I’m going to write an essay. It’s going to be called “Trickster in a Suit of Lights, by Michael Chabon,” and all I’ll have to do is change the words “genre fiction” to “young adult literature.”
The basic argument in the real “Trickster in a Suit of Lights” is that entertainment has gotten a bad reputation over the years, and so quality genre fiction — sci-fi, fantasy, etc. — is dismissed out of hand. I’m coming around to the idea that the same happens with young adult literature.
My boss at Kards Unlimited is along the lines of obsessed with young adult literature, and accordingly most of the staff has been drawn into it, myself included. A month or two ago she gave me a copy of The Hunger Games; I’m not one to turn down a free book, so I read it.
It was ok. There were a few plots twisted that irked me — they felt unreasonable, even trite — and at times the present tense narration was jarring, particularly after a long reminisce by the narrator. But that’s not to say I didn’t spend hours alone in my house reading it voraciously. And any book that can keep me in my seat like that and its sequels did has to be taken seriously.
The book also got me on a YA kick, and since then I have reread one of the Harry Potter books, The Golden Compass, and Ender’s Game. Those three are such good books, so well written, that I find them as good now as when I was a wide-eyed (younger) child. Ender’s Game in particular didn’t even feel like a young adult book; it’s about children, but as they acknowledge in the text, these kids don’t behave like kids. One of my coworkers said she loved Catching Fire and Mockingjay because she felt Katniss’ slow descent into insanity to be immensely interesting. Katniss’ got nothing on Ender.
All of these books create their own unique world within the plot, and as much as I love Harry Potter’s, I think the Golden Compass gets my top vote for brilliantly imagined world. The magical world of Harry Potter is just like our world, except for, you know, the magic. And the worlds of Hunger Games and Ender’s Game are realistic possible futures for our world. The Golden Compass stretches in many different ways at once, allowing for magic, for dystopia, and for alternative history all at the same time.
I don’t even really want to talk about Harry Potter; its greatness is simply understood by the people who had to joy of living through it. If you haven’t read it — I’m looking at you, Boddington — I’m sincerely upset for you.
The young adult literature I’ve been reading has excited me, impressed me, absorbed me, and entertained me. Great as “literary fiction” is, it fails when it can’t do those same things to me. Once I stopped being shy about reading a “kids book,” I had the delicious pleasure of enjoy some seriously good shit.
(While I’m here, Kards has its own blog, which I sometimes contribute to. Directing Traffic Now.)