Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What's a book lover to do?

They all look the same!

Maybe I read too much - if there is such a thing.

In the last 12 months, I have read a lot of Young Adult fiction, most of which has had supernatural or mythic characters.  What happens when they all start to sound the same?

Each of the first books that I read which took on a mythic character - vampire, werewolf, fallen angel or immortal - got my rave reviews.  The subsequent reads got a lower rating, but only because I couldn't help but compare it to the first and questioning its uniqueness.  But, really, was the second, or even the third, book I read about a love affair with a fallen angel any better or worse than the first?  It's all formulaic, maybe that's my problem.

Here's the formula: 
-  Generally plain girl meets mysterious new boy (unless she transferred to a new school). 
-  We don't know who or what the boy is, and whether we can trust him.
-  Girl and boy fall in love.
-  Enter mythic object or event which sets off girl's curiosity.
-  Girl does super Google Search and discovers what he is (enter mythic creature here). 
-  We get a full rundown on the legend behind mythic creature. (with or without past lives' experience)
-  Then girl finds out why boy and girl can not be together.
-  The last 100 pages is reserved for a battle of some kind, usually leaving us with a cliffhanger for the next in the series to solve.

I feel like there was a writers' workshop and everyone was given the same assignment, told to follow the formula and see what each author could come up with.  A few months later, bang!  We have a dozen books that are all the same.

If you like them, super!  Go forth and read!

I went forth and read.  Here's my dilemma.  How am I supposed to review these books??  Not just as a book blogger, but as a reader!  I see genuine talent in the authors, and I'm still captivated by said formula, but it's actually starting to make me angry.  Predictability is not something I look for in a novel.

Bring me something new!

Hello.  My name is Alison, and I read Young Adult novels - point me to the support group!  I am not a Young Adult, so I am not the target audience, I get that.   I am an avid reader who enjoys Young Adult fiction.  Is that so wrong?   Maybe these books are simply not meant for me, and I should shut up.  Then again, maybe the YA readers - both the Y and not-so Y - deserve more than "the formula" in a novel. 

I don't want to take out my frustration on any one author - which I was about to do since I read both Hush, Hush and Fallen this week.  And before their books I read Alyson Noel, Lisa Mangum, Rachel Hawkins and Stephenie Meyer.  It's not their fault.  They are all talented authors who happen to publish their books in a genre that is far too saturated.

 Maybe this is why I jumped out of my chair when I read The Body Finder, Shiver, Marked and Once a Witch.  Of course, I must give proper respect to the woman who opened this door back up to me - Stephenie Meyer.  (Five years ago, I used to hide my Twilight behind InStyle magazine.) These authors entered into this YA supernatural genre and put their own stamp on it. 

Am I alone here?

Can someone give me suggestions for a fresh take on such a popular genre? 

Please tell me Beautiful Creatures isn't more of the same!!  I'm looking forward to reading it, and I would be crushed if I had to add it to my pity party.


Miss Remmers said...

I love this post! I definitely see where you are coming from! I try to mix everything I read so it doesn't all blur together as I, too, really enjoy a paranormal YA read. I love how you mapped it out - SO right! I hadn't thought of it before! Great post (and good luck with your reading).

Teresa said...

I think everyone starts to feel this way when they read a lot of a particular genre. The only solution I've found is to step away from it for awhile and read something else. This is one of the reasons that I started reading book blogs. That way when I do return to my favorite genre it is fresh again. I also end up discovering some new things that I never thought I'd enjoy.

WonderBunny said...

I try to read a variety of different things. And to be honest, I don't love YA books so I tend to only read the ones that get really good reviews (for example: I have Shiver waiting for me and I enjoyed Hunger Games. I also really liked I Capture the Castle). I think that if you read too many paranormal books (be they YA or not) they all start to feel the same, if you read too many cozy mysteries or too many romantic suspense or whatever it is...everything may start to feel the same. Which is why I think it is really important to switch it up.

Alison said...

Thanks all for commenting. You're right - I need to take a step back. I don't think I'll be able to take a step back from all YA - It's an addiction I would need a serious 12-step program to break - but I think I will stay away from YA paranormal.

Oh, one more thing I forgot to add to my "formula" above - Parents are conveniently out of the picture, giving their daughters free-reign and unprecidented independence.

Christina T said...

I do not think Beautiful Creatures is more of the same thing. I read it and found it to be a refreshing paranormal. For one thing, it is the girl, not the guy who has special abilities. Plus it is a very atmospheric Southern gothic novel. Another different paranormal I just reviewed is Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson. You can read both my review of Claire de Lune and Beautiful Creatures on my blog if you are interested. I am currently reading The Mark by Jen Nadol and so far that one has been out of the ordinary too. If you are ready for a break from paranormal, All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab is a fantastic YA debut novel.

Alison said...

Christina - I think we posted at the same time! Thank you for stopping by!

You've read some great YA, so I trust you to point me in the right direction. I'll check out All Unquiet Things, as well as Beautiful Creatures and Claire de Lune when I'm ready for my paranormal fix. I'll keep my eyes out for your review of the Mark!

Donna Gambale said...

The paranormal part of the genre is definitely saturated, and you're right, many of the formulas are similar. I try to space out my paranormal YA with... normal YA. Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Lauren Myracle, Anne Brashares, and many many others. Contemporary novels are a great refresher.

Thanks for following First Novels Club!

christa @ mental foodie said...

You forgot the love triangle :)

I thought for YA, The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson and The Hate List: A Novel by Jennifer Brown offer a different spin and I enjoyed reading them.

audrey said...

Thanks for saying it, Alison! I completely agree. Michael Chabon (in "Maps and Legends") had a lot to say about why "literary" writers stay so far away from "genre" writing, and how literary fiction could use a shot in the arm from genre. But I think you make the point that genre writing could also use some fresh ideas.
These might be old news to you, but I really enjoyed Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy and Holly Black's Modern Faerie books (Tithe and Ironside were my favorites). They definitely deviated from the tired old formula.

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