I just read this very thought-provoking article about YA novels from Caitlin Flanagan. I like Caitlin Flanagan. I like how everything she writes pokes at you with a sharp stick. She’s annoying, interesting, controversial, and writes with verve. People are up in arms because of what she’s written in the piece, like “I hate YA novels. They bore me.” HA! And, my favorite, about Gossip Girl, “These chippies could make a crack whore look like Clara Barton” or this one about the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: “It’s about female empowerment as it’s currently defined by the kind of jaded, 40-something divorcÃ©es who wash ashore at day spas with their grizzled girlfriends and pollute the Quiet Room with their ceaseless cackling about the uselessness of men.” HILARIOUS! She’s so mean I love it.
And yeah, even though I’m a YA chippie myself, I can smile. Writers like Flanagan are interesting because they’re so vociferous in their opinions. They don’t hold back, and when they skewer they do it with STYLE. And c’mon, she totally nailed it: Ever been to a Quiet Room lately? She’s so right on: all those swaddled rich ex-wives complaining in shrill tones about men and how life is about being there for their “girlfriends”. Ya, right. (My girls: I love you, but let’s never become those women, ok? Ok.)
I don’t take her essay as an insult, I take it in the spirit in which it is intended. To cause people to think, to react. YA problem novels bore me too. But some people enjoy them—and that’s fine. There’s an audience for that, and there’s an audience for my books (chippies meet Twilight?).
I also thought her essay was very interesting in figuring out why Twilight has so much appeal. I’ve never read the books, and I was excited to see the movie. (I heard the books are way better. The acting, I’m afraid, was atrocious. It got better in the end. But in that first scene when Edward sniffs Bella? He looked constipated.) I thought what Flanagan said about young girls, and how they read, was so right on. When you’re young, you have a such a rich inner life, and books are awesome because they draw you away. Real life is mostly boring and routine and uneventful. (Unless you’re a smug socialite who tells the NY Times you have no idea why anyone would own a DVD player or watch TV.) Books are exciting and thrilling and wonderful. When you’re a kid, it’s so much nicer to escape to a fantasy world because, if you were like me as a teenager, the real world pretty much sucked. But it’s not only girls: sensitive boys (“sensis” as on Scrubs) also have this experience. 🙂
And even in your 30s, it’s STILL nice to escape. I get so many emails now from 20-30-40-50-something readers, who say they discovered my books (mostly at Target! Yay!) and can’t stop reading them. That is soooo coool. I write my books for me, I don’t really think of it as “writing to a reader”. (Who does that?) Age is just a number anyway.
My favorite word is INAPPROPRIATE. Did you guys ever watch that Conan sketch when they had that aging British rocker say “INAPUH-ROPE-PRIATE!” Anyway. The other day Mattie pushed me because she watches Spiderman cartoons and Spiderman “pushes” people. I tried to explain to Mattie that pushing was not good and Spiderman only pushes by pointing his fingers at people. It was then that I realized, hey, maybe watching Spiderman at two years old is…