“The most important thing is to read as much as you can, like I did. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary.”
- J.K. Rowling
I will likely never be asked for identification at the liquor store again, but Chapters seems to think that I’m a teenager. I like to mix up my book purchases by shopping at Chapters, Amazon, and the few independent book stores left in Ottawa….but apparently I’ve bought enough YA novels at Chapters to make them think that I’m still a young adult. One of their last e-mails to me included the following book recommendations (based on my recent purchase history):
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (read it in high school – twice! – and studied it again in university – twice! I never want to read it again!!)
- Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (read it in grade…9? 10? – and liked it)
- The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (read it in grade…10? 11? – and loved it, but I haven’t read it since then)
Yes, I have definitely been buying more YA novels lately than I ever did before (I’m calling it research!), but I still thought it was funny that Chapters would choose books for me that are likely still straight out of the high school curriculum since those aren’t the “young” types of books that I’ve been buying.
I really only started reading YA material after I took the Writing Children’s Fantasy class through Algonquin College. Before taking that class, I had only read the Harry Potter series. I really enjoyed the class (it had readings and theory, which I particularly liked because my background is in literature and I am a nerd), and while the teacher was very encouraging about my writing, she did note that she could tell that I was new to the genre. She suggested that I do some more reading (based on the age group I’d like to have as an audience and some of the broader themes I’d like to touch upon).
I’ve also been going through the material from The Writers’ Union of Canada about how to be your own publicist (totally worth the $29, by the way, especially if you’re a newbie like me!), and one of the webinar presenters noted that it was a good practice to be able to explain how your own work touches on some of the same themes as bestsellers in the same genre. Now, I’m not interpreting this tidbit of advice to mean that I’ll need to populate my YA series with vampires (sparkly or not) – mostly because finding the ways in which your own work is similar to bestsellers will also help you highlight the ways in which it is different. (Also, as I mentioned in my first post, my main character was going to be an archer until Katniss Everdeen came on the scene. Knowing what else is out there really will help me make my own series a bit different…I hope.)
So far, I have read Harry Potter and The Hunger Games in full. I’ve read the first book in each of the His Dark Materials (by Philip Pullman) and Chaos Walking (by Patrick Ness) trilogies. I always have a ton of books on the go, but I’m hoping to squeeze in the remaining books for those two series in the next couple of months. (And I’m curious to see how they represent the Noise when the first book in the Chaos Walking series is turned into a movie…)
My absolute favourite “young adult” book that I’ve read so far, though, is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It is categorized as teen fiction, but if I ran the world, I would put it in the “everyone needs to read this NOW” category. Seriously, if you haven’t read it, go do it now. (But if you don’t have some sort of emotional response by the end, then I don’t think we can be friends…because you might be a psychopath.)
I am open to other suggestions! Lay ‘em on me! What else should I read? Briar Rose by Jane Yolen caught my eye before, but I’ve never picked it up. Should I? I’m really just looking for well written teen fiction here, so feel free to list your favourites (whether they’re fantasy, science fiction, or regular world stuff). What would you tell a wannabe writer to read?