Sunday, June 07, 2009

Five Speed Literary Transmission

I'm blasting through a bunch of YA books lately--already finished 4 this month--but I think I'm hitting a wall, especially regarding the mediocre ones. Good YA is always good, but okay YA is fine when you're a kid, but hard to swallow when you're an adult. When you find yourself snarking at a book for being overly simplistic, you need to pick up something that doesn't have a reading level, something with some heft.

Example: What I Saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell. I picked it up randomly, it had gotten good reviews and won an award. And it started out as a nice period piece, a coming of age after WWII story. But it was clearly supposed to be some sort of mystery or thriller, and I got over halfway through and couldn't figure out what it was about. Now, the coming of age stuff was pretty good, I suppose, but I got so frustrated I put it down and gave up. And then I read some more good reviews and picked it back up. And pretty quickly (that is, just past the halfway point), things started to happen and it ended up being a thoughtful and interesting book about how good and bad have a lot of shades of gray. But it hardly seemed worth it to me--wading through something so lacking in nuance for all that.

I already talked about Just Ella and my problem with princesses. Normally I don't think I'd be as ready to throw that book at a wall. I'm thinking of just returning it, but it's such a fast read and I'm already a third of the way through and I think it could be good if the moral didn't seem to be "rich people are vapid--only trust the peasants." Blasted Red Commies.

3 Willows, which Ann Brashares is trying to convince me is the Sisterhood "growing" when I'm pretty sure it's just three more girls who are friends. I mean, I loved the travelling pants. But I don't trust her to make this anything but "middle school girls are growing up and getting bras and that's haaaard." Why am I being so dismissive? I just read a Judy Blume book, and that's all she writes about. And I like those books.

I need meat. I need The Nine, by Gregory Toobin, about the Supreme Court--not a novel, nonfiction. Or American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld, which is a novelization of the life of Laura Bush, and doesn't that sound like a sad story. Something dense and mature and full of dry history or sex or...well, just adulthood. Something full of adulthood.

Here I go.

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