That time I outgrew YA

I started writing YA when I was well within the age range. But these past two years, I’ve been branching out into Game of Thrones and other not YA ilk. Outside reading, I’ve started involvement with human rights and the heavy issues that come with that.  As I creep ever further from the YA realm of 14-18, my perspective has changed a great deal.

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The storylines for my newer WIP’s started centering around different characters, darker themes. (But don’t worry, Haddie and Janir are safe.) I started toying with several ideas that cast young parents and widows in protagonist status—both generally considered no-no’s in YA. Truth be told, I feared I was growing out of my beloved genre.

Then not too long ago, I realized how much I missed certain things about YA. Young Adult characters, with scant exception, still believe the world can be changed for good, that there’s something worth fighting for. There’s a kind of innocence that’s rare in adult fiction and I had missed that so, so badly.

woman-1413054_960_720That was when I remembered the magic of YA, why it so successfully transcends age barriers. The thing is, we are all or have been young. We’ve all experienced or are experiencing some form of learning about the world, ourselves, and relationships. (Though people assure me that learning never really stops.) YA is so universal and successful for that very reason.

Loving and reading YA doesn’t mean you don’t dabble in other things. What’s more, YA itself covers a vast array of subgenres and issues. Whether you want to read something philosophical, sarcastic, humorous, contemporary, historical, speculative, surreal, or just about anything,  I guarantee the Young Adult section has it. There are very few limits on what it includes these days and the only consistent feature is protagonist age.

book-1149031_960_720Every so often, I want to read something about “grown-ups” screwing the world over, but I can still love YA. It stays there, like your high school best friend who still calls even after you both start grad school.

Truth is, I don’t think it’s possible to outgrow YA. That’s like saying you can outgrow ice cream.

Sex in YA books is ruining my generation: Part III

I’ve been called narrow minded for this series, but that’s what happens when you suggest *gasp* sex isn’t always a good idea. In truth, my saying we need less sex in YA has about as much to do with slut shaming as Starbucks’ treeless holiday cups have to do with persecuting Christians.

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So here we go…

I wasn’t going to write this third installment, but I feel like some things need clarification before we move on. For starters, I’m not big on telling people what to do with their lives. I’m really not. However, there is a big difference between saying the world doesn’t end if a young person decides to cross that line and blatantly enforcing the idea that teens need to undergo sexual discovery.

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For about 200-300 years, Western culture has embraced the idea of sexually repressing people, particularly women. This led to a lot of “you’re going to hell” and “good girls don’t want sex” crap. It resulted in a lot of puritanical ideals, especially in religious circles, because people really suck at this whole moderation thing.

Over the past century, we’ve started along the sexual/women’s liberation road, but it is just that—a road—and you can veer off either side. (Remember what I said about people sucking at moderation?) When I’m reading a NYT bestseller in the lower Young Adult genre with two 14-year-olds getting it on, I start to get worried.

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The dose makes the poison.

There’s a time and a place for everything. We’ve all heard that too much of anything is bad, but the thought bears repeating. As someone who read YA through high school, I can tell you that those books (with scant exception) definitely show that only weirdos and basement dwellers aren’t going all the way by the end of the book/series. YA is full of protagonists getting mocked for their sexual ignorance and the solution to this is inevitably sexual activity. Sex is no longer something people are just shown to want, it is something they had better want.

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In (hopefully) tidy conclusion:

I have known too many wonderful people who felt inferior for not being in relationships or stayed in bad ones and due to the idea of the quintessential significant other and sex life that our Western culture encourages. Yes, books make up a small part (unfortunately) of the media we young people are exposed to, but they remain a part of it nonetheless.

(Also, this is a book blog and it would be kind of dumb for me to start wailing at the music industry.)

Whatever the case, your sex life does not determine your self worth either way. But going back to the points I brought up in Part II, I have never met an adult who told me they wished they’d dated more in high school/college. Not one.

Part I

Part II

Sex in YA books is ruining my generation: Part II

Last week we talked about all the sex in YA and how I think it’s horrible and all that. Now let’s talk about why.

Nobody seems to bring this up…

Regardless of whether or not high school students should be having sex, whether or not people should embrace/explore their sexuality or what have you, no Young Adult book I’ve read accurately portrays how much young people give up for these early relationships. Boys and girls both.

Even when there wasn’t sex involved, I cannot tell you how many people I have watched sacrifice and compromise their own dreams for the sake of a boy/girlfriend. So many times, I have wanted to scream “he/she’s not worth it!” when people I cared about quit the sport they loved, ended friendships, turned down the chance to get paid to travel, or changed their college plans for the sake of the (invariably ungrateful) person they were dating. 

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It has never once turned out well and those I’ve talked to have always ended up regretting those lost opportunities. Not even sex in the cases where it applied, just what it caused them to miss.

The unpopular opinion that might get me strung up.

We need better story lines in YA than this “cure the virgins” fad. Yes, yes, it’s true that sex is considered a part of the “coming of age” story that YA often follows and I know sex sells, but it wouldn’t kill anyone to write with more restraint, for lack of a better word. The target audience of YA are mostly still forming our opinions and beliefs about the world. We often don’t even know who we are until college or later and the things we read, watch, and hear influence us sometimes more than we realize.

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Books, like any other form of art, shape tour perspective and too many YA books today are shaping my generation’s perspective on sex into something ugly. It’s not about shaming those who have had sex or choose to write about it, let me make that clear. The point is that publishing, like Hollywood and the music industry, are telling us that sex is free of consequences and fun and everyone should be doing it. Also, everyone wants to do it and if you don’t you are either lying or haven’t found the right partner.

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But it’s okay to not have sex and there’s a hell of a lot more to it than I’ve seen in the media. YA authors need to stop and do a bit more research. Screwing around, especially during that phase, can quite easily ruin your life, especially if you let it divert you from what you should be focused on. People in the YA age range have a lot of things to learn and discover and romance is just one tiny piece of that huge puzzle. There’s your morality, what is important to you, what work makes you passionate, figuring out what you want to pursue in college, if you even want to go to college…LOTS OF THINGS BESIDES SEX, OKAY?

And then there are the stories about how the protagonist realizes that relationships aren’t all that necessary at his/her lifestage and moves on. But seriously, I can think of a grand total of ONE book where they didn’t have to have sex before the protagonist figured it out.

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Apparently, writers and publishers think young adults just aren’t smart enough to recognize trouble before screwing it.

To be continued in Part III.

Part I

Rise (Order of the Krigers, #1) by Jennifer Anne Davis

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00011]The people of Nelebek live in fear of persecution from the evil Morlet, who reigns with a dark and destructive magic. The kingdom’s only hope lies with the Order of the Krigers—twelve warriors with mysterious powers linked to magical weapons.

For over a century, Morlet has been annihilating the Order, picking them off one by one. Eleven Krigers have been hunted down, tortured, and imprisoned in his dungeon. Now, only one remains.

Sixteen-year-old Kaia survives by keeping her head down and minding her own business. But when she finds herself in the middle of a public execution where the mysterious Morlet is in attendance, an odd compulsion she can’t resist comes over her.

Kaia looks into Morlet’s eyes.

Soon, an ancient power awakens and Kaia can no more blend into the scenery. Will she heed the call of the Krigers or will Morlet’s dark magic destroy the last of the Order?

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

3.5 out of 5 stars

Honest review, right? Okay. This is going to hurt me a lot more than you, but okay.

I love this author, truly, and her debut novel was knock-your-socks-off awesomesauce, but I just felt like this piece didn’t have that level of nuance. I’ve come to expect a great deal more because I know she’s capable of incredible pieces and with another round of revision I think this could have been a fantastic book, but I’ve got to evaluate it as-is. (It’s like 4-H horse judging all over again.)

The plot:

There was an intriguing premise here, but a few things that seemed a little contrived. At the very beginning, it seemed odd that Kaia just so happens to be the one sent to meet Anders who just so happens to pick the (very public) square as a meeting place as Morlet just so happens to be at an execution. All of that could have been smoothed out with just a few tweaks, but…oh, well. It was mostly little things like that building up that demoted this book from 5 stars.

Actually, most of the dings against this story came from the plot. In certain places, some characters seemed to behave out of character and coincidences occurred. There were times it almost seemed the story was bending over backwards in order to make sense.

The characters:

It’s hard to get a bead on Kaia’s character, but she’s having trouble understanding herself. She’s basically lived in a box her whole life, she doesn’t really know who or what she is. I did like that she’s gutsy and smart despite being a bit sheltered. I most loved the balance of her character and the conflict of who to trust—and how it made sense that she doubted the “good” guys. In many cases, the heroine/hero will mistrust the people who are trying to help them and you know they’re messing up, but in her case, I wasn’t quite sure. The thing I most hated about her was that she didn’t knee Vidar in his particulars, but I have my hopes up for the next book.

The subplot with aforementioned Vidar rankled me a lot little. It wasn’t just that I ship her with Anders (and shut up, I know everyone who read this book is on my side), but the way the Vidar subplot was handled made me uncomfortable. There were some kind of rape-y comments in there with the “that is what I will do” and “must” and he was really a jerk with regard to the whole thing. Then he SPOILER brings her father in on it in an effort to force her into marrying him (rat bastard) and Kaia’s father agrees because apparently the girl needs someone to take care of her even though he’s raised her to be strong and independent and every woman requires man to survive and that made me SO MAD ALL AROUND. SPOILER OVER.

*Envision a deep breath here*

Anyway, I didn’t count off for that, just for the perceived inconsistency with regard to her father’s character.

And yes, I loved Anders because he’s spooky and mysterious and an assassin and I’m into those right now. Still, I think my favorite character was Morlet.

Morlet seems pretty cut-and-paste fantasy villain from the blurb up there, but we don’t really have any idea what the hell is going on with him by the end. I feel like there’s almost two personas meshed together in that head of his, fighting over what’s going to happen. He was complicated and unpredictable, but never came across as irrational. He is a puzzle and I admit I’m incredibly intrigued.

One thing I truly appreciated was the little quirks that gave the story originality. There was the French-based world building (as opposed to the traditional medieval English fantasy world), the variety of weaponry, and the terminology were wonderfully fresh. It was little hints like this that reminded me of the author’s creative capability and made it all the most frustrating that this piece wasn’t as well composed as some of her other works.

In short, it could have been much better, but I still plan to read the sequels and this has not in any way dissuaded me from my obsession with the author’s work.

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Sex in YA books is ruining my generation: Part I

Okay, okay, so that’s a melodramatic title, but hear me out.

The genre of Young Adult is divided into two subgroups with lower YA falling in the 13-15 age range and upper YA aiming for the 16-18 zone. Many sources may have slightly different parameters or definitions, but that is the gist.

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It’s not that we can’t handle sex talk.

Before we go any further, I want to say yes, it’s true young people are capable of handling a lot more than their parents and teachers generally give them credit for. Even in my  early teens, I could follow and carry on conversations with my father’s friends which ranged from local politics to international business.My brother was no different and I have many friends who have handled huge levels of responsibility and maturity from a young age.

That being said, I do not think people in the 14-18 age range are incapable of making mature and responsible decisions. However, I frequently find the attitude toward sex in YA novels disturbing. Lately, I’ve started to wonder if most YA authors are just YA authors because they wanted to write about girls losing their virginity.

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There’s the first trope from Satan…

Girl has perfect sex with the school’s conveniently hot bad boy who has always been a jerk to every girl before her, but totally changes because she “silences his demons” and blah, blah, blah. 

Scenario No. 1 has a laundry list of things wrong with it. There’s the unrealistic expectations and the idea that you should go into a relationship hoping to change someone (and said idea should die a slow, painful death). Not to mention I’ve yet to encounter a bad boy love interest who wasn’t borderline or outright abusive.

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Abuse in all it’s forms has been normalized by the Romance genre for so long (remember when Romance heroines would be raped by the heroes so that it would be socially acceptable for them to have sex?) and we certainly don’t need that scum in the YA section.

…and the second trope from Satan.

Girl has awkward, disillusioning sex with a guy who turns out to be an ass, but on the rebound discovers that casual sex is awesome so long as they use protection and her partner is hot.

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First of all, I don’t really understand how casual sex can be healthy (go read a medical textbook) or safe (go watch Criminal Minds) for anyone, but we’re focusing on the YA genre here. Scenario No. 2 is most disgusting because it encourages the idea that everyone is having sex and if you don’t, you’re weird, sheltered, immature, prudish, puritanical, or whatever the enlightened (aka sexually active) people are calling it these days.

But clearly this is all acceptable because it’s completely realistic. I mean, who gets to college age without having sex? In this century? No, everyone has definitely done “the do” before they’re old enough to vote and it’s imperative that we cure all the virgins as quickly as possible because society might crumble and anarchy ensue if we don’t.

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To be continued.

 

Review: Cage of Deceit (Reign of Secrets, #1) by Jennifer Anne Davis @AuthorJennifer

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Jennifer Anne Davis’s best-selling True Reign series captivated readers from the very first page. Now, get ready to become entangled in the follow-up series, Reign of Secrets. In this new series, follow Allyssa, the daughter of the beloved Emperor Darmik and Empress Rema— and find out what happens after happily ever after.

Seventeen-year-old Allyssa appears to be the ideal princess of Emperion—she’s beautiful, elegant, and refined. She spends her days locked in a suffocating cage, otherwise known as royal court. But at night, Allyssa uses her secret persona—that of a vigilante—to hunt down criminals and help her people firsthand.

Unfortunately, her nightly escapades will have to wait because the citizens of Emperion may need saving from something much bigger than common criminals. War is encroaching on their country and in order to protect her people, Allyssa may have to sacrifice her heart. Forced to entertain an alliance through marriage with a handsome prince from a neighboring kingdom, she finds herself feeling even more stifled than before. To make matters worse, the prince has stuck his nosy squire, Jarvik, to watch her every move.

Jarvik is infuriating, bossy and unfortunately, the only person she can turn to when she unveils a heinous plot. Together, the unlikely pair will have to work together to stop an enemy that everyone thought was long gone, one with the power to destroy her family and the people of Emperion. Now the cage Allyssa so longed to break free from might just be the one thing she has to fight to keep intact. In order to save her kingdom, she will have to sacrifice her freedom, her heart, and maybe even her life.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of  5 stars

I was a huge fan of the previous companion series to this, True Reign, and that made me twice as nervous to pick this up. I was more than a little scared this wouldn’t live up to the huge precedent set by the first series and so I put it off for months. The last book in the previous trilogy didn’t quite live up to the sheer awesome of the first two, which made it even worse.

Then finally, I picked this up one evening, thinking I’d just read “a few chapters” and call it a night. That endeavor ended at 12:38 a.m. with a cliffhanger, a finished book, and a revitalized fangirl. THE AWESOME IS STRONG WITH THIS ONE.

The plot:

One of my favorite things about Davis’ plots is how they slip away. You get so caught up in what’s happening that suddenly it’s been two hundred pages and you didn’t even notice. They move quickly and don’t waste time, which is an underrated quality, particularly in fantasy books.

There was also a bit of the “aw” romance I adored so much in the first trilogy and I certainly did not mind that. <3

The characters:

I wasn’t sure about Allyssa at first. I knew it was either going to be hit or miss with her—no middle ground was possible. The author managed to make her have certain similarities to her mother, but at the same time, she’s clearly her own person. I came to admire and adore her and it’s impossible not to root for her. She was definitely a hit.

Rema and Darmik made me go “come on, guys” more than once, but the whole arranged marriage thing didn’t make me hate them as much as I thought it would. After reading the first trilogy, it felt a little hypocritical of them, but the book makes you understand. I still love them just as I love Allyssa with her prince and I NEED THE NEXT BOOK.

I also want to see more of my old buddy Nathanek. The author has promised to bring him back with an apprentice who will play and important role and that’s just another reason I need book 2.

The world of Emperion is back with a vengeance and I love it!

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Review: The White (The Dragon Pearl, #1) by T.L. Shreffler @catseyeauthor

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Ever since The White appeared in our valley of Windridge, my people have lived in fear. But today that fear ends. Finally, the King has sent his most elite dragon hunters to kill The White, the last of the imperial dragons.

Since the death of her father, Sienna Foxburn hasn’t felt safe. The White, a fire-breathing imperial dragon, terrorizes the Valley of Windridge with no end in sight. But Sienna isn’t satisfied hiding behind the walls of her keep. She is tired of fearing the dragon, but she can’t fight it alone.

Then a mysterious sorceress and two elite dragon hunters arrive, claiming to be sent by the King. Thus begins the great hunt for The White. Sienna embarks on a dragon-hunting adventure through the exotic Valley of Windridge, all while uncovering secrets and conspiracies that could endanger the entire Kingdom….

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars
In case the five or so glowy reviews before this had escaped your notice, I am a huge fan of Shreffler’s work. Her other series, The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, has a coveted seat upon my Shelf of Awesome and when I heard she was working on a book with DRAGONS I went a little spastic. This story manages a huge amount of world building, character building, and emotion in a very short space, something that impressed me greatly even with having read her other pieces. It is a fantastic story, even if it did end in a cliffhanger, and I am very much looking forward to watching the series unfold.

The plot:
Everything happens pretty quickly here, which was a nice change for me after a steady diet of epics lately. The plot progresses with only enough world building and description that is necessary (huge plus). My only question issue with this story was Sienna’s empathy toward the dragons. It’s explained, but I wanted to see just a little more expansion of the thought and feeling processes she went through before getting to that point. However, that was my one and only—I wouldn’t even call it a complaint. More like a side note.

It is mentioned somewhere that this has romantic elements, but I would say the focus here was definitely more on the dragons. (And if you have a problem with that, go away.) The general feelings of the populace toward dragons were displayed and justified well in the beginning, but I still found myself sympathizing with the dragons more than the people (which was probably Shreffler’s scheme).

The characters:
This doesn’t happen especially often, but the heroine was my favorite character. In the beginning, Sienna is going through that whole awkward “on the threshold of adulthood but has no focus” stage that I think most of us go through. That won her huge doses of empathy and she was relatable and human to me, unlike a lot of fantasy heroines that have been cropping up.

Darius, the dragon hunter, has that whole aura of mystery and awesome about him and I have lots of questions about his character. What did he do that got him made a dragon hunter? Who was he before? Like I said, lots of questions for sequels!

Mistress Ash is probably the other main character and also the villain. Everything about her creeped me out from the moment she turned up and it became clear pretty quickly that I was right about here. She was an excellent villain to this story, written to make you hate her and as far as I was concerned, she could join the chopping block queue with Cerastes and Volcrian (references to The Cat’s Eye Chronicles).

The other characters, mainly those from Sienna’s home castle, reacted in understandable ways, but…no, I’m not going to be rooting for them any time soon. On the other hand, I thought they were remarkably developed for such a short span of page time and even Sienna’s mother was portrayed as having sympathetic qualities.

All in all, this was a well-written YA fantasy I would shove in the faces of anyone who likes dragon literature. I enjoyed it greatly, it has been a delight to read, and I am anxiously anticipating the next installment in the series!

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