In Defence of Bad Parents in Books

No I don’t literally mean I’m defending bad parents in books (nothing makes me *rage* more than bad parents irl, so rest assured this is not a pro-abusive parents post, obviously). HOWEVER, more and more, I’m seeing people complain that there are not enough decent parent figures in books. And this is a fair criticism, because you know, not every parent has to be a totally useless douchbag. Yet there is something that can be said for lousy parents in books and there are plenty of reasons why this is a useful trope. So I’m gonna break it down today and talk about why sometimes it’s good to have bad parents in books:

stormbreakerIt can be plot expedient– I heard an author saying when I was younger that they always got the parents out of the way at the beginning so that children could have adventures- which I was a-okay with, cos I’m in favour of adventures. So yes, it may be ridiculous that somehow Alex Rider has managed to lose 3 parent figures, but at least that meant he was free to save the world (yes, said author was Anthony Horowitz).

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverThey provide a good foil for the hero– Let’s face it, we all love to hate villains. And what is more usefully positioned as a villain than a parent? They literally have access to where the hero sleeps, eats and can even control where they go to school. Think of all the added tension this provides! I mean, it was hard enough for Harry that he had to save the world from Voldemort, but every book had to deal with the Dursleys as well… Yikes- I’d pick Voldy any day 😉……………………………

City_of_Bones (1)It’s unsettling– of course “home” or “family” is *supposed* to be the safest thing in the world, yet revealing that the villain is none other than your father of all people can make the hero question everything. Are they still a good person? Were any of their positive memories real? Think of the trauma it created in Mortal Instruments when we find out that Valentine might have fathered not one, but two of our heroes (excusing the silly love triangle it created of course)

game of thrones book“Oh sympathy where have you gone…”– (three cheers if you know that song 😉 ) okay seriously though, where would be without the amount of sympathy that crappy parents instantly creates for the main character. Who can pretend like their sympathy for Samwell Tarley didn’t surge when we realised how bad his home life was in Game of Thrones. Realistically speaking, it’s easier for us as readers to sympathise with characters who have real problems, as opposed to the whiny self-obsessed heroine whose main concern is chipping a nail or who will take them to prom.

tuliptouchIt’s a fact of life– sure we’d like to believe every childhood is sunshine and kittens and rainbows, yet sadly too many children grow up in homes where abuse is the norm. Rather than normalising or encouraging these behaviours, having bad parents in books actually can provide comfort for children going through traumatic childhoods. It creates a sense that “you are not alone”. If we pretend like this is not a thing, we actually *do* risk normalising these behaviours, and ignoring the problem. As hard as sad as it is to acknowledge, books like Tulip Touch are true to some people’s experiences. So let’s not write children from abusive homes out of books, cos they do exist.

matildaIt can teach us all to be more empathetic– let’s face it, I will always champion books which can make us more empathetic to other people’s experiences. So even if a child has no point of reference for what it might be like to grow up in a negative home environment, books can be the gateway to understand different and difficult life experiences. Whether this is in realistic books, or stories like Matilda, we can identify the character traits and come to understand reality just that little bit more.

So do you agree or disagree? Do you think bad parents have a place in books? Let me know in the comments!

Why I Read YA

I’ve been asked before (very politely) why I, a monkey in my twenties, would read something clearly not aimed at my demographic aka YA. This is especially relevant after I read several naff YA books in a row. So today I’m gonna give a few of my main reasons why I keep going back to YA (with examples- yay!)

six of crowsBecause when it’s good, it’s damn good. Even after all this time, YA can still get my heart pumping. I let my emotions lead my choice of books, so if a book genre can still make me feel excited, then I’ll keep going back to it. Books like Six of Crows more than keep me sated- but you’ll hear all about it in my upcoming review. For now, I’ll just say books like that show how YA is always doing new and innovative things, which leads me onto…

northern lightsThey’re often extremely imaginative. The main reason why I keep going back to books aimed at a younger audience is that there’s a lot of fearlessness in the way YA authors write. There really is a sense in YA that you can write about *anything*. Being a fantasy lover, it makes logical sense that I’ll seek new worlds wherever I can find them. And since some of the boldest, most adventurous work always seems to be aimed at people under 18, that’s where I’m naturally drawn. Of course, for all this explosive talent, the genre is not without its faults. Still…

talonI am a genre whore, so I’ll read anything. Sure, all genres have “genre specific” problems- but if I was going to hold a flaw against an entire group of books, I’d have a lot of trouble finding anything to read. Though I can admit that tropey laden books like Talon exist, I strongly hold by the fact that *every single* bookish problem can be done well somewhere (who hasn’t thought about a book “wow this is a walking cliché but it’s done so well that I love it and don’t care”?). Plus, no matter how much I complain about YA, there’s always those books that somehow manage to avoid tropes and clichés altogether- I’m always on the lookout for those. But while we’re on the subject of genre…

wideacreAdult books can be a bit tiring/draining/bleak. I still remember the first time I thought “I think I can venture into the adult section now” (contemporary not classics). But when I picked a selection and read them, I came away so dejected, thinking “is this all adults think about?” All the books had been about jaded characters, stuffed with seedy subject matter and full of depressing topics (oh just wait for my review of Wideacre and you’ll see what I mean!!). Now I’ve found more books in that genre I like, but I still think there’s something to be said about returning to the innocence of a good YA novel.

peter pan and wendyA little Peter Pan syndrome doesn’t hurt. Yes, it might be a little obvious from this post and my frequent references to Peter Pan that I was one of those children who never wanted to grow up. Not only did I spend hours as a child jumping off my bed trying to learn to fly, but the adults in my life always taught me you’re only as young as you feel (my grandpa, for instance, went to Disneyworld for the first time at 75 and loved it so much he went back the next year). We all have to grow up- but that doesn’t mean we have to be old. Inside at least, we can still be young. (And no this doesn’t mean I have a Dorian Gray style picture stashed away somewhere 😉 )

Hobbit_coverAnd finally, they’re educational. You never stop learning! Just because I’m older doesn’t mean I’ve incorporated all the lessons of youth. Every time I read a YA novel, I’m learning something new and in a funny way actually growing up. And isn’t that a fundamental point of YA- staying young while growing as a person?

So there’s my list of reasons for reading YA! Do you read YA too? Why? Why not? Let me know in the comments!

Honest YA Dystopian Book Blurb

(Un)inspired by the subject of my last review, I decided to write my own Honest YA Dystopian book blurb- enjoy!

This is one hundred percent about important issues- sort of…

I mean there will be an end of the world plot… even though the world already ended before this book began… But who cares? The world can end twice, right?

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Plus- get excited cos we have not one, but several oppressive governments nested inside each other like a Russian doll (really this book is a bargain- that’s why it’s £9.99 for a kindle edition)

And don’t worry about Instalove- IT WILL BE INCLUDED- we know how much you love it. And expect plenty of staring at the main love interest to- *lots and lots of stares*- to convey all the *emotions*. We wouldn’t want this “love at first sight” thing to be subtle. Also, we know this is important to you as a reader, so THERE WILL BE NO LOVE TRIANGLE (until book 2)…

LOVE triangle of doom

You’ve probably read about ten (better) versions of this before- but ho hum, what’s an eleventh gonna hurt? So sit up and take notice- cos I swear this will not be as exciting as the Hunger Games or Divergent (nor will the protagonist be nearly as kickass, but the narrator will tell you she is on countless occasions)

Also, if this blurb makes you *in any way* afraid for the main character, don’t be! We all know corrupt systems of government are totally useless at stopping teenage girls and their hunky boyfriend(s).

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Annd that’s it- you’ll have to read the “book” to know more  😉 Hope you enjoyed that! 

The Worst YA Novel Plan – Ever! PART 3

And now for the grand finale… In case you didn’t catch the first and second parts, you can check them out here and here. But I don’t want to keep anyone in huge suspense- cos I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats after the very uneventful events of book 2 :p

Book 3: The One Where Everything Is Conveniently Resolved

No one will talk to Sally after the events of the last book. And she doesn’t understand why Bad Boy Bob didn’t kill her- he’s supposed to be evil- but she won’t think about that again for at least another hundred pages- just put that in now because *foreshadowing*.

Worst of all, Harry the Hottie broke up with her- which is so unfair. And totally unjustified. I mean, she only cheated on him and betrayed him. But that’s nothing, because he didn’t pay enough attention to her. It was totally his fault that the world nearly ended. She will get mad at him instead.

That totally works- because whinging and whining always works in real life. Once she bends his ear back to make him see reason, they get back together and everything’s hunky dory again. Until…

world ending

Ahhh the sun is crashing into the earth again!! Oh no- that means I. M. Evil’s been up to no good again, everyone else forgives her too because they *need* her help. So now everyone comes grovelling to her so that they can have a war.

soldiers fighting

*Jam in more action than the last two books combined*

Oh and as they’re going off to war, “Bad Boy” Bob reveals he was on her side *the whole time*, even the times when he wasn’t, cos you know, he loves her and stuff- so that’s a relief, she can go back to liking him. Oh no wait- that’s not so good- because now she doesn’t know which one to choose AGAIN!!

In the meantime, I. M. Evil has the idea that instead of doing evil-bad-guy stuff, he will toy with the main character- just for kicks. This means capturing, torturing and releasing various characters to annoy the sh*t out of Sally. It’s like an attention seeking thing- and it will totally make sense when he reveals his big master plan. Which he does, immediately after telling everyone why he’s such a great big meanie. He has daddy issues or something. So now Sally totally relates to him- but that won’t stop her kicking his butt in the last act!

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Because Sally was totally just using delay tactics to get this out of him. Now she can defeat him with her special snowflake superpower (you know, the one that was always designed to be the perfect contrast to his power). Yay, that’s convenient.

Just as they achieve this victory, Harry the Hottie conveniently dies. Also he gives Sally and Bob his blessing with his last breath.

harry death

All the mean people in the books decide to do whatever Sally suggests now she’s saved the world and they set up a nice, democratic government that will be free from corruption for all eternity. And all the minor characters pair off. Bad Boy Bob and Sally share a long awaited kiss. Aww.

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The End

So are you satisfied with the conclusion? Did Sally McEveryman end up with who you wanted? Was I. M. Evil sufficiently ghastly? Think this would make the worst YA novel ever? Let me know!

The Worst YA Novel Plan – Ever! PART 2

Well hello there, in case you didn’t catch my last post, I’m in the process of writing my very own *terrible* novel plan- cos it’s fun! You can read my draft for book 1 right here.

*Warning: take this seriously at your own peril!*

Book 2: The Angsty Pointless Bit In the Middle

Okay, so picking up from the last book (read my plan for that one here), Sally is trying to deal with the ABSOLUTELY-CATASTROPHIC events of the last book. Think something along the lines of dead puppies or something- basically I. M. Evil lived up to his name and did something, well, evil. Everyone is totally shocked that he would do something like that (clue is in the name people!)

*Insert a really long winded recap of book one here* Because books should never feel like there is limited space- just keep writing- we want this to be at least 100,000 words long…

tris cuts hairBeing the second book in a trilogy, not much happens. Obviously, Sally’s all grief stricken and stuff, so cue: cutting off hair to signal character development.

I. M. Evil does some mean stuff to some nice people. But who cares about that when she can’t stop thinking about Bad Boy Bob and how he may have lied about loving her. Oh and Harry the Hottie is not paying her enough attention- so that sucks. But Bad Boy Bob has been stalking her- so that’s good… I guess.

In the meantime, they join the rebels/forces that aren’t under I. M. Evil’s control. Harry the Hottie tells Sally to trust him- no he can’t just tell her what they’re up to, because *mysterious reasons*. But ughh how can Sally be expected to trust him when he’s been so distant and stuff? Instead, she will do the sensible thing, and sneaks off to meet Bad Boy Bob and steals a kiss- which is totally not wrong, because, you know, *reasons*. I mean, Harry the Hottie should’ve paid more attention- jeez!

Oh no- when she gets back people are dead. Whoops. Didn’t mean for that to happen. Obviously Bad Boy Bob betrayed her. Sally swears she will never see him again and doesn’t tell anyone the part she played in the disaster- I mean, she is still the hero and stuff- can’t have anyone losing morale or confidence in her.

tris looks in mirrorBut then bad stuff happens, Sally’s part is revealed anyway, and everyone’s mad at her. Damn it. Now no one likes her anymore and that sucks. Cue: long thoughtful gazes in the mirror to signal more character development/thoughtfulness.

Sally realises she will have to prove she is still the BIG HERO- so she dives head first into danger without thinking of the consequences and without telling anyone of course (that would mean she would have to share the glory). More bad stuff happens- because no one ever told her that never works out. Oh and she gets captured by I. M. Evil!!!

*Big show down where Bad Boy Bob SHOCKINGLY lets her go instead of killing her*

To be continued…

What do you think will happen next? Who do you think Sally will choose? And with the fate of the world in the balance- does it even matter?

The Worst YA Novel Plan – Ever! PART 1

Ever wondered how someone writes one of those dreadful YA books? You know- the kind that’s just full of all the worst tropes and clichés? So did I! To try and understand what possesses someone to commit such a heinous crime against literature, I’ve decided to put myself in the mindset of one of these criminals (*ahem, I mean “authors”*) and create my very own plan for the world’s worst YA novel- ever! And of course I’m going to overload it with all the terrible tropes from my least favourite YA tropes post. This should be fun… So let’s get started!

Book 1: Special Snowflakes and Insta-love Galore

bella swanMeet Sally McEveryman. There is absolutely nothing special about her. She is so plain, with her mousy brown hair and ordinary brown eyes. Her hobbies include doing laundry and reading books. No one could ever find her interesting or attractive, because, as I said, there’s nothing special about her… or will they?

chad michael murrayEnter Harry the Hottie. He’s an impossibly attractive male. He is just the bestest! He’s one of life’s good guys! Yay!! Obviously, he has an impossibly incredible secret, that he cannot possibly tell anyone about, because that would be bad- because, you know, reasons. But then his eyes meet Sally’s across the room and…. *INSTALOVE*!!! Ding ding ding! (Okay you get the idea, stars realign, the whole world stops, yada yada yada).

*Insert kissing montage here*

In between kissing, make sure you quote better works of fiction, so kissing seems deep and meaningful.

Oh and add *lots and lots of info-dumps* here, so now everyone is totally clued up on how the world works. No one will question any of it for the rest of the book- especially not the main character who is very understanding and accepting of all strange things. Cos that’s just how she rolls.

Suddenly Sally is thrown into a world of intrigue and danger. Because it turns out Sally is the Special Snowflake that was prophecised- who knew? What a relief, she is special after all. HALLELUJAH! Everybody do a happy dance. Okay, now she must train to save the world from the terrible *threat*

*Insert training montage here*

But oh no, just as she is trying to concentrate on the two most pressing issues in her life (the end of the world and her new boyfriend- squeal!) she meets someone who will change her perception on everything: Bad Boy Bob. Now Bad Boy Bob is not your run of the mill hero- no he’s a sarcastic, leather jacket wearing rogue. And he doesn’t agree with the Powers That Be with how they’re running things. He also doesn’t think Sally is such a Special Snowflake at all. And some generic blond mean girls agree with him. Cue: crying, lots and lots of anxious crying.

bad_boy_by_g_rape_fruit-d5y3me3Sally desperately wants to hate Bad Boy Bob, but the only issue is there is some *insane* chemistry between them (emphasis on the insane). What’s a girl to do? Treat him like a leper and ignore him or desperately try to prove herself to him and all the generic blond mean girls? You guessed it- she tries to prove herself.

The Real Look of Lord Voldemort from "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"And guess what? She manages to prove that she is the most saviour-y of the saviours. She is the Chosen One! Cue everyone’s amazing gratitude as she saves some tiny children from a burning building. Still, this won’t solve her problems- because there’s an evil villain prowling about called I-Am-The-Evil-Dark-One-Cower-In-Fear-But-Don’t-Judge-Me-It’s-Not-My-Fault-I-Have-A-Stupid-Name (I. M. Evil for short) who wants to ruin everything! Oh no!

But worse than that- Bad Boy Bob seems more appealing than ever AND he seems to be interested in her after all the saving the children thing. Which is not good- because all she wants is to be happy with Harry the Hottie- but Bad Boy Bob is incredibly distracting and sooo cute. She thinks she might love both of them. Also, destiny is telling her that one of them is her soulmate!!

*Cue angst*

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Who will she choose?? Okay, the world is coming to an end (because, you know, reasons) but that’s not the most important thing happening here- seriously, we shouldn’t be concerned with the fact the sun’s gonna *literally* crash into the earth or something, nope, what we should really worry about is how this lovestruck teenager will choose between two perfectly decent guys.

I. M. Evil does some evil sh*t and kidnaps her parents or something (yes she has parents- they didn’t turn up earlier because they weren’t relevant to the plot- but turns out they knew she was the saviour all along, they just wanted to protect her from her *destiny*- keep up people). Now she has to choose between her family and the world. She can’t decide. Daddy dies. Cue: heartbreak and despair. Oh and Bad Boy Bob turns out to be her sworn enemy. So cue: double heartbreak. *Sally runs off with Harry the Hottie*

That’s basically the plot for book 1. Tune in next time to see what happens with Sally and co.

Top Ten Worst YA Tropes

Now after my post on why originality is overrated, I thought it might be fun to flip my argument on its head and talk about some unoriginal ideas I don’t like. Partly cos I’m a HYPOCRITE but mostly cos it’s FUN! Also I recently read this book:

eve

I’m not gonna bother reviewing it, because frankly I don’t want to waste more time on it than I already have and there is literally nothing *new* I could possibly say about it. It was pretty much the definition of bland. So instead I’m gonna take this opportunity to talk about my least favourite tropes in YA.

*Rather-Obvious-Disclaimer: there are exceptions to every rule*

And honestly- I love to be proved wrong and find one of my most hated tropes done well. But *most of the time* these guarantee an eye roll or a despairing groan. So here are my top ten worst YA tropes with a few of the biggest culprits as examples:

  1. essenseSpecial Snowflake Main Character– this one often combines two of my least favourite tropes: the Chosen One and the “I’m a what?” tropes. Basically this character is super special, because they have a gift that no one else has, so they’re gonna save the world. Oh and they had no idea that they’re special- of course. In fairness, there are rare occasions when this doesn’t suck- but they are few and far between, so authors need to *stop using this trope* (unless you’re writing something like Carry On, then all is forgiven). An example of this is the Essence series- because my-oh-my this character is a special snowflake indeed.
  2. unbecoming of mara dyerInstalove– I’m gonna try and not let this dissolve into another rant like the last one- but c’mon!! When does this ever happen in real life?!? And let’s face it, it wouldn’t even be a good thing if it did- it would be super weird and creepy if your boyfriend of two days started declaring his undying love for you! That’s when you need to get a restraining order- *not* to start ordering wedding invitations. I’m looking at The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and so many others!
  3. The Plain Jane– I *hate* these characters. Not only do they come across as super whiny and annoying- but they also make no sense. I mean, they’re supposed to simultaneously be the ugliest of all the ducklings *AND* be the most desirable female with every single guy in the vicinity desperate to have your babies. Sorry, but to quote Cinderella Story:

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The best example of this is Ana Steel in Fifty Shades of Grey. And all those hoards of attractive males brings me onto my next point.

  1. matchedThe Love Triangle– ahh the dreaded love triangle. Twilight made it popular and for some horrendous reason it hasn’t gone anywhere. Why? I have *no idea*. This bloody thing is everywhere and one of the worst offenders of this is Matched. Basically, it’s just an easy (and terribly lazy) way for authors to pad their plot with unbearable amounts of angst, as their main character frets over which wonderful person they’re going to spend the rest of their life with. And while we’re on the subject of the main character…
  2. selectionThe Nice-ty Main Character- you know the nice/nasty ones that kill you with kindness (you know the type). This is basically the main character who is allowed to be a total biatch, just because they’re so “lovely”. And we are constantly reminded how sweet and caring they are as they mess around two guys at once, two time and generally act like a whiny cow. And all the while, it’s somehow the guy’s fault that they can’t figure out their feelings. The perfect example is America in The Selection, because let’s face it she’s a right *insert-expletive-here*, but we’re supposed to believe she’s wonderful and completely selfless. Really? It’s totally selfless of her to spend 3 books choosing between two guys, is it?
  3. TwilightbookDouchbag Love Interests– and when we don’t have the horrible female leads, we have the horrible male love interest (sometimes we’re really lucky and get both, *ahem, Twilight*). These, often controlling, usually bullying and always brooding characters somehow steal the heart of the main character (*ahem, Twilight*- I could probably call this “the Edward Cullen Trope” after all). It’s like a recipe for domestic abuse. But hey, they’re good looking, so we shouldn’t worry about any of that. *Face palm*. And while we’re still on the subject of love, this is something that really drives me crazy:
  4. Bronzehorseman.jpgPretentious Characters That Recite Reams of Poetry– I’ve read a few lists ions ago, but haven’t seen this one about- probably cos most people like this. But honestly this just does my head in. I have never met anyone that does this in real life, but I swear, if I ever met someone that reciting whole poems was a good idea, I’d probably want to hit them too. Basically, this makes me violent- don’t do it, unless you want a banana aimed at your head. I could think of a ton of examples where this happens- Infernal Devices (although admittedly I like that anyway), The Bronze Horseman (yeuch!) and John Green makes so many pretentious references he may as well do it.
  5. aunt jennaNon-Absentee Absent Parents– okay, moving on from the romance in YA, this one bugs me quite a bit. I’m being fairly specific here, because I don’t mean the dead parents trope, which I don’t actually mind so much- even if it is overused. No, this one bugs me because it just makes the parents look really dumb. Basically, they’re the parents that are about but they’re so useless, they can’t tell their children have been entertaining demons in their room. Or even worse, the parents that know something is wrong, but still let their children run off to fight monsters. And cos I’m zonked, the best example I can think of is Aunt Jenna in Vampire Diaries (I know, I know, I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead). This often combines with…
  6. City_of_Bones (1)The Dumbledore– you know, the parent/teacher figure that withholds information for mysterious *reasons*. Just because the author doesn’t want to reveal stuff too early. Usually, it’s parents who knew their child had powers but didn’t tell them. Often, they find out their parents knew all along after they have some near-death experience. Which always makes me wonder why on earth didn’t they tell them sooner- you know, maybe they could have avoided all this. It just makes me think they need parenting lessons, cos there are some secrets- like your father’s an evil maniac- that parents shouldn’t keep from their children. Much as I love the series, Mortal Instruments is guilty of this.
  7. shadow-and-bone_hi-res-677x1024Stupid Names For Evil Characters– so I don’t always hate this and I can forgive it most of the time (let’s be honest, I’m guilty of it too). I mean, I have to allow for the fact that dumb names like the “Dark Lord” or “THE EVIL ONE” will catch on when regular people are naming them. And this is usually okay if the villain has an alternative name (ie Voldemort). *BUT* what I cannot forgive is when the main character cannot tell that the guy with the obviously evil name is evil. And how no one else in the story picks up on it- I’m looking at you “Darkling”- how was that a surprise when he turned out to be evil for crying out loud?

Okay that’s my list. I almost put “The Brave Idiot” on here too- but I’ve warmed to that character in recent times, because I’ve read quite a few that are really good.

Agree? Disagree? What are your least favourite YA tropes? Let me know in the comments below!

And if you liked this post- stay tuned for something special coming next on my blog…