Monday, July 14, 2008

Not as YA-y as I Seem

I wonder if I grew up while I wasn't looking. I don't have any huge problem with You Know Where to Find Me, by Rachel Cohn. I don't have any problem with it at all, really. It's just kind of bleak, which makes it not so much my book. It's definitely not a reluctant reader book, in that it is not at all action-packed, and is in fact very moody. It actually strikes me as pretty "literary," which of course is not a term I often use in a flattering sense.

I think it's just not my type of book. The main character is depressed and angry at the world, and as we all know (probably YA writers best of all), writing about someone who's suffering from chronic boredom, ennui, or aimlessness is very hard to do well. I don't think she does the job poorly, I just think that the protagonist, Miles, is too grouchy for me. She wants to do nothing, to shut the world off, and while I understand the impulse, I just want to shake her. Her existence seems so pointless--I suppose that would appeal to teens who feel that way, but it doesn't really appeal to me.

I feel like such a crank, complaining about all these books. I'm supposed to love this stuff, right? Of course, none of these are things I wouldn't stock in a library--this person exists and needs books about herself. It's interesting, I guess there are two ways for books to use the Developmental Assets--one is to demonstrate them in use, through the plot, and the other is to have a plot about them coming into a person's life. Miles is lonely, adrift, with no purpose, self-esteem, close ties to others, supportive environment, or anything really. I assume that by the time I finish this book, things will have changed. We'll see; an upbeat ending cures many ills, for me.

In other news, I want to GUSH about The People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, but I'll save it for another, non-class post. Suffice to say, though, that this was a wonderful, engaging, thrilling, heartbreaking book. I think the structure of the story really allowed her to do some of the surprising things she does in her other novels without my feeling that my involvement in the story has been upset the way I felt with her other novels. Really excellent.


Linda Braun said...

You aren't supposed to love these books. You are supposed to be able to understand why teens love or like these books. You do need to be open to the fact that teens might like books you don't. And you need to be willing to have those teen loved books in the collection - even if you aren't feeling the love.

BTW, this is a very different book for Rachel Cohn. You might try Gingerbread or Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist to get a very different sense of her writing, characters, etc.

LibraryHungry said...

I was very interested in Gingerbread when we talked about it in class. To be honest, I'm a little surprised this book is popular with teens--I can totally imagine them relating to it, but I did think it was pretty slow.

It's interesting, I feel like I have three categories of books: "I love it," "it's lousy," and "I really didn't like it but I can tell it's really good." This is oversimplifying, of course, but this categorization scheme is a concession I've made in life for reading like a maniac, having lots of writer friends, and being very impatient with a lot of "literary fiction."

I was very happy with the ending of You Know Where to Find Me. It made me feel better about the whole book. This happens to me a lot.