March 19, 2008

Square Pegs -- MIA?

Okay, apologies if you actually remember a TV show by that name -- and its undeniably annoying theme song. I only vaguely remember the show existing -- and that I liked saying the words 'square' and 'pegs' together fast. Yes, I was annoying.

Anyway -- via Ypulse's Alli, I came across a conversation bouncing through the blogosphere. Dairi Burger queried, "Where are all the poor, ugly, awkward girls in YA lit?

That question kind of produced a "huh?!" from me, because I think... sheesh, just about every young adult has the ugly-awkwards in spades. But I take DB's point -- there are an awful lot of YA novels about models, ├╝ber-rich girls and spoiled boarding school cliques. I won't bother naming titles of the ones with obnoxious, vapid characters -- we all know those. But it's important to note that a.) not all rich characters are obnoxious, and b.) just because the characters are rich, doesn't mean they aren't awkward (Girl Overboard, anyone?).

Maybe the best question is, what are some recent young adult novels which portray the 'square peg' girl -- nerdy or geeky, independent spirited and not popular but who cares?

For starters, Love, Stargirl tops the list -- she's probably still as geeky as she was in the original novel. Any other titles come to mind?

"When you put out a book with "adult" content under a YA label, you're not a hero of artistic liberty, you're a liar and a cheat. You want to keep getting the same income by pretending your writing belongs in a category that you have left behind."

Orson Scott Card's response to last week's question @ SF Signal about whether or not YA SF/F has become too explicit. (Hmm. Do SF/F writers of YA get paid more?)


Anonymous said...

Square Pegs! Yes, the TV show with the debut of that fab SATC gal - Sarah Jessica Parker! Loved it.

Keladry of Mindalen from Tamora Pierce's books comes to mind as an independent, not beautiful girl - though she is rich, and high-born. Also the book Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine.

(Those may not quite be YA, I'm not sure.)

Sarah Rettger said...

I'm so adding a "square peg" tag to my LibraryThing. A few more:

Looking for Alibrandi, Melina Marchetta
Monsoon Summer, Mitali Perkins
Fact of Life #31, Denise Vega
Dairy Queen and The Off Season, Catherine Gilbert Murdock (also Princess Ben)
Boy Proof, Cecil Castellucci
Who's Your Daddy, Lynda Sandoval

Sarah Stevenson said...

One that I just read--and is SO appropriate to the tagline "square peg"--is My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson. The main character is not model-skinny, wears glasses, is into MATH and her friends are geeks. AND in the end she gets the guy. How cool is that?

Also, The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty. Bindy is definitely a square peg. Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson.

This actually got me thinking--a writer doesn't want to overdo the awkward, square-peg phenomenon, either, or else it's going to come off just as forced and unrealistic as the cookie-cutter rich-girl books out there.

Sara said...

My Life as a Rhombus? I must BE the square peg, because that title really excites me...

tanita✿davis said...

Ooh, Aerin, any Tamora Pierce is YA, and definitely Fairest -- she was actually disfigured (part Troll?), now that I think of it.

And then there's Dragon's Keep and Dragon Slippers. Hm. We seem to do this theme well in SF/F. Thanks, Sarah R., for the mainstream examples -- I *loved* the Alibrandi book. I haven't read Who's Your Daddy, but I love the title!

Sara, we're hoping to interview the author of the Rhombus book! Stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, excellent, juicy question. I'll think on it.