Dystopian character deconstruct – Eve, Penryn, and June

So, as I’ve mentioned before, dystopian themes seem to be the YA theme-du-jour. I’m not complaining, because the stories I’ve read have been thrilling and romantic. The only thing is, the subject matter is really, really dark, and I’ve had to supplement with some mindless romance novels when I need a breather. 🙂

Three dystopian YA novels that I just finished are Angelfall (Susan Ee), Legend (Marie Lu), and Eve (Anna Carey). The first two books have only  the first installment released, but I have also read Once, the second in the Eve trilogy. First let me say that I enjoyed all of these books.

However, the main girl character in each of these stories is so very different. I think that’s a great thing, and I was wondering what type of role model each one presented for the book’s readers.

Penryn – This girl is totally cool. Seventeen-year-old Penryn can defend herself and will do anything to rescue her sister. She has a complicated relationship with her mother (don’t we all) and isn’t head-over-heels crazy about the hero at the beginning, all things that make me love her more. To be honest, she may be my all-time favorite heroine in YA dystopian books. She has the toughness of a Katniss Everdeen, but also a compassion I never felt from the Hunger Games gal.

Eve – I’m really intrigued by Eve. She does brave things every once in a while, but so many of her actions seem selfish, and they often cost lives. However, this  aspect of her character makes her seem pretty realistic–she’s a teenager trying to figure out her place in a very, very crazy world. I hate to say that as much as I’d want to act like Penryn in a post-apocalyptic state, I’m probably more of an Eve. If you’ve ever read true stories of survival, you’ll notice the similarities to Eve’s tale.

June – I guess my only issue with Legend’s heroine is that she’s so mature for her age. Then again, she’s living in a very different world, so maybe that’s it. She’s definitely harsher than the other two girls, evidenced by her ability to watch others be tortured, but I have a soft spot for this kid too. It’s just, she’s so intelligent and way to tough for me to emulate;-)

Anyway, I’m pretty happy to recommend these books, and I will do so in my next teen writing workshops. The dystopian theme certainly gives the author a chance to challenge teenagers to think outside their own world. I’d be interested to know if these authors based their dystopian worlds on any current or past regimes.

Until next time, read on!

Originality – Does it exist?

I just had the first class of this semester’s teen writing workshop at the library, and as always, I’m amazed at the level of creativity. Every kid in that class has ideas just bubbling out of them! At the end of the class, I fielded individual questions, and I got one that wasn’t new.

“What if someone has already used my idea?”

On this very blog we’ve discussed trends in YA books, and of course we’ve seen a slow change from paranormal to dystopian themes. This isn’t to say that paranormal isn’t still hot. It’s just that with Hunger Games, the craziness has swung to alternate futures (see Delirium, Matched, and Divergent series for example).

But here’s the thing. As careful as we authors have to be about the ownership of ideas, the beautiful aspect of human creativity is that there are thousands (maybe millions) of ways to tell a story with similar elements. Just because vampires, angels, and dystopian futures have exploded on YA pages, it doesn’t mean that there’s not room for more of those themes (although it’s fine if you’re looking for something different too).

For example, I just released the first book in my Teen Mobster Series (Yes, self promotion here. Just part of the game, people). Does that mean I have ownership over all things related to the Mafia? Heck no! I have ownership of my story and characters, yes. But the subject matter? No. Now, if someone releases a book about some kid being taken in my a mob family in New Jersey and the kid gets caught in the middle of the FBI and the Mafia–well, that’s where we might have a problem. The ownership of ideas can get complicated.

I guess my best advice  to the teens is to read as much as they can. Perhaps this seems like an oxymoron (“If I read something similar, they can accuse me of copying!!!”). But actually, this is a way to make sure that whatever they put down on paper is fresh. Maybe not original, but at least it’s totally unique:)

Rise of the demi-god

Okay, so I just read Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini. I was intrigued by the story of demi-gods, and while I felt that the story jumped around a bit, I do find the subject matter tantilizing. Angelini isn’t the first to weave a narrative around the mythic Greek heros (see the Heroes of Olympus series), and I’m wondering, like the dystopian future, if this subject matter will spawn any Hollywood films (I think there was one a year or two back, but I can’t recall it’s name). Maybe the movie industry is waiting for the perfect story. Like a certain wizard and pack of vampires, it seems that it’s the characters, not so much the subject matter, that truly captures an audiences’ hearts. I’m convinced that the best way to write something that gains a huge following is not to try to guess what the next hot trend will be, but to create a story where readers will care so much about the story, that the book–and it’s sequels–will be possible to put down. And that is a recipe that is very, very difficult to perfect!

Roth Rocks!

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, but not from reading! Things get a little busy here with little ones running about and wailing from time to time. But that doesn’t keep me from getting my read on!

My newest love interest? It has to be the Divergent Series by Veronica Roth. Yes, it’s another dystopian themed trilogy, which seems to be the soup du jour in YA reading lately. But this series seriously rocks. I think I love it because the characters strike me as so brave. And I’m definitely crushing on the hero, Tobias, who reminds me of my hubby (Their philosophy? I love you and would give my life for you. But please keep it together.). This is a fun, emotional, and intriguing read, and I’m already holding my breath for the wrap-up. Oh, and I’m seriously considering getting a tattoo (read the series and you’ll understand why!).

2013 seems so far away…

Carrie Jones, will you be my best friend? Author of Need Series captivates with humor.

I’m a sucker for humor. But I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for the tongue-in-cheek writing that greeted me in Need, Carrie Jones first novel of the same-named series. By the second book, I was a total fan, and now on book three, I’m craving it. I need more Carrie Jones.

Before I continue with this author-on-author worship, let me explain that I’ve been reading my share of the lastest and greatest YA novels, and some are terrific, but generally, quite serious. For instance, Divergent, The Book Thief, Matched, Delirium, Before I Fall, Lament, and Starcrossed are just a few recent reads. This is good stuff, but sheesh, the drama is taking it’s toll.

And then I open Need and am treated to an exciting story, but one that has no problem making fun of itself. I thought I couldn’t handle any more vampire-type novels for a while, but Jone’s take on the whole pixie situation is hilarious. Oh, and werewolves. Where would we be without those? Not nearly as entertained, that’s for sure.

So Carrie Jones, you’ve won me over. I love the fact that I can read something exciting and romantic and still laugh every other page (or every page). Sometimes we just need to take things a little less seriously, you know?

Check out her website–it’s funny too!

Why I love YA

I was chatting with a friend who wondered how I didn’t go crazy reading so many YA books (it’s the genre I write, so I consume it regularly, despite my non-teen age!). I said that yes, maybe the whole first kiss thing was getting a little old.

And then I wondered…is it?

I’ll tell you why I’m in love with first kisses and with YA novels in general. Today I celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary. We’ve moved four times across country, traveled around the world, achieved our dream jobs, and now have two beautiful children. I’ve run a marathon, sang the national anthem at a major league baseball game, and presented at a U.N. conference in Warsaw. And the thing is, when I got married at the age of 21, I had my share of naysayers.  My marriage, and my dreams, weren’t expected to get too far.

It hasn’t always been easy, but my husband is my first and only love. I dated a few guys before him, but shy girl that I was, the kiss on my first date with my husband (I was nineteen!) was my first real kiss. It was that night that I knew I had met the man I would marry.

And I guess, long story short, is that this is the reason I love YA novels. Because in teen fiction, we can believe the first guy is the guy. The first kiss will rock your world. And you would go to the ends of the Earth to find and protect this person, giving up your own life if you had too.

hat premise, which runs so frequently through YA books, is true for me. That’s why I love’em!

The dark side of YA – how much is too much?

Coming back to a topic that we’ve discussed on here before — what is appropriate content in a YA novel? This question is in regards to violence, sex, language, and adult themes, all of which are rated material in the movies. However, the publishing industry has no such ratings. Literature cannot be rated, right? It would mar the artistic value of it and limit its voice.

And yet, so many parents ask me, how do I know that a book I pick up in the teen section is appropriate for my child?

Let me tell you, there’s no easy way to answer this question. My best advice, even concerning my own books, is to have parents read the book first. But that, my friends, is a sacrifice of time.

I recently read a fantastic post titled “Darkness Too Visible” by Megan Cox Gurdon (okay, I love that a book reviewer shares part of my name!). It’s almost a year old, but it’s a wonderful essay on the subject matter.

It makes me proud that I took a stand on explicit swearing and gratuitous violence in my Teen Mobster Series. And that’s not an easy thing to do, considering the subject matter. Some might say that isn’t very brave of me, but I’ll tell you what, it’s what I’m comfortable presenting to that age bracket.

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