Thursday, November 13, 2008

A statement as thin as paper (towns)

It's great when a young adult novel gets good press, right? It's great when a writer for a college newspaper gives a glowing review to a young adult novel, right? Sure. But it's not great when the review, specifically this review of Paper Towns from The Ithacan, begins with this:

The young-adult genre has been riddled with uninspiring novels that lack any kind of creativity or originality. Shuffling through the mundane “Gossip Girl” spin-offs and “Twilight” rip-offs has made finding a substantive novel as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.

To Monica Watson, writer of the review, I have a few questions:

1. What was the last YA book you read, other than Paper Towns?
2. Have you talked to any YA literature professionals what the state of the YA market is today?
3. Did you visit a local library or bookstore to see what's available in the YA world right now before making that statement?
4. Are you kidding?

I think this review really does a good job of capturing what makes Paper Towns special, but to say that Paper Towns stands out because the rest of the YA literature world is so lacking in quality is ridiculous, uninformed, and untrue. Paper Towns is not a needle in a haystack. It is a needle in a stack of needles. It is one of many outstanding YA books published this year alone, and one of hundreds published in the last five years. The first Printz award was given years before Green even wrote the first draft of Looking for Alaska. Trust me, no one envies the amount of work the Printz committee has to do this year, and that's a good thing. Contrary to what Ms Watson seems to believe, the number of quality, literary YA books is only going up every year. Every year, the Printz committee's job gets harder. Every year, there are outstanding books that redefine what a YA book can be and do. One cannot write off an entire genre based on the quality, or lack thereof, of two series.

Are there mundane Gossip Girl spin-offs? Yes! And they're fun to read! It's not a crime to write what's popular, and it's not a crime to write a bad YA novel. The deity of your choice knows there are just as many bad adult novels, percentage-wise, as YA novels. I'm happy that Paper Towns got this great bit of press, but please, journalists of the world, do some research and talk to some professionals before making unfounded statements about YA literature.

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