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The Potterization of YA fiction...

 
 
Reply Mon 11 Nov, 2013 07:40 pm
I liked the Harry Potter novels so this isn't meant as a slam towards them, and I could be all wrong -- this might have nothing to do with the success of Harry Potter...

But anyway...

I recently had a conversation with Mo's English teacher. Teacher was having a hard time finding a book to recommend to Mo -- everything he suggested Mo rejected. He wanted my input on what kind of books Mo would like.

He pressed a book on me suggesting I read it with Mo. All the boys Mo's age love this book, he said. I looked up the book on Amazon and sure enough, all the boys Mo's age loved this book.

We read it. Mo thought it was okayish, I thought it was awful.

I kept trying to figure out what it was that I didn't like about it. I was thinking about it today when the old saw "show, don't tell" popped into my head. I googled the phrase and came up with a writer (who was arguing that "tell" is just fine) who said:

Quote:
A story is not a movie is not a TV show, and I can’t tell you the number of student stories I read where I see a camera panning. Movies are a perfectly good art from, and they’re better at doing some things than novels are—at showing the texture of things, for instance. But novels are better at other things. At moving around in time, for example, and at conveying material that takes place in general as opposed to specific time (everything in a movie, by contrast, takes place in specific time, because all there is in a movie is scene—there’s no room for summary, at least as we traditionally conceive of it). But most important, novels can describe internal psychological states, whereas movies can only suggest them through dialogue and gesture (and through the almost always contrived-seeming voiceover, which is itself a borrowing from fiction). To put it more succinctly, fiction can give us thought: It can tell. And where would Proust be if he couldn’t tell? Or Woolf, or Fitzgerald? Or William Trevor or Alice Munro or George Saunders or Lorrie Moore?


And it hit me -- what I didn't like about the book is that it read like a movie treatment. I didn't "feel" the characters, I just knew what they were doing at any given point. I often didn't even really understand why they were acting the way they were.

I know YA books rely more on action that exposition but still it seems that some of them come across as manufactured in hopes of being made into movies. They're all tell and no show.

I don't think J.K. Rowling did this but I'm wondering if YA fiction writeres and publishers just got some kind of crazy head rush thinking they'd all be billionaires if they could just get their books turned in to movies so they just churn out slop hoping for the best.

I'm still turning this "show, don't tell" idea over in my head and I'm hoping that some of A2K's readers and writers can fill me in on this idea a bit more.

Examples? Experience?



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Type: Question • Score: 6 • Views: 1,738 • Replies: 24
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roger
 
  2  
Reply Mon 11 Nov, 2013 10:30 pm
@boomerang,
Well, let me just wander compelely off topic. Well, it does concern YA in a round aboutway.

There was a writer of detective stories named Rick Riordan. Incredibly good books, kind of on the order of Robert Crais, who you have also never heard of, in all likelyhood. He switched genres and not writes YA fantasy involving Greek or Roman gods, or some such malarky. A big loss, and I loved the guy for being a respectable writer while also teaching middle school English in San Antonio, Texas.

Aw, I forgot what I was going to say. Anyway, if Mo can deal with fantasy, you might check out Rick Riordan's work. If he's as good at that as he was in the cops and robber stuff, he's good, indeed.

ETA: I bet Mo's able to appreciate his more serious work, too.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 07:40 am
@roger,
Thanks, Roger!

Did he write his detective books under a different name? When I pulled him up on Amazon all I got were YA books. I was kind of thinking about introducing some Elmore Leonard or someone like that but it's been a long time since I've read anything by him that I can't remember whether it's suitable for 12 year old boys.

He doesn't really like fantasy. I think he would probably enjoy some good science fiction. Honestly, I'm not sure I know the difference -- the book we just finished was billed as sci-fi but I consider it fantasy. It didn't really have any speculation on future life or science which I thought sci-fi was supposed to encompass. Maybe I'm wrong about that.

All I know is that it is nearly impossible to find current YA books that don't include a kid with some kind of magical/mystical ability and reads like a movie treatment instead of a novel.
Mame
 
  2  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 08:10 am
@boomerang,
James Patterson writes both adult and YA detective-type of books. If you go on your public library's website, you should be able to find "read-alikes"… or just google his name and "read-alikes" in google. You should be able to find read-alikes by genre and author. I googled harry potter read-alikes and got these, but there are many more:

Here is one site:

http://www.acpl.lib.in.us/children/likeharrypotter.html

and here's another:

http://info.infosoup.org/lists/hpReadAlikes.asp

Mame
 
  2  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 08:10 am
@boomerang,
Carl Hiaasen also writes great books for YA and adults.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 08:31 am
@Mame,
Thanks, Mame. I'll play around with that.

I just tried it with the last book I know Mo really liked - "The Age of Miracles" - and mostly came up with reviews for the book itself. One reviewer did suggest some other books that, I think, trended more to the "adult" than "young" but did get a lead on one that looks promising ("Life as We Knew It")!

Yay!

I'll check out the Carl Hiaasen too.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  2  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 11:56 am
@boomerang,
So weird that his good stuff is so hard to find. I searched on a title that came to mind, and here's a link. http://www.amazon.com/Devil-Went-Down-Austin/dp/0553579940/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384278828&sr=1-1&keywords=the+devil+went+down+to+austin
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 12:20 pm
@roger,
Thanks for digging that out, roger! I even went to the author's page and it didn't have the adult books listed at all.

Mo might really like those -- he considers himself a Texan!
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 12:29 pm
Try this book. Only been out a few months.
izzythepush
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 12:36 pm
@boomerang,
If he likes Potter, Artemis Fowl is a lot of fun.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemis_Fowl_(series)
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 12:36 pm
@engineer,
I know "Wheel of Time" and "Mistborn" are hugely popular so I'm thinking the writer must be good.

I'll look into it a bit more but from Amazon's description it sounds like yet another mystical magic powers kind of book even though the good guys are normal kids.

Thanks for the suggestion!
0 Replies
 
izzythepush
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 12:41 pm
I've not read any of these, but I'm a real fan of Phillip Kerr's Bernie Gunther novels. This is what he's written for kids.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_of_the_Lamp
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 12:42 pm
@izzythepush,
He hates Potter and all that magical person stuff.

It seems like since Potter that every book aimed at that demographic has to have some kind of person with special powers or extraordinary ability. It's getting harder to find books that are aimed at pre-teens that are just about normal people.

There's some good older ones that he's liked but they lack the sort of cultural relevance that makes him really want to read them.
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 01:02 pm
@roger,
So funny that you mention Rick Riordan - when I first read the topic I thought you might be looking for a YA novel -- my kids love the Percy Jackson series. My younger daughter even dressed as AnnaBeth from the story - now granted she had to explain who she was - my daughters love the stories from the Greek Gods so this is definately a plus.

They do have a couple of movies (glup) of them - but they are deeper than what you are describing as far as seeing like a movie - and many of the kids do not think the movie lives up to the book - which I find pretty much true of any good book - cannot duplicate in a movie.

My kids do not really like the Harry Potter books/movies - could be the scare factor. I think what they like about it is the Greek God aspect. They like mytholgy so if Mo likes that he would probably like this series.
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 01:32 pm
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:

....It seems like since Potter that every book aimed at that demographic has to have some kind of person with special powers or extraordinary ability. ...


This is 'cause the business is looking for the next big multi-sequel hit. It's all about the Benjamins.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 01:40 pm
@boomerang,
I think the appeal is to the dork/nerd contingent. The whole school and social thing leaves them on the outside, and looking in. Suddenly, they discover Potter and realize how neat it would be to have some kind of magical abilities.

I am not sorry your son hasn't bought into all that.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 02:02 pm
@boomerang,
Good question, I'm looking forward to replies. Back later.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 02:28 pm
Maybe it's that I wasn't raised on many fairy tales, though a few, but fantasy fiction as such turns me off. (I have room for some, Dante, for example, but not a lot of sci fi or witch stuff). I remember liking books about american history written for children (now I'd probably barf, but it's a long time later), and some girlie stuff like Little Women and Heidi and Black Beauty; the Black Stallion series, Nancy Drew. At twelve or thirteen, I read The Virginian, and later a lot of Zane Grey and other westerns, because those were the books at my aunt's house where we were staying. She also had a set of Dickens, and I liked those that I read, but I was probably fourteen by then. I remember reading David Copperfield at sixteen in one very long day. It was hard to get out of my chair. Must have been a weekend day.

Funny the quote mentioned Munro and Trevor, two favorites of mine.

Is Mo interested in art - it's likely way too early for this I think, but a fav of mine is Cellini's autobiography. I'd have to reread it to see what I think about it's appropriateness for someone of twelve.

On show versus tell, will think about it. Too much description in general seems word proud to me, whereas just the right spare description can be scene making in my mind, me painting the scene from the words. I take dialog as show, but needed. I guess I think the characters thoughts, musings, are show too. I've no idea what the consensus is about what show and tell mean for fiction. Will have to look it up.

Adds - I think when I turned thirteen I was allowed to check out books from the adult section of the library. Mostly I wandered around picking up books that sounded interesting. I was into history of medicine then, so I checked out some of those. But, maybe it was age 14 I was allowed free roaming.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 04:43 pm
@Linkat,
Mo won't have anything to do with those Percy Jackson books. I've tried. All the kids at school were reading them a few years back and Mo was completely uninterested.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Nov, 2013 04:45 pm
@jespah,
I'm sure that's true. And I don't blame them, really. It is a business. I get that.

 

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