In the past few weeks, I've been smacked in the face with hate and I thought I'd blog a little about it because, quite frankly, it's bothering me. First, from the real world.
Do you ever read the comments section of anything posted online, especially newspaper/news outlet comments section? If you want to be able to identify where and when Western civilization began to fall, you'll be able to pinpoint this as the beginning. An anonymous place for the ignorant, bigoted and downright evil people to comment on something, whether it be people on Welfare or people that are just different than them. The catalyst for this was this article in my local paper about our Muslim Student Association. It was a beautiful piece that represents everything that I love about where I teach. It was also the most commented article on the paper's website the day it came out. Reading the comments makes you understand just how messed up our country is. Sure, there are great comments in it, but most are just deplorable. It upset me greatly. We fear anything that we don't understand and then lash out at it, but we do so under the guise of an internet avatar. It just fills me with sadness. We will never be happy as a country or a world until we learn to respect and love one another. Bigotry and inequality are far more concerning to me than what's happening in our economy...because if society falls the way everyone is predicting it will, all we'll really have left is the way we treat one another. That's all I have to say about that.
A few days later, I'm trolling around the Internet, checking out some of my favorite blogs when I come across a review for a book from a reputable reviewer that I respect a great deal. I'm not going to link because normally I don't see this from the site. Now to be fair, they review mostly traditional genre books, meaning "adult" not "YA." There were a few things about this review that bothered me. It came across as particularly snarky, angry and bitter. I get that reviewers can't love everything, but the way this reviewer seemed to go after the author and the book they wrote just rubbed me the wrong way. If you don't like the book, fine, but that doesn't mean you have to trash the writer as much as you did. Then the reviewer took a swipe at YA, suggesting the book straight out of a "how to" book for writing epic fantasy for the teen audience. (I'm rephrasing and paraphrasing here.) The suggestion that YA can't and isn't as sophisticated as more adult oriented fantasy. (I dare the blogger, actually TRIPLE DOG DARE him to walk up to Tamora Pierce and say that.) The most annoying part about this is that his review was based on "skimming" not reading the book. Well, that's highly effective reviewing right there.
Why are people so afraid of young adult? Is it that they think it somehow distills "traditional" or "adult" literature? Is it because they fear that people are going to mock them or treat them differently for reading it? Is traditional or adult fantasy that much more acceptable than YA? Didn't Tor try re-packaging the Wheel of Time books as YA books in a blatant money grab a few years back? Didn't it backfire because most of their target audience was already buying the books?
I go back to something that Blake Charlton once blogged about and, what he called, the "crossunder" effect. Books like Wheel of Time, or Charlton's Spellwright, or Rothfuss's Kingkiller series or most D&D tie-in books be considered crossunders? Or would that be insulting the authors? Or is it more insulting to the readers?
I found this great list of the Top Ten Tropes in YA. Pay attention to #2. It brought out the comments (well, a few of them). Listen, ladies, I get that for 400 years, men have dominated the business of publishing. I get that the male perspective has been dominant for longer than yours, but that doesn't mean you have to be so angry about it or decide that there is no longer a place at the table for it anymore. Look, I'm a white, heterosexual man, so I'm pretty much EVERYONE'S villain right now (If I were a WASP, I'd definitely be EVERYONE'S villain!) and I have to word everything carefully right now because I don't want to appear sexist, misogynistic or anything like that. But as much as you don't want to hear it, the modern female protagonist has become something of a trope. It's hard to differentiate between Katniss and Katsa sometimes and I'm not just talking about their names. The basic framework is there with some tweaking based on the setting but other than that it's becoming the same character in every book. And being a trope is not necessarily a bad thing, either.
But what's wrong with a male protagonist? What's wrong with the idea of a "boy book?" But that's not the Pandora's Box I want to open right now. That's another entry.