In Which Our Heroine Swears to a Middle Course

20 September 2004

The news of yesterday is that Fortean Bureau is buying "Another Hollywood Miracle." Yay! That's one of my favorite stories. I'll link it when it comes up, probably in November.

We played with some of my old toys with Roo and hung out talking with Stella and Mike and Dena. And I sang the ABCs with Roo many, many times. "Faster now, Missa." Okay then, we will sing the ABCs faster. While playing the piano, but not necessarily along with the ABC song. Also, I had a Moment when I came downstairs to see little bitty sandals among the big-person sandals. The Moment has passed now, but...yeah. It was there for sure.

I finished reading The Secrets of Jin-Shei, and it had some positive moments, but the main conceit did not do well for me. I don't believe in a relationship wherein people are obligated not to refuse each other anything. There's a reason marriage vows don't ask that. Our judgment is one of the most valuable things we bring into any relationship. And I certainly don't believe that if these entirely-obligatory relationships were the case, such relationships would be formed with everyone and their little yellow dog. Practically every character in this book is part of someone's sacred sisterhood. It's hard to stop rolling my eyes at that, and even at the end I don't feel that the author has grasped the essential problem.

I also read Betsy Byars's Keeper of the Doves, because I have some Betsy Byars contract work. It's no good. It's one of those books that feels self-consciously For Kids, talking down, shaping the words carefully the way people over-enunciate to children. I hope the rest of her stuff isn't like that, since I have to do an article on her now even if I don't like anything she writes. It may have been just one bad one. We'll see, I guess. I'm now reading Sue Limb's Girl, 15, Charming But Insane, which is the kind of mainstream YA that Sara Ryan and Garret Freymann-Weyr don't write, which is to say, I'm not keen on it so far. The things that go wrong are Zany Teenage Things, and the main character has Zany Teenage Attitudes. Hork.

Why do mainstream children's and YA authors veer so horribly between Crashing Melodrama and Zany Teenage Problems? "Wahhhh, I have small boobs! Wahhhhh, I have cancer and will die in three months!" And nothing in between. I think the two share a conviction that the concerns of teenagers are trivial and silly. And many of them are, but so are the concerns of many adults. Ideally, a sense of proportion comes with maturity, sure, but how many people over 18 (or 21 or 35 or 50 or...) do you know who always, always maintain exactly the degree of serenity appropriate for the event? For what other group of human beings is a total lack of respect considered a qualification for writing books aimed at them?

It's maddening. If I ever get a YA idea that doesn't go veering desperately and permanently off into the speculative (I'm looking at you, The Dune in the Forest), I give you my word that I will write about teenage people and not caricatures. I'll still do that in speculative YAs, but it seems less of a problem there. Possibly because one does not pause in battling the Dark Lord Thusandsuch to wail, "Do you think my butt's too big?" Or, to put it more seriously, the speculative nature of the work often brings with it problems and a, y'know, what's it called...plot, yes, one of those thingers. So one has a ready-made reason to take the characters seriously, and hurrah for that. But I don't think one should need an excuse.

I'm off to lunch with Rachel, and then home to -- oh, I can't keep you in suspense any longer -- work on the book. (I know, you poor dears, you'd been wondering and wondering.)

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