June 20, 2006


I recently read another YA novel aimed at girls, and there was the usual roll call of products in it that I've counted before - brands of lipstick, jeans, shoes, lingerie, shirts, cars, etc. It wasn't too invasive, it wasn't overboard, but I noticed it because it really has become something that was once a buzz and now has grown to a roar. And I looked back at my two novels in progress and realized, to my chagrin, that I actually talk about certain TV shows and cooking professionals in those books. Am I guilty of trying to turn my readers into FoodTV afficianados? I hope not!

I agree with the point of view raised at Cynsations, that we perhaps label types of people with our choices of brands and labels. There is a lot that can be inferred from the way our characters shop, the places they go, the food they eat. And for a novelist, mostly this kind of thing is deliberate. But I do wonder, for those who are inserting brand names every other sentence ...I wonder if they aren't perhaps narrowing their audience. For instance, I know when I read a novel where the characters wear Juicy Couture hoodies, I know it's not meant for me. It's meant for girls with money to burn and small figures. My agent mentioned that this is also why many American novels cannot "cross the pond" and do well in the UK and Australia -- because one of the things that doesn't translate well the world around is hyper-affluence in young adults! It's an uniquely American value, the importance of things... labels... brand names.

When I knew I wanted to write YA novels, I knew I wanted to write them to show the commonalities of the human experience, of the experience of growing up. I wanted every YA to have access to that little moment that feels like "Hey! That happened to me too!" so that they would know that they weren't alone in feeling the way they did about a particular topic. As others have said, maybe it's not for us to judge those who do put labels and brand names in their work, but I know that I'm going to be very sparing about it. The things that we have in common in this world are more important to me than the things which divide us - So if my character never drives off in a Lexus, drinking a Snapple and talking on her T-Mobile... well, I'll guess she'll still be okay...

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