Adult Writers | The Little Engine that Couldn't

  4. Pingback: I Guess You Could Say This Has Been a Success | The Little Engine that Couldn't

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