Thursday, August 29, 2013

Two (or three or one) Faces of Scholastic, Inc.

In Spring 2012, my YA author stalker buddy and I went to our favorite local bookstore, Book People, in Austin, Texas, to see three YA authors and their editor, and, of course, we wound up with a lot of lovely, signed books. Now, I think they were using the big names, Maggie Stiefvater (author), who didn't have a new book at that time, and David Levithan (the editor), to promote two lesser-known YA authors, Elizabeth Eulberg and Siobhan Vivian. But I'm okay with that. I got David and Maggie to sign stuff, just as Elizabeth and Siobhan did, and, between us, Stalker Buddy and I went home with five or six new books.

What made me cranky was that, once I was home and reading, I encountered interesting stories with interesting characters, but sloppy writing and poor editing. And I LOVE David and don't want to dis him advertently or otherwise, but really, especially in literature for younger readers, we should adhere to a high standard of both writing and editing. Use the language well and effectively as well colloquially, and readers see how it's done!

Beyond that crankiness, though . . .

Elizabeth Eulberg's Prom and Prejudice (2011) is, of course, a cute and sweet modern retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, that, nonetheless, falls a little flat. I would say more about that, but Stalker Buddy has that one currently. I just remember finding it deeply predictable, but with somewhat progressive ideologies about gender and class, so that I liked. Eulberg's Take a Bow (2012), on the other hand, offers readers more narrative complexity, as it's narrated through four first-person points of view, and takes the characters through their senior year at the New York City High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CPA). The novel balances arts with personalities with relationships with self-realization, and allows readers to focalize through characters they'll like, characters they may not understand, and characters they will come to dislike.

Siobhan Vivian's Not That Kind of a Girl (2010) plays with the titular moralistic truism: Natalie is focused, feminist, college-bound, not boy-crazy, not putting up with immature high-school crap. She is also not interested in boys, sex, love, or relationships. Except. Except when she finds herself attracted to someone she thinks she "ought" not be interested in, someone whom she likes and is attracted to, someone she hides from her friends. Before Natalie can come to terms with Connor, however, she has to come to terms with herself, to give herself permission to be a teenager. Her journey, with her friends, her boy, and mostly with herself, is occasionally maddening ("Oh, Natalie, just get OVER yourself!") but ultimately rewarding.

Vivian's 2012 offering, The List, however, offers a different sort of high school story. Narrated in third-person present tense through eight different points of view, The List recounts one day in the life of eight high school girls, two from each class, each of whom has been named prettiest or ugliest in her grade. The personal, emotional, and social repercussions of appearing on The List are central to the novel's development, but so are the questions behind The List itself: who makes it? Why? What are the criteria? Where did it come from? It is complex and challenging, offers no easy answers, and leaves readers wondering - "what if . . .?"

No comments:

Post a Comment