Not Every Heroine Loves Books

So I thought today I'd touch on something that has bugged be for a while. I read a lot of YA books. And by a lot, I mean that they probably make up the majority of the genres I read. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a romantic action adventure SciFi/Fantasy crossover. Most of the time, you can only find this lovely combo in the YA section.

I only ever have a problem reading YA books one basically two occasions. The first is when I'm browsing through the aisles at Barnes and Noble and an actual young adult comes up invading my browsing space. I'm nearing the age where I feel like they might actually be wondering to themselves what the old lady is doing in their section (perhaps that's why I usually just order my new books from Amazon these days).

The second problem I have with YA lies in its tendency to fall into convenient plot traps. Let's be honest, here. I read books by females, mostly. I'm not saying I'm sexist when it comes to purchasing new books, but maybe I'm a little bit sexist. (That's my bad, I know. But I'm working on it!) That being said, we can safely assume that the books females write are mainly about a female protagonist. And that the female author loves books, considering she has produced a work of fiction for me to enjoy. I have noticed an obvious trend as a result of this in which every heroine of said YA novel seems to be head over heels in love with books.

And I'm talking EVERY heroine. I have never met a main female character in a book that doesn't like to read. Come on! Not everybody loves to read, people! I know plenty of others that don't freak out at the thought of owning a Beauty-and-the-Beast-esque library. I'm pretty positive that personality exists out there!

So why is it, then, that all these heroines all flip their shit at the idea of reading? I have a theory that authors can't respect someone that doesn't appreciate the written word, so they always have to infuse this element of themselves into their character. But the reality is, people are more varied than that. It honestly is getting pretty boring to keep reading this in every story I pick up.

So this got me thinking.

Most YA books, at least modern ones, are about girls. Seriously. Go to Target and take a look at that YA shelf - it's covered in feminine crap all over the place. When did reading become a feminine-centric activity? At least in the YA section, there are very limited choices for guys looking for a story. They get pushed over into the adult scifi and fantasy sections instead. So does that mean it's ok for adult men to read, but not adolescents?

In all reality, the adult SciFi/Fantasy sections are a male dominated genre, and it's pretty difficult to find a good female author writing about a female heroine. Perhaps that's why I've come to rely on my YA section to heavily.

But I digress... the real thing I wanted to touch on was the concept of expanding your idea of the worth of a person separate of their love of books. Yes, your heroine can be awesome, get the guy, save the day, and still not yearn for a three-story library.

I know it's difficult to believe, but there's a vast population of worthy people out there that don't read as much as us book worms. And that's ok, too.
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by Lauren Oliver

Cover Beauty Score: 8 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 5 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Lena Haloway lives in a future where wars have ravaged the country and everyone lives in walled in cities that are surrounded by electric fences to keep the wild ones out. The totalitarian like government propagates that love is a disease and they have developed a cure for it. When Lena turns 18, she will receive the treatment and live out her life the way the government assigns it to her. A few scant months before her 18th birthday, she meets a boy who isn't like any of the other "cured" citizens and she realizes what being cured of the "disease" will actually mean. She's thrown into a spiraling situation once she begins to feel something real for the first time in her life. And she has to choose between two lives.

My Reaction: Wow... Lauren Oliver is an absolutely fabulous writer! What a refreshing change to see someone who has a serious talent for weaving words together. You know that I'm a sucker for some prose that masquerades as light poetry, and Oliver does an absolutely amazing job with this. Just take a look at this:

“Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That's what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side.”

or this one:

“I said, I prefer the ocean when it's gray. Or not really gray. A pale, in-between color. It reminds me of waiting for something good to happen.” 

Right? I mean... this book is full of gems like this one. I could go on typing up quotes for you all day, but I won't. So beyond Oliver's fabulous writing, what else did I like about this book?

It's very different from other ones I've read the genre. Lena is a real character with some real issues and her pov was interesting to get into. Her relationship with Alex is seemingly simple at first and becomes complex as the story develops. Lena really comes into her own as a character. Her relationship with her bestie, Hana, was particularly realistic. The dynamic here was great, and I just think the way Oliver handles the developments of the characters is phenomenal. There's growth on all sides, and Lana leads the way with her transition from the beginning to the end.

And the ending! Gahhhh I don't want to give any spoilers, but it will leave you salivating to rip open the next book in the series and get through it. Alex is a hero that is strong in his own way, but he encourages Lana to develop her own strength and make her own decisions. He leads her to find her own path, which is incredibly admirable.

If you haven't read this one yet, go out and do it right now! If nothing else, you'll begin to see what real writing looks like. Well done, Lauren Oliver. You've made a fan out of me! :-)
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Refining That Thing Called a Plot

So I've been thinking a lot about plot structure lately. It feels like every time you get to the middle of a novel, you really start to slow down. You lose focus on where you're going and how to get there. Why did everything come flying out to the page in the first act only to grind to a halt here in the second? It's ridiculous and super unfair! I can hear writers around the world screaming as they pull their hair out in frustration. The rewrites in this stage are numerous and excruciating. Seriously... it feels like somebody has thrown my soul into a bog of sludge and all I want to do it crawl out, but I'm stuck and can't move.

So what do I do in a situation like this? Well last night I sat down and really evaluated my plot structure. I'm a huge fan of the 7 Point Plot Structure and I use it heavily to craft where I think I want my story to go (if you aren't familiar with it, check out my post on the 7 Points here). I also created a new nifty graphic to help me keep the whole thing straight in my mind. Apparently nobody on Pinterest has done this yet, and it seriously needed to happen:

I'm a super visual person sometimes and it really helps to have it laid out like this for a reference. Now I can look back and easily see where I am and where I should be in relation to the intensity of the scene. If you're a writer, let me know if you find this handy! After really nailing down the progression of the story, I feel like I'm ready to get back into the nitty gritty of the writing bit again.

I might have to throw away some scenes I've crafted, but hey! It's all in a day's work.

Okay... so maybe the thought of trashing a carefully written and funny scene makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry like I just watched Titanic for the first time, but I'll get over it.

It's all in the name of the greater good. Right?
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