Seriously, what’s with first person narrative in Young Adult fiction? In the eleven books I sampled this week, eight were written in first person. And while I often enjoy it as much as a third person or omniscient narrative, it does get boring to read it over and over again. I guess it’s because the reader supposedly identifies more with a first person narrative, but after a while all the voices blend into an insipid “me, me me” from a bunch of self-absorbed teenagers.
Fortunately within all that whining, there are some great voices available. This week I added another two books to my Buy Now! list (as well as Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic). At this rate, reading a book every two weeks on average, I’m going to have books to last me through 2011 before I even get to February.
Not that I’m complaining, of course. An excess of good reading is never a bad thing.
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready: I follow Smith-Ready on Twitter and find her tweets fun, so I was intrigued to sample her debut YA (but not her first ever published) novel. The main character talks to us in first person and she’s a sarcastic teen with an attitude problem, but she doesn’t annoy me. Given her situation (born just after a Shift happened that caused all newborns to be able to speak to the wrongfully dead), I’d be pretty bitter and sarcastic too. The character does feel older than the 16 years she’s supposed to have, but having grown up on a diet of murder and gore, it’s not surprising. I’m looking forward to seeing where Smith-Ready takes me.
The Cup of The World by John Dickinson: The story starts with a girl tagging along after her peers to spy on a witch trial. She worries a lot about being caught and notices a lot of physical details around her. There’s nothing wrong with this opening, but neither does it excite me. Next!
Matched by Ally Condie: A girl in some post-apocalytic world is on the way to meet her predestined match. You think that this would interest me given that the novel I’ve just started submitting is about predestined love matches, but I got bored while the main character and her best friend talked about the upcoming ceremony while driving to the event. And boredom without doubt means it gets a Next!
Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings by Helene Boudreau: First person teenaged girl with a dead mother and an awkward father. The dead parent trope has to be used with skill or the reader just won’t care enough. And in this case I couldn’t care at all. Next!
Ghost Town by Richard W. Jennings: The first sentence contains the name Chief Leopard Frog in a piece of dialogue, then drops into backstory. Patricia C. Wrede has a great article up on her blog about openings and “hooking” the reader then losing them right after. This opening, for me, offers a great example what of what Wrede talks about. As a lesson, perfect. As a possible purchase, nope. Next!
The Great Blue Yonder by Alex Shearer: Dead kid complaining about how dead kids get no respect. I don’t like complainers, dead or alive. Next!
Revealers by Kamil Vojnar & Amanda Marrone: Another whiny teenage girl complaining about her life. And yet it doesn’t feel like complaining. The world that the authors have created intrigues me enough to continue, despite the whining. It reminded me of two of my favourite escapist teen movies: Heathers and The Craft, giving the book bonus points by association and putting it on my Buy Now list.
The Naming by Alison Croggon: The book starts with a physical description of a place and a confused sense of point of view. Is it omniscient? Distant third person? External narrator? When I’m asking questions like that right at the beginning, that’s not a good sign. Next!
Dr Franklin’s Island by Ann Halam: The title suggests a cross between Frankenstein and The Island of Dr Moreau. The opening shows a bunch of kids on their way to an island to learn all about science. Things are all too obviously going to horribly wrong when they get there. I never hung out in big groups of teenagers when I was one, and I’m not about to start now. Next!
Another Pan by Daniel & Dina Nayeri: The second setence mentions vampires and while I tend to enjoy books about the god Pan (I’m assuming given the title) I’m not into vampires, plus the book starts with description-heavy prelude. Two strikes against it. Given my growing book queue, I’m not going to stick around for the third strike. Next!
Edward Beaton and the Star in the Glass by Caroline Raine & Caroline Esterhuizen: An orphanage, a small-for-his age kid and the need for a good edit (on the first page the authors use the word found in two different ways in the same sentence). Plus on the Amazon website the book cover was a different size than all the rest, telling me that the authors of this self-published effort (not a bad thing in itself) didn’t research standard formats before uploading their book. And as fellow writer Margaret Fisk says, appearances do matter. Next!
Lots of books this week and while the majority of them aren’t for me, I did find two strong maybes which makes me a very happy Kindle reader.