I just finished Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. It took, most improbably, four months to read 332 pages of the most asinine insipid drivel known to the teenage audience today. (Those in the know realize this book should have taken three hours, tops, to jet through.) It was only slightly more tedious than her non-YA novel, Succubus Blues, the reading of which took several weeks and much groaning. Note, of course, that I bought these two books after seeing her speak at a conference this summer. I like Richelle Mead. She's smart, sassy, fun. Her books suck.
Here are my off-the-cuff, way-too-early-in-the-Monday-morning reasons:
1. Neither plot nor character driven, I haven't figured out what precisely launches the books forward. Oh, that's right. Nothing does.
2. Bland dialogue, pointless time filler-uppers, with random "bad" language to make them edgy. Note to self: inserting random cursing and allusions to sex does not make one's books edgy. Christopher Pike did all that decades ago, making it all "feel" naturally high school-esque. (When I can't find a book for one of my male students to read, I hand him a Pike book.)
3. FTW attitudes interlaced with moralistic over-the-top "dilemmas." (oooh...i feel so bad about disabling the evil psi-dogs who were going to kill me. *sigh* i guess this is my fate since i am an uber-bad guardian of this sweet little innocent vampire who may turn evil herself at any moment...in the future. See? I can foreshadow!)
The disturbing part is this: these books have earned "great reviews." By whom, I wonder. It seems the publishing world is a bit incestuous, pumping up books with little redeeming value for a little quid pro quo. And for what? Oops, am I that naive? After all, I spent $8.99 on Vampire Academy. I'm a little ill.
So, then, why don't more of today's youth read? It's simple, really. What is there for them to read? Honestly? I gobbled up Eoin Colfer like he was going out of style (is he?!), but what else is out there? I enjoyed Airborn by Kenneth Oppel and Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines. My female students are inhaling Ellen Hopkins' books (to the point I can't check one out), and are, of course, also reading Stephanie Meyer. I've noticed several of my male students carrying around Anthony Horowitz, whom I haven't yet read but fully intend to explore. Anyone with a character named Alex Rider can't be all bad! Cornelia Funke is storming the YA adult market with her Inkheart books (which are much better than her children's book Dragon Rider, I've heard). But what else is out there?
This all reminded me of Pacheco's post on YA literature and 13-year old Max Leone's article on the great dearth of good teen lit. (They are both worth re-visiting or reading for the first time, if you haven't read them already.) This is precisely why -- all those years ago, as a child, myself -- I decided to try my hand at writing. I was tired of the awesome plot ideas with less-than-stellar writing and ridiculous endings. I was bored of the great writing and empty plot lines. I was bemoaning the fact that there are fewer "good" books than there are of the rest. So Anthony? I may just take the pledge with you. We need more YA authors committed to "great characters, humor, and action." Who's with us? And, more importantly, what are you reading these days?