Friday, August 9, 2013
We read a lot of contemporary fiction here at We Heart YA, and we've noticed a surprising trend: musical geniuses. First there was Mia in IF I STAY. (Raise your hand if you are totally stoked for that movie, btw!) Then Lyla in GUITAR NOTES. And most recently, Kiri in WILD AWAKE and Lucy in THE LUCY VARIATIONS.
Things we like about this trend:
-- Girls who are interested in something besides romance.
-- Girls who are extremely talented.
-- Positive depiction of classical music (which is truly lovely to listen to, you guys).
There isn't anything we dislike about this trend. However, we do find it a bit ... funny. Like, sure, most of us play an instrument or took lessons at some point in our lives. But how many musical prodigies do you actually know?
So, if these people are not particularly plentiful in real life, why are they getting so much representation in YA literature?
We don't know for sure, but we have a couple theories:
-- Giving protagonists a very special skill automatically makes them "special." Also, people tend to like/admire talented individuals (like athletes, actors, musicians, etc.), so of course we would want to read about them.
-- Authors identify with creative personalities and their unique struggles, but might not want their protagonists to be writers.
-- Authors are often inspired by music, and may want to share some of their favorite pieces with their audiences. (This can also happen with non-prodigy characters, through a character's road trip playlist, for example.)
-- Counterintuitively, being specific allows a broader audience to connect. So even if we readers aren't passionate about piano or violin, we can identify with these heroines because we are just as passionate about something else. Maybe we understand why they practice for hours on end, because we spend that kind of time and energy on ______ (fill in the blank -- video games, knitting, soccer, etc.).
Whatever the reasons, this trend stands out, but not in a way that makes us worry about it becoming a tired cliché. Because each of the 4 examples deals with the trend quite differently. For example, IF I STAY isn't really about Mia's talent; that's just part of who she is. In GUITAR NOTES and THE LUCY VARIATIONS, Lyla and Lucy are both struggling to find joy in music again, because their talent has turned into pressure instead of pleasure. And in WILD AWAKE, Kiri uses music to keep hold of herself in the midst of immense personal crisis and confusion.
So there's a wide range of possibilities, even within the trend. And perhaps these characters and stories are all just a testament to the power of music -- of art -- as a positive force in our lives.
Why do you think there are so many musical prodigies in YA? Do you identify with them, or is their talent (and the world it puts them into) too foreign for you? Have we left out any musically-gifted protagonists? What other character trends have you noticed?
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