I wanted to do Paranormalcy by Kiersten White because I’ve generally always thought that the covers they chose were intentionally far more stereotypically feminine than the story warranted — to the point that the action, humor, and monsters in the story were totally eclipsed by the idea of a heroine in billowing prom dresses. Which is only a few scenes of the book, really, and she’s killing “bleeping” monsters while she’s in the dress…
no reason someone into action stories shouldn’t want to pick up the Paranormalcy series with the covers as they are, basically.
I also chose to do Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins because the only way they would assign that kind of title by a male author, which is hugely limiting when trying to sell the book to boys/men because of gendered language, would be if it were by like Nicholas Sparks, and aimed at being genre romance or erotica — much like the detestable James Oliphant, a Nicholas Sparks parody, in the novel itself.
(It’s absolutely ridiculous that anyone should demean a book for appealing to girls and/or women in the first place, especially to the point of refusing to read it or being ashamed to be seen carrying it. That’s the bigger issue, really. Femininity isn’t shameful. Maybe rather than trying to make YA covers less feminine, we should work on male readers’ negative preconceptions about femininity…)
I don’t think anyone who actually understands books, literature, writing, teaching, bookselling, or, frankly, human beings would consider 20 “too old” for YA lit. Then again, I’m 26 and I like YA lit, boy bands, and cartoons, and the only people who have ever questioned that are people I don’t respect anyway for being huge misogynists or otherwise jerkfaces.
People who think 20 is “too old” for YA lit have a basic misconception of the genre. What is a young adult if not a twenty-year-old? You are LITERALLY a young adult; why shouldn’t you read books for and about young adults? YA books are not called Twelve Year Old Girl Only!!!!!!!! books because they are not about and do not appeal only to preteens, or only girls and women. YA lit is made up of stories about self-discovery and self-actualization (slightly satirized in a brilliant and meaningful way by Mia’s literal textual quest for self-actualization in Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series). That’s it. That’s all it takes for a book to be “YA lit.” And frankly, having been there, I would say that at 20, that is absofuckinglutely what life’s big question is: I sort of know who I am, but where the hell do I want to go and how do I get there? That’s a journey plotline that is interesting and important and thoughtful for anyone, and people who don’t respect that either can’t see past the pink (or black and swirly) covers or can’t see past their own misconceived ideas about the senses of self of YA’s most common/most stereotyped readers — girls and women.
I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT THE DEMONIZATION OF YA AND ITS ROOTS IN MISOGYNY.
And if the person shaming your reading habits still thinks you’re too old, then the pin-up-the-bum sticker of the situation is basically: who the fuck do they think is writing, representing, editing, publishing, marketing and optioning YA? Because it isn’t preteen or teenage girls. It’s adults. All older than 20 by a longshot. And they do it because they see the value in it — even if they can only see the monetary value, they can see something — and, particularly in the case of writers, agents, editors, and their publishers, they believe in YA.
YA Lit is stories about self-identity for the most formative time for identity, and it will always matter. If people don’t get that, then they don’t understand why self-identity and self-expression and the ability to find relatable heroines (or heroes) of culture matter.
I just realized that I never shared the paper I wrote for my senior project about Problematic Issues in Young Adult Literature. Since Tumblr (and V, especially) really helped me familiarize with a lot of issues in the first place, that seemed sad to me. So, here is my paper! My presentation highlights the main points of my paper and I will be giving it on Wednsday.
Please feel free to share any comments you may have!
This is a wonderful paper! I’m glad I was able to help. :)
I don’t want them to worship the female protagonist. That isn’t a healthy, equal, respectful relationship, either. And I do NOT think that Katniss/Peeta is healthy. Or equal. Or respectful. I’ve posted within the last… day? That it makes me actively angry that they ended up together. They are NOT a healthy relationship. Katniss/Peeta is another one of the least healthy relationships in YA that I can think of. Ditto Katniss/Gale. Both of the main relationships are very, very, very problematic, and I don’t to my recollection ever say otherwise.
And Edward is the most horrifyingly abusive “romantic lead” that I can think of, period, so clearly you found me through a random web of links and haven’t actually read any post I’ve ever written on the subject of consent and perpetuation of abuse and rape culture in YA relationships.
You should also brush up on what emotional abuse is. It’s not negated by being “lovey dovey,” and oftentimes manipulative “lovey dovey-ness” is pretty problematic.
AND MY REBLOG OF THAT FIRST POST CRITICIZING JACE AND TOBIAS **ALSO CRITICIZED PEETA/KATNISS** GOD
Dauntless is totally just a hardcore Gryffindor. JUMP OFF THAT HOGWARTS EXPRESS, GUYS.
AND BE GOFFIK. No, that last part was too mean.
…There really are not very many. Which is really upsetting.
Because the thing is, even love interests I ADORE — like Etienne St. Clair — are not super-great guys. Etienne emotionally cheats on Ellie for the entire book, pretty much, and it’s excused because the narrator and MC is Anna, which pits girl against girl, even subtly, and makes her very much subject to a lot of emotional manipulation on Etienne’s part. And that sucks, because I really REALLY love AATFK, and I think Anna/Etienne are so solid and great, but… HE isn’t. And they probably really aren’t, because track records don’t really lie.
And then there are the arguments against love interests who want to “protect” the main character’s “virtue” so much that they reject and deny her bodily autonomy, like Edward Cullen, but HE’S JUST HORRIFYINGLY ABUSIVE IN EVERY WAY ALL THE TIME. But it’s not okay for the dude to make all of the decisions in a relationship, period, especially when it means he’s flat-out telling his partner that she doesn’t understand her own body and mind as well as he does. No one knows your body and your mind as well as YOU do.
There are levels, obviously, because, say, Etienne, is on a different aspect of the Problematic Plane than, say, Patch Cipriano, who threatened to rape his leading lady while literally holding a knife to her throat and forcing her to kiss him against her will and we’re still supposed to think he’s swoony.
On the flip side, there’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, where the boys are all sort of completely terrible but that’s literally the point of the book, so that makes me enamored with it?
So I would tentatively say…
I’m really wracking my brain here — and I wish I could just list all of my favorites — but I can’t think of any others off the top of my head that didn’t set off big flags for me. Like I said, even a lot of my favorite ships and favorite books are actually problematic, and that sucks.
Basically, the thing is, YA writers, if you want to have your love interest be the Bad Boy, that’s fine. But Bad Boys are the guy smoking in the bathroom, not the guy putting his cigarettes out on your protagonist’s skin.
And then talking real pretty about it so it’s okay!
It’s not okay.
Because the entire Dauntless social structure is fucking abusive, and he alternately verbally lashes out against Tris and then provides her the only semblance of her childhood/normalcy that she can find, training her to be emotionally dependent on him. It’s Stockholm Syndrome.
And he catches her in the midst of an attempted gangrape and murder and uses it to get her in his bed, and I cannot like him or any character after something like that.
Especially when her literal greatest fear is sex. With him.
The real difference between these three is that Katniss doesn’t say she’s not pretty because she thinks she is plain looking. She says “pretty” and even “beautiful” are not good enough descriptions, because she is actually “as radiant as the sun” at that moment. However, most of the time Katniss doesn’t think about her appearance one way or the other.
Katniss has her share of self-esteem issues, but worries about her looks are not part of them.
And that Peeta quote ISN’T WHAT HE SAYS. He doesn’t say “you’re beautiful, and…” and, the above poster is right, Katniss’ inner monologue continues to say that she, herself, is radiant. In a completely different part of the series, Peeta says his nightmares are about losing her. Because they are in a gladiatorial death match.
Also Tobias and Jace are both hugely emotionally abusive (and arguably physically and sexually abusive) and Jace is a MASTER of passive-aggressive manipulation. This post is terrible. I will always reblog it when I see it to point out that Katniss’ relationship with herself, Peeta’s relationship with Katniss, Jace/Clary, and Tris/Tobias are ALL being misrepresented.
I don’t personally think that they would be able to recover, as a couple, from the kind of trauma they experienced in the Games/Quell and war after — not to mention Peeta’s hijacking — for me to feel like they wouldn’t be an emotionally unhealthy pairing, in the canon of the story. If their individual recoveries and recovery as a pairing had been shown (at all) in the book, then maybe I would be able to wrap my head around it?
But I also just fucking hate that Katniss’ story had to end with Marriage And Two Kids And A Cat because fuck that shit, that is NOT the only happy ending that a woman’s story can have.
AND it’s not the ending Katniss ever wanted. I have read very, very compelling arguments to the contrary and I respect those arguments and the people who write them, but I don’t personally understand how the epilogue fits Katniss’ story, personality, or character development at all. It makes me actively angry.
Although: Collins didn’t develop it enough between the final chapter and the epilogue for me to believe, in a narrative sense, that it wasn’t a cop-out ending that wasn’t really meant to be a part of the story in the first place but was ~required to give the series a “happy ending” because THG was deemed a ~kids/teen book. I would be really, really interested to find out whether she wanted to write that epilogue or Scholastic needed it.
I prefer Peeta as both a character and a person, but I wish the epilogue hadn’t happened at all and I don’t feel like it’s healthy for Katniss to have ended up with either of them, really?
Ethnically? Katniss is Seam.
I think that she’s a multiracial haplotype that doesn’t exist as anything we would quantify in terms that exist today. I don’t think Katniss is Black or Native American or Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian or whatever, I think she’s Seam.
(But I also think that the books use a lot of semi-appropriative but pretty clear evidence that Seam is intended to be at least in part descended from [some kind of generic, hence the appropriation] Native American ancestry — Katniss has a long black braid, is ~in touch with nature~ and hunts with a bow and arrow. If Katniss didn’t identify so succinctly with Seam culture, it would be pretty offensive, tbh. It would be a potential Cho Chang situation.
The Hanging Tree song, a traditional Seam ballad, is also very clearly about lynching, suggesting that Seam culture derives from or identified at some point at least in part as Black. But I think that anyone who says “KATNISS IS NATIVE AMERICAN!” or “KATNISS IS BLACK!” is reductive.*
It’s a thousand years from now, and Katniss describes populations in Panem as not only very isolated, but very segregated, and very much as races, cultures, and ethnicities of their own. Finnick, Annie, and Mags are District 4 [and there may be divisions within District 4 akin to the Merchant/Seam division in D12 that Katniss/Collins doesn’t tell us about, same with every other District]. Johanna is District 7. The Morphlings are District 6. Katniss, Gale, and Haymitch are Seam.
Katniss’ mother is white. Katniss and Prim are both, canonically, biracial. They are half-Seam. And half-Merchant. Merchant is meant to be pretty synonymous with white, but that does not make Katniss, OR PRIM, white. They are both biracial.)
* But I’d rather be reductive than say that “~KATNISS WAS WHITE!” because that’s the one that’s CLEARLY NOT TRUE IN THE TEXT.
Oh, you noticed how The Hunger Games has many similarities to other stories, both fictional and non? That must be because you’re just so very smart and know oh so much about sci-fi. It can’t possibly be due to the fact that Suzanne Collins couldn’t have made her inspirations clearer if she had included footnotes.
If you’re criticizing the book or trilogy for reminding you of other things, you’re missing the point.
Some science fiction stories make you think of what could be. Others, like The Hunger Games, make you think of what is or what has been.
The Hunger Games makes an impression not because its premise is something people have never imagined before, but because of how it takes hardly any imagination at all to understand Panem and the Games. We can see it already in history, in other stories that draw on history, and in modern society. The power of the trilogy comes from familiarty rather than novelty.
“I loved The Hunger Games when I devoured the trilogy in a week (the first book, in a day). As a woman of color (brown, not olive skinned) who grew up in a third world country, the idea of being a revolutionary hero in the world of YA seemed to speak to my childish self. When I found out it was going to be made into a movie, I was so excited to see who would be cast to play my black-haired, olive-skinned heroine. This week, Jezebel reported that Jennifer Lawrence may be cast in the lead: she is most decidedly not the black-haired, olive-skinned woman of color I imagined kicking butt as the Girl on Fire. Jezebel bases its argument that casting should include non-Caucasians on explicit descriptions of characters in the book, and not on the omissions or the overall metaphor that I found to be the most compelling argument for why Katniss is not white. In short, the entire metaphor that runs through the book about oppression, hunger, and excess is meaningless if none of the main characters are people of color.”
(click to read the rest)