YA

Give Kids Good Books And They’ll Love Reading Forever

8 October 2019

From The Huffington Post:

Is it weird that I’m almost 30 and my favorite books are kid’s books?

The first book I read this year was Renee Watson’s 2018 children’s novel “Piecing Me Together.” I picked it up thanks to its beautiful cover and relatively short chapters. But those brief sections of text held a complex story about a young Black girl trying to navigate identity, privilege and history in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, that my adult self found wholly relatable.

Sales of children’s books and young adult, or YA, fiction have boomed in recent years, especially for books that tackle mature subject matter, from gender and sexuality in Alex Gino’s “George,” to the movement for Black lives as featured in Angie Thomas’ “The Hate U Give.” In Jenny Han’s 2014 book “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,” kids can learn lessons about love and friendship in the 21st century; in R.J. Palacio’s 2012 book “Wonder,” they can develop language around chronic illness and acceptance; through Tiffany Jackson’s “Monday’s Not Coming,” they can get a better grasp on headline-making stories, such as that of the missing Black and brown girls in Washington, D.C.

. . . .

Some of the most popular books currently on bookstands are intended for younger readers. There are so many graphic novels, chapter books, picture books and poetry collections written just for kids, all of which teach them important lessons on life that grown-ups will get a kick out of too. While at 28 years old, I’m devouring these titles, sadly the intended audience is barely nibbling on the rich literature available to them.

. . . .

A love of reading and storytelling sets kids up for socioeconomic success as they grow through life. But if the numbers are to be believed, as kids advance in age, they tend to fall out of love with reading. And who can blame them, really, when what they’re told to read becomes increasingly dense and outdated as they make their way through school? Common Core standards have long been criticized for taking the fun out of English class, as students are given nonfiction and articles to read since that’s the type of content they’ll encounter in college. Just before this school year began, Florida’s Department of Education unveiled their student reading list for Kindergarten through 12th grade. With few exceptions, most of the books on the list were published between 1800 and 1950 and featured mostly white characters penned by mostly white male authors.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

For the record, PG does not agree with the premise that correlating the race and gender of an author with those of a reader is the key to permitting a child or teenager with a book.

PG will note that JK Rowling certainly knew/knows how to connect with boys with her books. Nicholas Sparks seems to know how to connect with female readers.

See also Fox in the Hen House? Romance Authors You Didn’t Know Are Men and Meet the Male Writers Who Hide Their Gender to Attract Female Readers.

See also The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, featuring testosterone-poisoned Howard Roark, and Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, who, if PG remembers correctly, was 18 years old when she started writing the book, which many would have considered completely unsuitable for a young woman in her time.

A Different Look at YA Novels

26 August 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

I don’t celebrate my Indian culture. I never have. I don’t know how to, because I was raised around ​it, not ​in it. Growing up, it was as if I was front and center in a dark theater watching my Indian relatives and family friends on the big screen like a Bollywood film. I didn’t ​feel Indian. Instead, I felt worthless.

Behind closed doors, my family’s way of life, our secret culture, was that of isolation, conflict, and abuse—a culture of dysfunction. My family’s culture of dysfunction was the lens through which I saw everything Indian. There wasn’t a single day of my youth that I experienced my Indian-ness independent of the culture of dysfunction, therefore the two became inextricably linked for me and transformed into a strange blend of otherness and pain.

I’m not alone. Many of the diverse teens I treat live in unique versions of cultures of dysfunction—innumerable combinations of abuse, neglect, parental drug use, parental mental illness, and/or other severe adverse childhood experiences. These teens become trapped in negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, a result of the medically proven brain changes that can result from trauma of all types. In addition, alienation from and repulsion by their birth culture(s) can become ingrained because they’re raised in cultures of dysfunction.

As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I can tell you it’s difficult, sometimes impossible, for these teens to move past their traumatic struggles when their brains are hardwired by it. They can become stuck in a survivor mode of poor decision making as a culture of dysfunction becomes the blueprint for future relationships, leaving them prone to an endless cycle of repeating and recreating with others what they’ve endured at home.

. . . .

This brings me to YA fiction. Some of my diverse teen patients enduring cultures of dysfunction find solace and temporary escape in YA fantasy, dystopia, or paranormal books. There are some, however, who seek to find themselves in diverse, realistic YA. But they usually can’t because, currently, most of it celebrates different cultures. Most of it includes at least one functional parent or family member who protects against the occurrence of a culture of dysfunction and thus makes it possible for the birth culture(s) to be appreciated, a tremendous advantage when it comes to rising above adversity.

When I was a teen, I couldn’t find any Indian or Indian-American YA novels. Thankfully there are some now, but the thing is, I can’t relate to any of them besides the ones I’ve written. More importantly, enough teens living in the complex dynamics of a culture of dysfunction have told me that they can’t see themselves in diverse YA fiction, including realistic bestsellers, that happen to be by or about people of their same background.

. . . .

YA fiction needs to expand its boundaries beyond safe, popular stories that only affirm and praise different cultures. It needs to push past the expectation that all diverse teens can conquer adversity in a tolerable way. It needs to depict the ugliness of when a culture of dysfunction hijacks birth culture.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly


A Point of View on ‘Point of View’

2 May 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

When I’m prepping for a sales call we pull all the ARCs for that list and set them up in piles like mini skyscrapers. I start at the roof and have a look through each floor of the continually shrinking building until we are back down to the foundation which, in an inspired architectural stroke, was crafted to resemble a wooden stool.

I was going through the Random House fall piles last week when a book in the pile brought me up short, Point of View by Patrick Bard. The tagline was “Addicted to Porn. Powerless to Stop. Until…”  My first thought was, “Wow, that was bold.” My second thought was twofold. Could I put this out in the store without incident? (We’ll return to that shortly.) Would school libraries bring it in? My third thought was “Is it good?” Which is the nub of the matter.

A local high school librarian I queried addressed  that point succinctly. “In the end it will be all about whether or not it is done well. I probably wouldn’t buy it for our library, mostly because I don’t think kids would choose it. They would assume if we had that book at school it must be a morality tale and not realistic, plus there’s the embarrassment factor of even having it around teachers and peers. I’m always hesitant of the “first of its kind” book on any trending issue because it seems like publishers usually have to make a few mistakes before they get it right. On that topic you would have to walk a very fine line between realistic (but not sensational) and helpful (but not scolding).”

Other librarians I spoke with had the same reaction. This was a topic that would require threading the needle. It had to be done well. I read Point of View and found that the book is exactly the book my school partners thought it had to be. It is well written, not preachy, realistic without being gratuitous, grounded and not sensational, well researched, compact and compelling. The author, Patrick Bard, is a well established, award-winning French author who has never been translated into English before.

. . . .

The story follows Lucas, a young teen, who is searching for a superhero video clip online, hits a porn link, and falls down the rabbit hole. When his virus-ridden laptop is given over for repair, Lucas is exposed. The story explores the perspectives of Lucas’s parents as well, in a tough, unsentimental manner. With all his devices taken away, his physical health in the toilet, and while being driven to a clinic, Lucas literally jumps out of a speeding car. He enters the clinic recovering from injuries of many kinds.

Bard researched his story extensively, talking to teenagers and teachers, clinicians, anthropologists, and psychologists. In his author’s note Bard states, “Lucas is the hero of Point of View. On the outside, he seems like an average teenage geek. At least that’s what his parents believe him to be. But once his outline addiction to porn is revealed, his virtual world crumbles, and so does he. He’s got a long, hard journey to being a whole person again. As I wrote this book, I did not want to make judgments. I have not judged Lucas. I have not judged his parents. I have not judged any of the characters. I merely want readers to have empathy for Lucas and be aware that help and recovery are possible.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

In Y.A., Where Is the Line Between Criticism and Cancel Culture?

24 March 2019

From The New Yorker:

Late last month, the author Kosoko Jackson withdrew the publication of his début young-adult novel, “A Place for Wolves,” which had been slated for a March 26th release. The book, which follows two American boys as they fall in love against the backdrop of the Kosovo War, had garnered advance praise(“a tension-filled war setting, beautiful young love, family strength and all heart,” one blurb enthused). It also had the imprimatur of the #ownvoices hashtag, in which the main characters of a book share a marginalized identity with the writer—Jackson is black and queer. But a disparaging Goodreads review, which took issue with Jackson’s treatment of the war and his portrayal of Muslims, had a snowball effect, particularly on Twitter. Eventually, Jackson tweeted a letter of apology to “the Book Community,” stating, “I failed to fully understand the people and the conflict that I set around my characters. I have done a disservice to the history and to the people who suffered.”

The Jackson fracas came just weeks after another début Y.A. author, Amélie Wen Zhao, pulled her novel before it was published, also due to excoriating criticisms of it on Twitter and Goodreads. The book, a fantasy tale called “Blood Heir,” depicts an empire that enslaves magical minorities, known as Affinites, and where “oppression is blind to skin color,” as the promotional material phrased it. Critics felt that Zhao’s slavery narrative had erased a specifically African-American experience, and they objected to a scene in which an apparently black slave girl dies in an apparently white character’s arms, in an act of self-sacrifice. Zhao, who emigrated from China when she was eighteen, said that her book drew on “the epidemic of indentured labor and human trafficking prevalent in many industries across Asia, including in my own home country.”

Like Jackson, Zhao tweeted an apology to “the Book Community,” writing, “It was never my intention to bring harm to any reader of this valued community, particularly those for whom I seek to write and empower. As such, I have decided to ask my publisher not to publish ‘Blood Heir’ at this time.”

. . . .

Even casual observers of Y.A. controversies might have seen the Jackson and Zhao incidents, coming so close together, as an acceleration of an already established trend. In 2017, Keira Drake pushed back the release date of her début, “The Continent,” when a groundswell of Twitter critics accused the book of racism. That same year, Laurie Forest’s Y.A. fantasy début, “The Black Witch,” likewise became the object of intense scrutiny, weeks ahead of its publication, after detractors slammed it as a white-savior tale. The writer Kat Rosenfield’s New York magazine piece “The Toxic Drama of YA Twitter,” which centered on the “Black Witch” outcry, revealed that many of Forest’s fiercest critics had not read her novel, and others conflated the perspectives of racist characters with that of the author herself. (The review that set off the cancel campaign against “The Black Witch,” by the blogger and bookseller Shauna Sinyard, “consisted largely of pull quotes featuring the book’s racist characters saying or doing racist things,” Rosenfield wrote.)

. . . .

The Y.A. world is often credibly depicted as a censorious, woker-than-thou hothouse, and never more vividly than in Rosenfield’s piece; the article has become a Rosetta stone for anyone seeking purchase on Y.A.’s callout-and-cancel culture. The community gadfly and bête noire Jesse Singal’s recap of the Zhao controversy in Tablet carried the headline “How a Twitter Mob Derailed an Immigrant Female Author’s Budding Career.” “From the outside, this is starting to look like a conversation focused less on literature than obedience,” Graham wrote in Slate. The Times commissioned two first-person essays, one by Drake, on the “shameful stain” of these eruptions and the “tyrannical coddling of overly sensitive readers.”

“What happened to Jackson is frightening,” the author Jennifer Senior wrote, also in the Times. “Purity tests are the tools of fanatics, and the quest for purity ultimately becomes indistinguishable from the quest for power.” “A Place for Wolves,” Senior continued, “should have failed or succeeded in the marketplace of ideas. But it was never given the chance. The mob got to it first.”

. . . .

A major contributor to blowups like those around Zhao and Jackson, according to many observers I spoke with, is the homogeneity of the publishing world, which remains, on the editorial side, eighty-two per cent white and less than two per cent black, according to a 2015 survey by Lee & Low Books. People of color face economic and racial barriers to breaking into the industry: entry-level positions in editing or literary agenting, which are mostly situated in New York City, offer barely sustainable wages that favor those with existing support systems and family wealth. The result is that the people who are most qualified to weigh in on a text’s treatment of marginalized identities are often the least likely to do so.

. . . .

The marketing manager is concerned, she said, that a skittish industry will turn its back on literature by or about minorities, deeming such projects too dangerous to sign. “I could see a world where the people in power start to become afraid that acquiring diversely means they are more at risk,” she wrote. The editor sounded a similar note. “I worry that my colleagues are just shying away completely from publishing anything that might attract controversy or negative attention,” she said. “We don’t want to censor authors, to only publish from a place of fear and reaction.”

. . . .

[T]he loudest kid-lit agitators . . . view their critiques as constructive, not destructive. When Zhao apologized and withdrew her book, Y.A. stakeholders largely greeted her words with support and encouragement, seeing them as the result of being “called in”—reminded of one’s values as a community member—rather than “called out.” “This is a beautiful apology,” the author Ellen Oh, who had used Twitter to challenge “Blood Heir” ’s “colorblindedness” and “lack of awareness,” tweeted. Oh and another author, L. L. McKinney, are often cited as the ringleaders of the online pushback against “Blood Heir,” but, as the reviewer Gin Jenny pointed out, neither of them “were calling for the book to be pulled. . . . They both flagged problems; that’s all they did.” In a post, the blogger recapped the Zhao drama: “From my perspective, this was a successful interaction!” she wrote. “Some people identified problems in a book that had not yet been published. Not wanting to publish the book with those heretofore unnoticed problems, the author has opted to delay publication. But the coverage of the incident has been very ‘gasp! Censorship!’ ” (After the controversy went viral, Oh, facing a flood of harassment, deleted her Twitter account—her perceived excesses, and those of McKinney, met a swift and brutal backlash, which itself reveals something about the underlying power dynamics of these tempests.)

. . . .

At a recent pen America panel on “callouts, correctness, and culture wars,” the former New York Review of Books editor Ian Buruma seemed to suggest that marginalized people’s desire for authentic representation had a propagandistic edge. Sensitivity readers, he said, forced authors to create ennobled images—to describe an idealized world, not a real one. But the task of a sensitivity reader, properly understood, is to evaluate whether a given portrayal rings true or false, the Y.A. editor said. Depicting a character accurately and resonantly is literary work, a matter of craft. Too often, she continued, publishers insist on a false dichotomy between social justice and aesthetics, construing “sensitivity readers as troubleshooting, as something additional, rather than something that is intrinsic to characterization.”

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

From The Holocaust Encyclopedia:

During the spring of 1933, Nazi student organizations, professors, and librarians made up long lists of books they thought should not be read by Germans. Then, on the night of May 10, 1933, Nazis raided libraries and bookstores across Germany. They marched by torchlight in nighttime parades, sang chants, and threw books into huge bonfires. On that night more than 25,000 books were burned. Some were works of Jewish writers, including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. Most of the books were by non-Jewish writers, including such famous Americans as Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, and Sinclair Lewis, whose ideas the Nazis viewed as different from their own and therefore not to be read.

. . . .

May 10, 1933 
Joseph Goebbels speaks at book burning in Berlin 

Forty thousand people gather to hear German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels speak in Berlin’s Opera Square. Goebbels condemns works written by Jews, liberals, leftists, pacifists, foreigners, and others as “un-German.” Nazi students begin burning books. Libraries across Germany are purged of “censored” books. Goebbels proclaims the “cleansing of the German spirit.”

Link to the rest at The Holocaust Encyclopedia

From The Jewish Book Council:

Readers may be familiar with the photograph of the Nazi-orchestrated book burning in front of a German university in May, 1933. What is not widely known is that Hitler’s government established a rigid system of book censorship and an index of undesirable books that existed until the end of the war. Inherent in Nazi ideology was the claim to total domination of the world of ideas.

In his new book, Harmful and Undesirable: Book Censorship in Nazi Germany, Guenter Lewy informs us that 5,485 book titles were banned by the end of the war. The entire censorship process was implemented by a number of competing bureaucracies, but mainly the Reich Chamber of Literature (RSK). The banned books included those of alleged moral corruption, works of Marxism and pacifism, books and articles perceived as damaging the martial spirit and morale of the German people and those propagating Catholic or other confessional ideas, and works that fell into the catch designation of “failure to live up to what was to be expected in the new Germany.”

. . . .

Until 1938, the struggle against Jewish books was focused on those written by assimilated German Jews. The list of banned Jewish authors included such writers as Vicky Baum, Emil Ludwig, Lion Feuchtwanger, Franz Kafka, Arthur Schnitzler, Kurt Tucholsky, Franz Werfel, and Arnold and Stefan Zweig. In addition, the Ministry of Propaganda warned the book trade that no mention was to be made anywhere of the works of Heinrich Heine. One Nazi journal pronounced that “Heine is not a poet, he is a Jew.” Once World War II started in 1939, the works of Jewish authors worldwide were either banned or placed on an index of undesirable books.

Link to the rest at The Jewish Book Council

What Austin Teens Wish Publishers Knew

17 March 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

Last week I blogged about what some of our local teens are reading, but I also like to check in with our teens toward the beginning of the year to see what they’re looking for, what they’re sick of, and what they wish they could tell publishers. So what’s on their minds? Well, as a group they definitely don’t love covers with real people on them these days, are tired of tropes and predictable plot lines, and (most of them) are enjoying the YA horror trend, as long as it doesn’t get too gory or steamy.

. . . .

CONSENSUS: Series, within reason:

  • “Shorter series. I often like duologies as long as the second book can hold its own up against the first. For series, more than six is definitely a NO.” –Aurora
  • “Trilogies work. They offer enough room for authors to resolve plot holes in their work, and it’s not so long that the writing gets stale.” –Gustavo
  • “I prefer trilogies, but there can be exceptions like Harry Potter. Duologies are fine, but they often feel like one big book.” –Ivy

. . . .

What 10 trends or tropes are you SO tired of?

  • Love triangles
  • Terminally ill main characters
  • Instant love or best friends
  • Emotionless guys
  • The mean girl / enemy at school
  • Popularity tropes (it honestly doesn’t exist in the same way anymore)
  • “Bad Boy” characters
  • Teens not stressing about college or never doing homework and still getting good grades. Also teens with no extracurricular commitments.
  • Not talking to adults about serious issues
  • Titles that are like: The __ __ of __ __

. . . .

What do you personally want to see less of this year?

  • “Dystopian novels because they are always too cliché, too similar to others, or scientifically impossible.” –Aurora
  • “The guy always falling for the girl. Guys in books get rejections all the time, but sometimes girls get their hearts broken too, rather than getting a perfect romantic resolution.”–Sofia
  • “Fewer chances for people who have been called out for doing sketchy stuff to get published.”–Xander
  • “Fewer retellings, more original stories.” –Ivy
  • “In high fantasies where the guy or girl is abusive, but they reveal those actions were because they liked the other person.” – Sumayyah

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Wolves

5 March 2019

From Slate:

Until recently, Kosoko Jackson was considered an expert in the trapdoors of identity-related rhetoric. Jackson worked as a “sensitivity reader” for major publishers of YA fiction, a job that entails reading manuscripts and flagging them for problematic content. His own debut novel, A Place for Wolves, was promoted as an “#ownvoices” book, a hashtag attached approvingly to books in which the author shares a particular marginalized identity with his subject. (Jackson is black and queer.) He believed that, for example, women shouldn’t “profit” from writing gay men’s stories, as he tweeted last year. And he was part of a small and informal but intense online community that scolded writers who ran afoul of these values in their work or online. Now, Jackson has been demonized by the community he once helped police.

A Place for Wolves, Jackson’s first novel, was scheduled for publication later this month. The romantic thriller, set in the late 1990s during the Kosovo War, follows a relationship between two American teen boys. The book looked poised to succeed: It received several early starred reviews, which influence library purchases and bookstore placement, and had been named a “Kids’ Indie Next” pick, suggesting an early interest from independent booksellers. Last week, however, Jackson released a statement addressed to the “Book Community” that apologized for the “problematic representation and historical insensitivities” in his novel. He wrote that he had asked his publisher, Sourcebooks, to withdraw the book from publication. Sourcebooks quickly complied.

The backlash seems to have begun on Feb. 22, with a long review posted to the community-review site Goodreads, a favorite site of YA agonistes. “I have to be absolutely [explitive deleted by PG] honest here, everybody,” the review opened, in the hyperbolic voice of its genre. “I’ve never been so disgusted in my life.” She objected to the book’s use of a recent genocide as a backdrop to romance, the way some early fans fetishized it as a “cute gay love story,” that it was not written by a Muslim, that it “centers” privileged Americans, and that the villain is an ethnic Albanian, among other concerns. “Are you able to confidently justify supporting this book despite all of the above, despite the harm it can and will do to real people?” she asked in conclusion.

. . . .

The criticism snowballed from there, with other readers chiming in: “How could you take a beautiful LGBTQ love story and [explitive deleted by PG] on genocide victims like that?” one asked on Twitter. Heidi Heilig, an author who has participated in many online skirmishes and provided a positive blurb for Jackson’s book, hastily revised her Goodreads review of A Place for Wolves. She suggested the book’s content may have changed since she read an early draft, apologized “to those I’ve hurt by my blurb,” and promised to “work harder.”

. . . .

In January, another first-time author, Amélie Wen Zhao, asked her publisher to pull her to-be-released fantasy novel, Blood Heir, because of early reader critiques about racial insensitivity. The novel featured a storyline about slavery and a character whom some readers interpreted as black, who dies so a white character can live; Zhao explained in her statement that as a Chinese immigrant to the United States, she was inspired by trafficking and labor issues in Asia, but apologized nonetheless for causing pain.

. . . .

Both Jackson and Zhang are people of color who now see their careers hobbled in an industry that claims to be laser-focused on diversity. Jackson has already been dropped from the lineup in at least one literary festival, though it’s not clear if he withdrew or was ousted.

. . . .

[W]e’ve gotten an increasingly toxic online culture around YA literature, with evermore-baroque standards for who can write about whom under what circumstances. From the outside, this is starting to look like a conversation focused less on literature than obedience.

. . . .

None of this has to do with whether Jackson’s book is any good, or even in good taste. (I haven’t read it.) But it was written by an author exquisitely attuned to identity issues, and presumably vetted by his agent, the staff of a publishing house, and other early readers, including some who have now turned against it.

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Shelly for the tip.

.

8 Ya Authors on the Enduring Impact of Speak

15 January 2019

From Book Riot:

 This month marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Laurie Halse Anderson’s phenomenal, groundbreaking YA book Speak.

Speak was the first YA book I ever read while I myself was a young adult. The book hit shelves when I was 14, and I vividly remember heading deep into the corner of my local library and finding it on the shelf. I flipped through, immediately captivated by Melinda’s voice on the page. Her story hooked me and stayed with me throughout my teen years and my twenties, and I revisited the book again a few years ago. It not only still resonated, but I brought new things and gleaned fresh insights into the book, too. Melinda? She’s really quite funny. Despite the tragedy she’s experienced as the victim of a sexual assault, her humor further pulls at the reader’s heart and reminds them that even those who’ve suffered something unimaginable are still three-dimensional, complex individuals.

. . . .

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Speak, seven authors from all parts of the YA world have shared how the book has impacted them in both their personal lives and their writing lives (if those things are even extricable).

. . . .

JENNIFER MATHIEU, AUTHOR OF MOXIE

It’s been my true privilege to have experienced Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK as a reader, a writer of young adult novels, and a high school English teacher. Many years ago when I was an aspiring novelist, Laurie’s SPEAK reassured me that teenagers crave honesty, complexity, nuance, and rough edges in their stories—they don’t need morality tales nor will they read them. Melinda’s journey as a survivor of sexual assault, crafted by Laurie with such authenticity and voice, served as a touchstone for me as I attempted to create my own stories about realistic teens in the world. What an honor to get to sit on a panel with Laurie at the Brooklyn Book Festival years later and have the opportunity to let her know how much her writing has meant to me. As a teacher, I have also seen how SPEAK has empowered and validated my own students; when I taught the novel last year to my tenth graders in Houston, I had three separate students share with me how Melinda’s story of survival and healing had helped them cope with their own assaults. Were it not for Laurie’s novel, I would not have been able to put one of those students in touch with our wonderful school social worker—until reading SPEAK she had not talked to anyone about what had happened to her. My love for Laurie, for Melinda, and for this new classic of young adult literature knows no bounds. May this much-needed story live on for 20, 40, 60 more years—and beyond.

. . . .

TANITA S. DAVIS, MARE’S WAR

1999: I’d just published my first (long out of print) book with a protagonist who, looking back, was Mary Sue perfect, and therefore, nothing bad happened to her. I thought YA lit was supposed to be like what I’d read growing up—cautionary tales and polite fictions which promised girls that if they behaved, All Would Be Well. When I read SPEAK it rattled my preconceptions…because it was True, a kind of true that cut to the bone. I was, frankly, a little scared that YA lit could BE like that—maybe was SUPPOSED to be like that. SPEAK challenges me as a writer to be that honest, to speak my truth, and to stand by it unflinchingly.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

Memories from my TV/Movie Experience

19 November 2018

From Rick Riordan:

Recently I asked you guys what kind of team you’d like to see in charge if a Disney-led Percy Jackson reboot were to happen. Again, I have to warn you this is completely HYPOTHETICAL, just wishful thinking, not based on any concrete plans in the pipeline. Even if some reboot happened someday, I would have ZERO control over it, because those rights were signed away before the first PJO book was even published and, like most authors, my contract was very standard in that Hollywood controls all things and all decisions about the movie. The author may or may not be consulted, but the movie folks have final say on everything. There is a widespread myth (ha!) that authors have much more control over movie decisions than we actually do. Even the most powerful authors (yes, the ones you are thinking of right now) have WAY less influence and control than you think they do. Nobody talks about that though, because when a movie is just coming out it is in the studio’s interest for it to SOUND like everybody was very involved and pleased with the final product. In reality, the best we authors can hope for is a good team effort, where everyone gets along, has the same vision, and works together well. Sometimes, that happens . . .

Thinking about reboots even hypothetically made me remember the process I went through with those Percy Jackson movies. I was indeed consulted at some points, about some things. I did my best to give feedback that would help. At the time, obviously, I couldn’t really share any behind-the-scenes information with you guys, the readers, but since these conversations are now almost ten years old (yikes!), I thought you might like to take a look at some of the correspondence and suggestions I sent to the producers while they were planning THE LIGHTNING THIEF movie. I hope this will give you a sense of what I was trying to do behind the scenes. Whether/how much the producers listened to my ideas, I will let you be the judge. As I’ve said many times, once I saw the final script and saw what they were doing on the set, I realized I had to step away for my own peace of mind. I never saw either of the movies in their final form. What I know of them, and how I judge them, is based entirely on my experiences with the producers and on the final scripts. The SEA OF MONSTERS movie is a whole ‘nother story, but it followed basically the same process.

. . . .

Should a reboot happen some day, in some fashion, I would hope, like you, that it would be a great adaptation that is faithful to the books and fun to watch. The fact that Disney has now acquired the rights from Fox may be hopeful news, but it doesn’t change my contractual powers (which are zilch). Still, I’ve let it be known that I would be happy to consult and advise IF they want me and IF the new project was undertaken by a completely different team than the one which made the movies. I think that would be important. Fresh eyes. Fresh ideas. Hopefully people who know and are passionate about the books. I have no desire to go through my first experience again and see the same results. If I felt like that was going to be the case, I would have to stay away from the project completely. In the future, if some project actually does get underway, I may not be able to comment on it for contractual reasons, but you can tell how I’m feeling about it by what I do or don’t say. Am I talking about it? Promoting it? Sharing cool things? I am probably happy. Am I completely ignoring it and never mentioning it on social media? Yeah . . . that’s probably not a good sign. For instance, check out my website, rickriordan.com. Do you see any indication there that the Percy Jackson movies ever existed? No. No, you do not.

. . . .

From January 2009 note to producers

Hi XXXXX,

I understand that a decision has been made to age the main characters in the film to seventeen. As no one wants to see this film succeed more than I do, I hope you’ll let me share a couple of reasons why this is a bad idea from a money-making point of view.

First, it kills any possibility of a movie franchise. I don’t know if you or your staff have had the chance to read farther than The Lightning Thief in the Percy Jackson series, but there are four other volumes. The series is grounded on the premise that Percy must progress from age twelve to age sixteen, when according to a prophecy he must make a decision that saves or destroys the world. I assume that XXXX would at least like to keep open the option of sequels assuming the first movie does well. Starting Percy at seventeen makes this undoable. I’m also sure that XXXXX (for) the first Harry Potter movie, some in the studio argued for making the characters older to appeal to a teen audience. Fortunately, they took the long view and stayed true to the source material, which allowed them to grow a lucrative franchise. This would’ve been impossible if they’d started Harry at seventeen. The same principle applies here.

Second, it alienates the core audience. I’m guessing those book sale numbers are important to XXXX because you’re hoping all those kids show up at the theater. The core readership for Percy Jackson is age 9-12. There are roughly a million kids that age, plus their families, who are dying to see this film because they want to see the pictures in their imagination brought to life. Many of these kids have read the books multiple times and know every detail. They are keenly aware that Percy is twelve in the first book. By making the characters seventeen, you’ve lost those kids as soon as they see the first movie trailer. You signal that this is a teen film, when the core audience is families. I understand that you want to appeal to teens because they are a powerful demographic, and conventional wisdom says that teens will not see movies about kids younger than themselves. Harry Potter proved this wrong, but aside from that, deviating so significantly from the source material risks pleasing no one – teens, who know the books are meant for younger kids, and the younger kids, who will be angry and disappointed that the books they love have been distorted into a teen movie. I haven’t even seen the script yet, so I don’t know how much the story has changed, but I fear the movie will be dead on arrival with a seventeen-year-old lead. (At this time I had no idea who might be cast)

I’ve spent the last four years touring the country, talking about the movie. I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of kids. They are all excited about the movie, but they are also anxious. Most of these kids have no idea which studio produces which film, but everywhere I go, they say the same thing: Please don’t let them do to the Lightning Thief what they did to XXXX(another movie from the same producers) Don’t let them change the story. These kids are the seed audience for the movie. They are the ones who will show up first with their families, then tell their friends to go, or not go, depending on how they liked it. They are looking for one thing: How faithful was the movie to the book? Make Percy seventeen, and that battle is lost before filming even begins.

Thanks for letting me say my piece. I care too much about the project to see it fail.

Link to the rest at Rick Riordan

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