MG/YA Mondays

I’ve decided to make my Mondays alternate discussing MG and YA books, because I’ve been reading far more YA books lately and am writing an YA novel.

Plus, I’ve been inventorying my tastes.

Someone came up to me at the Lit Fest this weekend and said, I don’t really like fantasy. I’ve heard this said before and it doesn’t bother me. We have our tastes. (Although, I do suggest that no one dismiss and entire genre. Fantasy isn’t just wizards and dragons, just as romance novels aren’t all sap and cheese)

I was looking at some old GoodReads reviews of mine and thought I might have been overly critical. Obviously, book review’s are critical by nature is about, but really, almost all of it is personal opinion. And personal opinion is related to taste.

The more MG/YA books I read the more I understand what defines the levels of these demographics, and the more I appreciate the difference.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not generally fond of younger MG novel’s “cartoonish” quality (the Lightning Thief book for instance). Early on, I think I saw this kind of writing as a negative thing, but it’s not. It’s just my taste. (although I’m reading The True Meaning of Smekland right now, which is very cartoonish, but just too funny to put down).

by Gizem Vural (click for source)

I’ve come to realize that I’m drawn to upper middle grade work, sliding into YA. When it gets past the simple characters and the clear-cut nature of good/bad – right/wrong stories and moves into the coming-of-age realm. And now that I think of it. I’ve always loved coming-of-age stories. The kind of story where the kid is forced to grow up, deal with issues, go to a darkish place, and come out changed/individualized. They can’t go back, they know more now, and probably have the scars to prove it.

As one publisher said, MG stories are generally about fitting in and YA stories are about breaking out – becoming one’s own person. I guess I am drawn to what straddles those worlds.

by Gizem Vural (click for source)

Coming of Age is not a genre. It’s an archetypal story. Characters can come of age in any time in history, any place in the galaxy, no matter if they are humans, vampires, or aliens. They can come of age at different ages as well. When they are born, in what circumstances, and in what culture determines this.

Nation, Stand By Me, Harriet the Spy, How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found. These are all great examples of MG coming of age stories I have enjoyed.

So even though Percy Jackson doesn’t do it for me, he does it for many others. And I’ve learned to appreciate that.

What about your tastes? What are they? Do you always gravitate towards them, or do you venture out and try something new?

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13 Comments

Filed under Middle Grade Mondays, on my bookshelf

13 responses to “MG/YA Mondays

  1. Well, I never used to venture out and try something new. But since my daughter loves fantasy (esp. fairies and trolls and frogs with eyes popping out), then I have started to read more books along those lines. Mainly because I like to chat with her about the book, what parts she liked and why, what didn’t she like and why not. She also reads to me, so I found it helps to know the ins and outs of these kinds of books.

    As far as books for my own enjoyment, I recently made a pact with myself to try new genres. I just finished The Time Traveller’s Wife (based on your recommendation, actually). This isn’t a book I’d normally pick because of the time travel, but I stuck with it because the writing was so great.

    So, in general, what I’m most likely to read cover to cover are the books that are well-written, no matter what the storyline.

    • I adore that your daughter reads to you. :-) I have to say that I haven’t been that adventurous outside of MG/YA books lately. I used to read a more diverse selection.

      I did so appreciate the writing in Time Traveler’s Wife. That was what the movie, even though it was pretty good as a movie, just can’t get across. For me, books either have to have compelling characters, an absorbing plot, or beautiful writing. Give me at least one of these things!

      I’m happy to recommend other books and you should get me out of my genres, too! If you want to try a more traditional fantasy book I loved Patricia McKillip’s IN THE FORESTS OF SERRE. This is not a children’s book:

      http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/81073.In_The_Forests_of_Serre

      The story gets a little weird, but the writing is so beautiful I was in awe.

      • I love Patricia McKillip and I haven’t read In the Forests of Serre. I shall look for it. I would also highly recommend her books The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, (which is a nice short read for someone who isn’t sure whether they’ll like fantasy) and The Riddlemaster of Hed (which is a trilogy, but at least it’s not a 12-volume series!).

    • Your daughter should definitely try Laini Taylor’s Fairies of Dreamdark books.

  2. I have certain genres I like (historical fiction for one), but lately have read several other stories in different genres for a writing conference coming up, and I’ve really enjoyed them. I guess it’s good to get out of your rut sometimes and force yourself to read other things…new ideas.

    • Charissa ~ one of the genres I have not read as much as I’ve liked to is historical fiction. I’ve read really altered historical fiction like steampunk and historical fantasy. Can you recommend one of your favourites?

  3. First off, I love the conversations you start! I am all over the map-although lately reading a lot toward MG Fantasy and YA Urban Fantasy. Years ago when I started working for the library part of my job required me to read widely because when I went into schools I was talking to kids who had a wide variety of reading tastes…needed to be able to hook them all! As a result there is not one genre I prefer over the other.

    • Deb – but you mostly read kids books, right? Or do you read adult fiction as well.

      Traci – that’s impressive. There’s definitely things I shy away from. For instance, I don’t know that I’ve ever read a western. If anyone knows a really good one, I’m all ears.

  4. I’m kind of a mixed bag when it comes to trying new genres (books or otherwise). On the one hand, I mostly stay in my comfort zone (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, comics and manga). But on the other hand, every so often I will step out of that comfort zone and read some contemporary fiction or a classic (of which Shakespeare is a particular favorite). Although I do try to expose myself to all kinds of stories, but even then there are some things I tend to avoid (I’m looking at you Twilight saga and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). So I guess in short I’m all over the place.

    • That’s a good thing, Will. :-) I did read the first Twilight b/c I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I didn’t continue the series, had no desire to. But it DID make me go back to read the original vampire story, the classic Dracula.

  5. I go in phases, though I definitely prefer YA/MG to adult, and I always return to fantasy/sci-fi. I’ll only read a realistic adult novel if someone recommends it to me (I rarely if ever browse those shelves at the library). I suppose my favourite books are the ones that are hard to classify as YA or MG, probably because, as you put it, they straddle the worlds of fitting in and breaking out. Also probably because their authors weren’t writing to a specific age group, they were just writing a good story. (Books written specifically for MG are often too adventury, and those specifically for YA are often too romancy.)(Not that I don’t enjoy a good adventure or a good love-triangle!)

    Don’t you love The True Meaning of Smekland? I’d say it’s one of those straddling books that can appeal to everyone. Even people who don’t like fantasy!

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