Saturday, June 29, 2013

conscientious objector

Like Ryan Dean West, my alter ego from Winger, I often have conversations with people in my head.

This one's been going on for some time. It's with someone who objects to some of the elements in the novel Winger. It goes like this:

CO: There sure is an awful lot of sex and foul language in Winger.

ME: What? Sex? There's no sex in the book at all. Where do you get that from?

CO: Well, there are those words, you know. And it is YA, so there shouldn't be certain words in there.

ME: Look, YA is a genre, it is not an age-level. (And yes, I am calling you out on this, Chuck Wendig.) It's a genre in that--whether the story is fantasy, sci-fi, literary fiction, pararom, or whatever--good YA deals with those essential adolescent experiences. And adults read as much or more YA than kids do, because most adult readers realize how significant and life-altering those adolescent experiences are. If I wrote down to, say, a fourteen-year-old audience, I would feel like a condescending prick. If you're seeking out something to read because you want to be treated like a fourteen-year-old--well... that's actually quite creepy. Grow up.

CO: When I read Winger, which, by the way, I liked very much, I was kind of grossed-out by all the testosterone flowing through the book. I felt like I needed to wear a raincoat, or take a shower after some parts of it.

ME: Well, that's definitely a reaction, I suppose, but I wonder about the angle of this as a critique of the book, and whether it's okay to make backdoor sexist comments about what are perceived "boy" books, especially those written by male authors. I'd probably be justifiably lynched if I ever said something like reading Jane Eyre made me feel like I was ovulating.

CO: Okay, well what about the ending? It really bothered me.

ME: Why?

CO: There weren't enough pages dealing with it.

ME: There are parts of the book that are haiku.

CO: But you don't spend enough pages dealing with the aftermath. I need to know about the aftermath.

ME: My, you are spoiled, aren't you? Look, the book is about a disaster, not the cleanup. And more than that, the book is about storytelling itself, which is why Ryan Dean talks about "conscripting" his audience, narrating entire passages and then saying things like, well it didn't actually happen like that, luring you into this complacency where you can't see around the corner, but he keeps telling you the corner is coming up (so you better watch out), and that he knows what the next panel in the comic is going to be. And this is the toughest lesson about growing up. That's what the book is about. Apparently, you're asking for a sequel. Talk to my agent.


Anyway, I have been anxious ever since I read this post by Chuck Wendig about 25 Things You Should Know About YA that appeared earlier this month. It's linked above, and you should read it and let me know what you think. I could imagine having a very healthy debate on some of his points at a conference some time. And that would be a panel to see!