February 17, 2008

And on TOP of this, Spiderwick isn't yet showing in the UK.

Okay, kids: teensy, teensy, tiny rant.
Via SF Signal, I came across a post by SF/F author Nancy Kress. Kress is a SF/F writer of some renown (her Hugo and Nebula Awarded Beggars in Spain landed highly recommended in my TBR pile), who a.] admittedly hadn't read any YA since she was "about ll," (since according to Wikipedia, she was born in 1948, was some time ago) and, b.] is "supposed to be thinking about a proposal for a YA SF novel."

Okay. She's an adult SF/F writer crossing over into YA, and is now going to read YA lit to find out what it's about... so she can write it. Okay. She's doing her homework. Everyone has to start somewhere.

She picks up Black Holly's Valiant...

"Now, I was not expecting Nancy Drew. But... surely this sort of behavior isn't very common? Is it something you'd want your ten-year-old reading? (YA is supposedly for 12-15-year-olds, but in fact younger kids who are good readers consume most of it.) Yes, fiction is about stuff that isn't necessarily common, but is this level of brutality and the number of "unhealthy relationships" (to resort to psychobabble for a moment) typical of all YA fiction?"

I felt the need to respond, absolutely. And though I am a Black Holly fangirl to the bone, I tried to be mature and respectful and answer objectively. I encouraged her in her first impulse to read more to see what YA is actually all about. I respectfully hope she does.

The thing is, there seemed to be... an attitude of disdain and some sort of moral... somethingitude in that post that set me on edge. (Contempt? Contempt prior to investigation?) Upon what does she base her assertion about good middle grade readers "consuming most of it," especially as she's not been into the genre for over forty years? I am not yet sure if the author was even asking a genuine question; there was a mincing superiority in the tone, as if she examined the distastefully unhealthy YA genre from a distance. She said nothing about the plot, characterization or story arc. She said nothing about Holly Black's writing. I got a big feeling of "eew!" from the whole post, and thought, "Why, then, does she even want to take on this project?"

And so, my tiny rant: when so many people want to get into YA lit, or break into print in SF/F, to hear a writer who is having an opportunity handed to her read one book and then turn up her nose -- at all of YA?!?! Annoys me.

It just does.


David T. Macknet said...

"Is it something you'd want your ten-year-old reading?"

Certainly, there are things that I would not wish for any child to be exposed to. The question, though, feels as if it is judging the book as bad, rather than the fictional situation as bad ... and that is what sets me on edge.

The Victorian Morality Tale has already been written, thanks.

Sara said...

Big Nancy Kress fan here. I think she'll figure this one out as she reads more and more in the YA field. Honestly, I think her work already would be great for YA, and I hope she doesn't consciously change her style or outlook to write differently for a new market. There seems to be pressure from publishers to "re-package" adult authors and I don't think that's necessary in many cases.

Mary Lee said...

I don't have a nickel in this dime of a rant, but I DO love your tiny ranting-on-a-soapbox smiley face!

tanita✿davis said...

Sara, I'm glad you spoke up. I trust your taste, which is after all why Beggars landed in my TBR pile to begin with. I definitely agree that if anyone is willing to lose a slightly sanctimonious attitude about YA, it will come from reading more of it and realizing that one doesn't have to necessarily reinvent oneself to write it. Nobody else has to write Valiant after all.

Saints and Spinners said...

We get this all the time in children's literature! It hadn't occured to me that it would happen in YA literature. I hope Kress talks with a few YA librarians and gets a variety of books from which to read.

Anonymous said...

My gut response is an ineloquent "Whatever." I've read Nancy Kress and her stuff is completely YA audience accessible as is. The trouble is everyone is being told YA is HOT! It's the fastest growing part of the industry, so all the authors that want to cash in better stake a claim right now. But kidlit has a stigma attached. It's considered a genre, and snubbed as such. It's sad because Kress should know that SF/F gets the same 2nd class citizenry.

Adults are always shocked to discover what their kids are reading. It's called uninvolved parenting. We read banned books on purpose in high school. The same books my parents weren't allowed to read until college. Are You There God, It's Me Margaret isn't about Sunday school, but not everyone realizes that.

And, I'm sorry, but you pick up a book with a cover like that, a blurb like that, and think it's going to be the Bobsey Twins? Welcome to the 21st Century. It's gonna be one heck of a ride.

There, that's my addition to the rant. Does the soul good to get it off my chest!

tanita✿davis said...

WHAT? That "Are You There, God" book isn't about Sunday School?
Heh, heh. In this case, "Whatever" isn't ineloquent -- it's about all anyone can say to something like that!