So I had this round table critique for my manuscript with my SEKRIT ARSENAL OF TEENS. As you may know, I write YA lit for boys that girls like to read too, so my panel consisted of two boys and one girl.
DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.
I am no shrinking violet when it comes to kids. I’ve got a handful of my own, which means a plague of them has passed through my house over the years. I was a scout leader for both sexes for approximately a billion years. Believe me, I have seen and dealt with every personality type and situation you can think of. So I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless…
A. You can withstand any sort of comment a person can hurl at you about your writing, personality, choice of wardrobe, and belief system–you’ve got to be a good sport.
B. You do not shock easily–don’t do this if you’re a prude.
C. You genuinely like teens and sympathize with them–if you’re confrontational, you’re not going to find out anything helpful anyway.
D. Teens generally like you–no matter how much you like them, if you don’t connect, they’ll just tell you what they think you want to hear.
E. In the end, you will make sure it’s a positive experience for each and every teen involved–kids are kids, and a book that stirs up their emotions can bring out the dramatics. They can tear each other to bits. You must have the finesse to make sure everyone feels heard, and goes away feeling closer.
You have to do all of this without appearing to be in charge. If you’re very clever, they’ll kind of forget you’re there and spill stuff they’d be MORTIFIED to tell their parents.
Oh yes, I am that good.
The truth is, it’s not that I’m that good, it’s that I like the kids that much, and they know it. My SEKRIT ARSENAL OF TEENS was incredibly astute. I asked a question, and they answered it.
For three hours.
They were brilliant. Honest. They put their free time into reading 52,000 words written by a nefarious woman, and the only payback was lunch at Panera’s. My teens spewed their emotions, shared deep thoughts. And they trusted me to listen to their ideas in the spirit they were given.
It was a real honor.
I am not an innocent, idealistic young lady between the ages of 12 and 16 with insecurities and deep unnamed longings.
Therefore, I am not a big fan of Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer.
I read the first book of the trilogy plus one at the insistence of Freckles McYoungest. She is a rabid fanpire. (Fanpire. I like that.)
So I took the plunge. A YA writer ought to keep up with publishing trends, right?
The story is intriguing. Vampires that swear off human blood like drunks taking the pledge. Seeing how they cope at the edges of human society. Interesting.
Here is a heroine that does not deserve the name. A main character that takes up way too much space.
She is a drip and a half.
Ineffective. Unself-aware. People pleaser.
I’m not a strident Women’s Libber. I think men and women should preserve the niceties of etiquette, but I also think that teenaged girls are evolved enough to be equals in their relationships.
Bella puppy-butt wiggles if Edward throws one of his crooked smiles her way. She puts up with his unexplained comings and goings, flares of temper, lack of honesty in communication…
As Freckles McYoungest would say:
WTF? ( I’m SURE that translates as “What the Fudge?”)
What’s so super-duper about such a guy? Well, he’s GORGEOUS, of course. And mysterious. And dangerous. Why, none of that other relation stuff matters, not even Bella’s very life, because she’s IN LOOOOVE! (She hearts Edward. Lots.)
As the mother of two girls, I despair.
But a lot of determination and a little bit of pixie dust helped me put myself in my seventh grade self:
Edward is so cool And he’s like so sensitive. He can hold me all night while I’m asleep and EVERYTHING and he doesn’t even try to get in my pants! And he totally could because I’m like UNCONSCIOUS when I’m asleep and stuff but he doesn’t because I can TRUST him!! And he has this sadness about him because he’s undead and all that but he’s SO SWEET! He doesn’t want ME to be undead too!! Like the very thought makes him all mad and stuff and it seems like he’s mad at me but really, he’s just mad at the situation. You know. He’s got a lot on his mind. I shouldn’t expect too much from him.
Edward’s like my secret boyfriend and an imaginary friend all in one. And I don’t have to deal with my sexual feelings. Or have any other friends. Or think about what I should do with my life. Edward is all I need!!! I don’t know why he picked me. I’m so clumsy and plain-looking and unpopular. I’m so lucky! I don’t deserve him! He’s my everything!!!!!!!!!
Dear little Bella. The weakest example of female teenagerliness.
Please grow a pair in New Moon.