Drinking! Drugs! Non-Explicit Sex! Huh?

Some fun stuff today… My editor at Hyperion sent over the School Library Journal review of “Blue Bloods”. I *heart* SLJ, they have been nothing but KIND to my Au Pairs books, and Fresh off the Boat, so I was totally expecting another nice review…

And here’s what I get:

“This novel constantly name-drops and is full of product placements, drinking, drugs, nonexplicit sex, and superficial characterizations, but the intriguing plot will keep teens reading. De la Cruzs explanation for the disappearance of the Colony of Roanoke is unique and the idea that models dont gain weight because they are Blue Bloods rather than anorexic is unusual.”Sharon Rawlins, NJ Library for the Blind and Handicapped, Trenton”

OOF! Bad, bad writer–name-dropping?? Product placements? Drinking? Drugs? Non-explicit Sex? (LOL! All those things teens DON’T want to read about right? 🙂

I’m just glad I had that intriguing plot up my sleeve!

I found this review a little funny, because here’s SLJ’s review of The Au Pairs:

“De la Cruz name-drops and power-shops throughout, creating an entertaining vision of how “the other half” lives. The Au Pairs offers wealth, status, steamy sex, lots of heavy drinking, changing values, and juicy fun on the East Coast for fans of Zoey Dean’s “The A-List” series and Cecily von Ziegesar’s “Gossip Girl” series (both Little, Brown).”Tracy Karbel, Glenside Public Library District, Glendale Heights, IL

So the Au Pairs reviewer thinks name-dropping, power-shopping, steamy sex, status and heavy drinking are fun and entertaining and juicy… while the Blue Bloods reviewer thinks all those things are the total opposite…

Which just goes to prove that Everybody Is Entitled To Their Own Opinion.

Some people are going to like, even love, what I write, because of the fun, party-hopping, shopping, sexy stuff, and some people will hate it because of these same exact elements…

When I was a teen, I read books PRECISELY because of all the fun elements in it that I didn’t have in my own life…I really liked to fantasize that I was this jaded, cool person who knew New York like the back of my hand, and had all these awful, glamorous problems. And sordid stories were an added bonus. I’m thinking here of V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic series, Bret Easton Ellis’s Less than Zero, Jay McInerney’s Story of my Life… And all the “hot” parts in my mom’s off-limits Harold Robbins books that I read on the sly…

One thing that gets slammed a lot I notice, is the whole “product placement” angle. Why is it called product placement? I don’t get any money for mentioning brand names in my books. I know some people find it annoying, but if you do, then don’t read my books. So simple! Who needs to be annoyed all the time? Seriously. Life is too short to be annoyed by a book.

I grew up reading Stephen King, and his books are chockfull of pop culture references and product placements –Coke, Cheerios, Fords, Twinkies. But no one ever mentions him. But all us chic-lit girls get slammed because we like to write about the perfect pair of Chloe pants.

Part of this prejudice, I think, is the whole anti-fashion feeling. There’s this idea or perception that people who read are not interested in fashion, or should not be, as readers they should be “above” that. These people are scared of fashion, and think that fashion is elitist and snobby and should not be celebrated.

When I think of fashion, I think of Miguel Adrover making a cap-sleeved sweater with real NY Yankee caps for sleeves. (And of how I really should have bought it even though it was a joke, it was only $300 and I know it will be in the Costume Institute some day.) I think of creativity and humor and over-the-top outrageousness, all of which should definitely be celebrated. There’s a difference between fashion and materialism, which Karen and I stress a lot in The Fashionista Files. But some people can’t tell, or don’t care to see the difference, and they read a line like “Marni camisole” in a novel and smoke comes out of their ears. Pah!

Tess Gerritsen on her blog writes about how even twenty years later, she’s labeled as a “romance writer” and that peeling off that label is something that the media won’t allow you to do. I totally sympathize, because for the longest time, whenever anyone wrote about me, I was former “fashion writer” Melissa de la Cruz. As if the only thing I should ever write are captions for clothing layouts.

It’s so much easier to stick someone in the romance or the fashion ghetto than to acknowledge them as a writer, isn’t it?

Anyway, I got moving again on ANGELS, and wrote thirteen pages yesterday. I was sick with a cold and pregnancy nausea, but the reason I had a bit of a block was that I came upon a really nasty review of Blue Bloods on the web, which really knocked me off my game. It was just the most vitriolic, hateful, spiteful, and personally mocking “review”, with plot spoilers to boot!

When I come upon things like this, and in my ten plus years as a writer, I have encountered it before (I used to write incendiary essays for the New York Press so I know a lot about hate mail), it never ceases to bother me. I get over it after a day or two, but when someone unleashes so much hatred on your creation, you can’t help but feel stomach-punched.

But the thing is, you get up. You feel better. You realize all your dreams have come true, and that continuing to write, getting paid to write, (I am signed up for 13 books in the next three years. Isn’t that crazy?), is the best revenge…

And the nice thing is that I have read so many nice reviews of Blue Bloods everywhere else, and so many readers have been emailing me telling me how much they like it, so everything is worth it. Who cares about one rotten apple?

Like I always say, being annoyed by a book is the stupidest thing I have heard of. Books are a PLEASURE. They are one of the most enjoyable things around, so if you look for books that contain things that will just make you irritated, why read it?

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who has emailed about Sun-Kissed! I re-read it the other night, and it cracked me up too.

I’ve also started reading On Beauty by Zadie Smith. I really really loved White Teeth. I just thought it was brilliant. I’m enjoying On Beauty a lot, although some of the dialogue of the American teens sounds off to my ears, which is bothering me. But not a lot. I’m not annoyed! Just a little confused. White Teeth was so spot-on and perfect. On Beauty is not quite White Teeth, but is very riveting and moving.

One thing that I thought was really interesting in the story is how she depicts Zora, the 19 year old precocious daughter of the protagonist. One of the plot lines has Zora really annoyed that she can’t get into this Creative Writing Seminar, and so she complains to the Dean that the professor of keeping her out because the professor had an affair with her father (another professor at the university).

So the Dean asks the professor in, and explains the situation, reminding the professor that she doesn’t want to be put in this position, (going to the Adivsory Board, a possible lawsuit, etc). Basically Zora is very manipulative. And in the end, the professor lets her into the class. (The professor is really angry, because the affair has nothing to do it, she says that Zora can’t write poetry. She has “arguments”.)

This chapter was really involving for me, because I *SO* remember going to school with all these little Zoras… manipulative, intelligent, grade-grubbers. They were the ones who bullied and argued their way from a B to an A-. They’d been so used to getting easy A’s all their lives, it was such an affront to them that anyone would give them a mere B.

And I also remember how competitive it was to get into Creative Writing Seminars in college. My friends and I all wanted to get into these Story-writing classes, along with oh, hundreds of other people… I was a freshman in a junior-level Creative Writing class, the only one in the class. And I have to proudly say, I got in because I quoted Madonna in my essay on Why I should Be in the Class. I think I quoted from “Burning Up”. Something like “I’m down on my knees, begging you please, I would do anything…” And the professor probably thought that was pretty funny, she had a good sense of humor. I thought it was quite clever myself. Back then Madonna wasn’t a thesis subject quite yet. She was still just a pop star. So it was an anti-intellectual move. Which worked.

But I also didn’t get into some other classes. I didn’t get into A.M. Homes’ class. I interviewed with her and she read my story (which was about two college girls who kill the boy who was cheating on both of them. If I ever find it I’ll post it sometime. It’s funny.) and her lip curled. And I could just tell she was one of those people who don’t like my style of writing. And I didn’t get in. Oh well. You win some, you lose some…

No grade-grubbing! Enjoy life! Read books that won’t annoy you!