Thursday, May 15, 2014
Picture yourself at a party.

It could be a house party with kegs and those red plastic cups.  It could be a tea party out on a green lawn with a crumbling castle in the background.  It could be around a campfire or on the beach or in a fancy restaurant.

Just picture yourself there.

With lots of people.  And they're all engaged in conversation while you're busy being a wallflower (let's face it: if you're either a reader or a writer, you spend a lot of time on the outside looking in).

You see there's quite a few conversations happening.  Some people are talking about elves and dragons, some are debating the time-space continuum, others mention super powers, magic, ghosts, kids with cancer, dead parents, lakeside lifeguards, sports, sex, Unstoppable Corn*, and on and on...

Something in the conversation makes you take a step forward.  You want to say something.  It's like those activity sheets distributed by every substitute teacher in every classroom ever, where you try to identify the thing that doesn't belong.  Find the Pattern.  Spot the Difference.  You hear something rumble, the conversation is shifting...

"What's Unstoppable Corn*?" you squeak.

Suddenly everyone is asking the same question.  It's funny.  Different.  Doesn't belong.  And then it's all anyone is talking about.  The conversation takes off and you feel overwhelmed so you take a step back and listen, listen to what people think about Unstoppable Corn.  It's funny.  Different.  Perfect.

You realize that you just witnessed a moment.  A permission, of sorts, in the on-going dialogue that exists between writers and readers and even publishers.  And while everyone is saying the same thing in slightly different ways, every so often, someone steps in and says something that changes the conversation.

That's how trends begin, I think.  And why they're so unpredictable and envied.  But what's important, I think, is not to identify the trends that stem from the dialogue between writers and readers and publishers, but to listen to and look at what authors are saying with their work.

All of this is the "scenic route" to me saying that the following books have "changed the conversation" for me in young adult literature.  Not only this, but they have opened up the possibilities for my own writing.  So that one day, when I add to the dialogue, I will know who I'm talking to and why.

BLACK HELICOPTERS by Blythe Woolston.  This is all about Character and Point Of View.  And, man, it's intense.  For Character see also: ELEANOR & PARK, WINGER, POINTE, IMAGINARY GIRLS

TWILIGHT by Stephanie Meyer.  Whatever feelings you may have about this one, I will happily accept the gift of Setting.  For Setting see also: THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS trilogy, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy, THE SCORPIO RACES

SEX & VIOLENCE by Carrie Mesrobian.  This book defied a lot of taboos.  See also: BEAUTIFUL, FALL FOR ANYTHING, THE LUCY VARIATIONS

SWEETHEARTS by Sara Zarr.  Gorgeous, spare language. Storytelling in its simplest, purest form. 

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins.  Introduced me to Dystopian.  Which is not a dirty word.  See also: MATCHED, XVI


CHIME by Franny Billingsley.  This book is everything.

Those were some (okay a lot) of tell me yours!!  Which books for you "changed the conversation?"

*Unstoppable Corn being, of course, a reference to Andrew Smith's GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE.  To be privy, you'll just have to read! (or google, you modern millies).


Kristan said...

My first ever party (other than birthdays of friends) was in college, and oh man, THAT was a conversation changer...

Anyway. I love this post. Maybe because I don't love trends. I love books that stand out, that do their own thing. Even when they're in dialogue with their peers. Like the SHADOW AND BONE series by Leigh Bardugo. THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern. And CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell.

Unknown said...

Yes, very good choices!! Each says something different and interesting and necessary. xx

Unknown said...

This is great. There have been so many conversation changers and many of them you've already named. I think The Night Circus was a big one for setting, I just adore the idea of circuses and this one was so atmospheric. Between Shades of Grey, The Bronze Horseman, there are so many!


Unknown said...

Mari, thanks so much for adding those excellent books! So many, right? I haven't read The Bronze Horseman so I'm gonna get right on that!

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.



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The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
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Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
The Fault in Our Stars

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