Monday, September 28, 2015

Passing on Young Adult Books Left and Right

This hasn't been a great month for Young Adult reads. It just seems like so much of the recent YA fare is full to the brim of voices I cannot get behind and garbage galore. I'm even contemplating quitting my Young at Heart (older individuals reading young adult books) book club because I simply haven't enjoyed or been able to get into the last several choices. I went to the meeting but did not read How It Went Down. This month I tried to read the leader's selection, I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President (now there's a mouthful). Despite it making the New York Times Bestseller List, I couldn't stand the voice of the main character and didn't appreciate the crudity and vulgarity in the first 60 or so pages. Alas, I gave up, and then couldn't make the meeting anyway because we had family visiting that day.

I have also tossed aside a few other books. The other day, I began a new YA book, Ned Vizzini's Be More Chill. I gave it one exercise session (about 3/4 of the first CD in the audio version). This is yet another example of a book written in a raunchy teen voice full of crudity and genital obsessing. I understand that authors are eager to capture the realistic voice of today's teens, but I find it so depressing that this supposed realistic voice sinks to the lowest common denominator in subject matter and expression. The sad thing is that the premise sounded interesting (picked-on nerd who discovers a pill capable of turning his life around), but I will never know whether the story will indeed be worth it because I'm simply sick and tired of wading through filth and crassness to get to the gem of story beneath it all.

Thankfully, I did find that I am not alone in my disgust for this sort of perpetual fixation on sexual exploits and gutter thoughts and language. Another reviewer on Amazon, a Captain Bevo wrote: "Vizzini's book offers a teenager's-eye view of the world from just about the lowest common denominator. I suppose some people would say it's 'realistic,' but I like to think that there's more to most teens than just partying, gossipping, and chasing around after sex. The book makes the same mistake that most others of the genre do: it's almost sociopathic in its over-indulgence in the protagonist's thoughts, feelings, and overall perspective, while casting everybody else, from parents, classmates, love interests, etc, in a wooden and one-dimensional manner."

The final book I am casting aside is Alive by Scott Sigler. It is billed as a "ripping, claustrophobic, thunderbolt of a novel." Again, the premise is intriguing. A girl wakes to find herself in a coffin with no idea who she is or how she got there. She discovers a small group of other teens also trapped in coffins and attempts to free them as well. They begin to search for answers and she becomes their leader.

I read to page 71, at which point the group still has no clue where they are, who they are, or why they are there. Moreover, the main character in her quest to lead the group has just stabbed one of the boys to death, simply because he challenged her leadership and attempted to take her weapon. I guess after a 70 page investment, I simply want to know more about what is actually going on.

If you have read any of the above mentioned works and thoroughly enjoyed them, by all means leave a comment and convince me to give them another shot. Perhaps there is gold hidden there beneath the surface. Perhaps I should have persisted. For now, I have too many other books from the hold lists to get to. I may just give up on YA books in general for a while.

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