Posts tagged musings
Silver Linings: Expectations in YA

Hey y'all!This is something I've been musing over for a while. There are all these events and ideas and people  that have been put in my head from YA books. There's a lot of things that have frankly disappointed me because I read about them being life-changing and magical and utterly spectacular. There's going to be some opportunity or change happening in a character's life. But there are a lot of days where nothing happens whatsoever. I think YA should deal with this more. This is brought to mind because I went to Homecoming this weekend (Homecoming was amazing! It wasn't one of these events; it just made me think of them!) and that's something that's been written about in YA books for a while.I don't necessarily mean unrealistic expectations in a book are bad, because I actually really enjoy them. It's just that they're so DIFFERENT from everyday experiences.Expectations for YA books and expectations in real life are two entirely different things, but they shouldn't be all the time. If you're writing for teens, wouldn't it make sense to try to stick as realistically to it as possible? A person can't never do homework and still be the smartest person in the class. It simply doesn't make sense. And yet these characters are created - these beautiful, flawed characters - and they have conflicts but they don't often deal with the monotony of life.Things go wrong, but they're perfectly calculated wrongs. They don't screw with your perceptions of your experiences and there is no mention of the thoughts that press in on your brain because you can't stop thinking of everything you have to do and everything that's going on. There's no mention of that because it isn't relevant to the plot.We have these expectations for YA books. There will be an instant connection between the protagonist and the love interest, kisses that sweep them off their feet. I personally don't mind instalove that much. It's one of those staples of YA that occurs in many books. The problem with those things is that I end up having ridiculous expectations.I expect that life and homework and being social won't be the problem. It won't be a struggle every day to try to scrounge up a blog post and study for my math test. Those things are hardly ever mentioned in YA. YA focuses on the romance, on the action, and of the experiences that I won't ever get to have because I'm stuck doing work for a good portion of my day. I expect that I can actually go out and change the world while still balancing homework and a blog. Really, how often do you read of heroines doing homework? The only example that I can pull to mind at the moment is Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton.When I had my first kiss, I cried. I got in the car and cried. It wasn't bad or anything, but it just caught me by surprise and was with a guy that I had only known for about a month. I had been building it up. I wasn't expecting it to be amazing - I was expecting it to feel right and all it made me do was realize exactly how little I knew this person. Then I turned around and handled it badly on top of that. YA books had made it seem normal and didn't mention how comfortable you had to be with a person to kiss, or to talk to them about something you think about all the time, or even just to go through those teenage milestones.I personally know some girls who kiss guys because they should - because people are saying they should get together or because he's attractive. But heroines in YA novels? The shy ones, unsure and awkward ones? They should have been unsure about it at least. At the very least, confused, and not just in an I-don't-know-which-attractive-boy-to-choose way. I don't think that this is a requirement for all YA novels, but I wish there were more mentions of the confusion and awkwardness of couples in teenage years. That's one experience that YA didn't prepare me for having.I try to look at this from a writer's perspective. In all of the writing books that I've read, it's mentioned to leave out unnecessary details. It's a general rule of writing. While I understand this, it also leaves out a lot of really important little details that really make the story.I was actually talking about this with Leah Clifford, author of A Touch Mortal, and I just love books that really emphasize the little details. It's the little things that make you like a person. It's the little things that really make your day and make you feel like you're doing something. Something so insignificant can have a huge impact on you, and it's strange that YA can forget about this sometimes. It's all perfectly streamlined to make sense to the plot and for the individual story arc, but sometimes the story arc isn't everything.There are a few reflective books that deal with this well. There are books that simply deal with coming-of-age and aren't all plot related. The boy and girl don't  have to get together for the book to work; not everything has to fall into place. There are plenty of character-driven books that still have a plot but don't focus on this. I'm not saying that the characters are better or any more complex or anything. I'm just saying that these books DO focus on the little things. They do incorporate the everyday struggles of being a teen. They show the ugly sides of things. Their first kisses aren't perfect; they make mistakes and screw up in ways that aren't necessary to the plot.I'm just saying that a lot of what I came to high school expecting to find didn't happen. I thought that I would be sure of my friend group because even though the heroines end up with new friends, they're certain about them. I have so many questions about it - if you're unsure about something, is that okay? Should you walk away or should you keep fighting for it? How do you KNOW if something is right? There's always a conflict but how do you know if you're supposed to go for it? How do you know if something is right? Is it supposed to feel right? All these questions weren't dealt with in many YA books because it feels right to them then. There aren't the little insecurities pricking at them like mosquitoes at every second about everything. They aren't trying to escape their thoughts. There's always something going on. None of this has happened in my life. Maybe it's different for y'all, but this post is coming completely from personal experience.I expected things to feel different. I expected to be sure of myself, or at least to be on the way to that happening. Something is supposed to happen in situations like this; something always happens in YA books. But the truth is, what if nothing happens? What if the insecurities stay? What if my friend group doesn't settle? What if I don't end up falling for somebody? What if nothing happens for four years? I just wish for once that a book would deal with these imperfections in all the little parts of life and create a more realistic perception of this confusion. I keep expecting for something to happen but what if it doesn't? YA doesn't cover this part of being a teenager.What do y'all think? 

Silver Linings: Censorship

Hey y'all!I'm here today to talk about something that's very important to me. If you're a blogger or an avid blog reader, you may have seen many of these posts this week. This week is Banned Books Week, a week celebrating the right to read.As a teen, a reader, and a person, I can't stand the thought of anybody trying to ban books from me. Books are how I learn about the world. I'm fourteen, and while that may just seem like a number to you, it means that a lot of people try to protect me from the world and people don't necessarily believe in how serious I am.One of the many problems with banning books is that without books, you aren't exposed. Being exposed is not the same thing as being vulnerable. It makes me angry when people try to "shelter" teens from the things in books. Do you not realize that we're exposed at school every day? That we don't have drinkers, pregnant teens, and stoners in our classes? That we don't know what sex means or how drugs can impact you? It may be considered more "adult"  knowledge but we have the right to know. We already don't know enough about the world at the moment. Let us know.An argument that I always use when people try to say that young adult is "inappropriate" or that I shouldn't be reading a book because of content is that I'm curious. Wouldn't you rather me read about something than go out and do it? Reading about a teen whose pregnant and understanding deeply how it affects her life scares me. Being exposed to these things through book instead of in life doesn't make me vulnerable; it protects me. I take pride in the knowledge that I'm aware of the consequences that my actions can easily have and through reading, I understand those. Reading about a girl similar to me who wrecks her life through a reckless decision makes me aware of the impact of my actions. Banning this from teens is morally wrong. Lack of knowledge wrecks lives, not too much knowledge (at least for me).When is censorship ever a good idea? Plus, it's not  a permanent solution; it's temporary. Those adults worrying about how much their sons and daughters should know are seemingly oblivious to the fact that in a few years, we'll be adults. We'll be living in this world considered too dangerous to know about.I used to sneak books from my older sister and from my family. I read The Lovely Bones and Go Ask Alice and Speak at shockingly young ages. Many parents would probably be horrified by my age. The thing is that I was thirsty for knowledge and eager to know about the world. I don't consider myself any less innocent or worse off because of it. I have the awareness to understand when a book is too inappropriate for me and when I should read it. I know that there are some things that I don't want to know about yet and that yes, ignorance can be bliss. I'm not saying that not knowing should be condemned. I'm saying that teens should be able to have the choice what knowledge that they have and what experiences they can read about. Chances are that they're going to be exposed to those experiences soon enough anyways.While some teenagers that I know make extremely reckless and life-altering decisions, I'm confident in my beliefs and morals. I think that it's because I've been allowed to know the pros and cons of all these things through reading about people like me going through the same dilemmas. When confronted with drinks, drugs, or sex, I have the uttermost confidence in myself that I will make the right choice because I've read about it.Many of my favorite books are books about scary choices and life-changing experiences. Many of my favorite books are banned books. I shudder to think about which books I never would have been able to read and what kind of person I would be if I hadn't read those books. If I hadn't understood the character with every fiber of my soul and completely connected. If I hadn't gone through those experiences, if only in my head. I wouldn't be who I am now, that's for sure.Last year, I read Fahrenheit 451 in my English class and was completely horrified. The kids in my class watched my reaction through the book burning scenes and I'm sure that I must have given them a good show. I thirst for knowledge; I want to know about the world, whether it's bad or good. Reading a fluffy book won't make me a better person. Reading books that expose me to the world -make me think- are the books that I remember and the books that change me for the better. Who are these people to take these rights away from us? Who are these people to say what teens can and cannot handle? Ignorance is the cause of many problems. Imagine how much better society would be if everybody read about these dangers without going out and participating in them first. That's what books have done for me. They've exposed me to the world without making me vulnerable.Banning a book has no benefits. What use is an ignorant world? Teens deserve to have the right to read and have access to knowledge. Who are these people to decide that a teen can or can't handle the content of a book? What content is truly bad anyways that teens aren't already exposed to in their everyday lives? What kind of choices would at-risk teens have made if they knew how their lives could change, through books? The world is a scary place. We know that. But it doesn't have to be ignorant.Teens are the next generation. By knowing about these things, we can plan ahead and gain more perspective about how these things can easily shape our lives. It's amazing to me - in an awful way - how people can honestly believe that censorship is a good idea. It baffles me completely. I could go on about this topic for hours and take up pages, but I'm trying to slim down my posts a tad and I also just don't want to completely all out rant about it. Censorship is wrong; reading about the good AND the bad things have made me a better person. I just...I don't understand how somebody could think that taking this knowledge away from teenagers would be a good idea.Celebrate Banned Books Week!Love y'all!Grace

Silver Linings: Mood and Setting

Overall, mood is probably my favorite thing in a book. Beautiful writing doesn't do as much for me unless I'm transported back someplace. I can feel the wind or sensations that I associate with better times and different parts of myself. I love finding a book that just gives me certain feelings that I can't even begin to put into words. Mood for me means making me feel vivid sensations and not reading a book, but experiencing it.Think back to when you've felt most alive. Think back to those rare feelings that you have, the sensations that you only get to experience once a year. That dark little thrill around Halloween, settling in with candy and watching Halloweentown as it slowly gets colder outside. There's this FEELING that comes with Halloween that never happens every time of the year and I love books that capture that feeling. Around this time of year, I start hunting for those books that capture that mood. It's the same for me with winter and the beach - there are some books that I just NEED to read around that time of year to get that feeling again.This post is spurred by Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Amy McNamara, my current read. It's filled with so much mood and sensation. It's quiet, calm, and sad. The mood perfectly matches the setting; all of it is just so perfect. It's such a mood-and-setting book and it's exactly what I've been wanting in a book.Recently, I've been aching for a fall book. I want a book that just screams classic fall: vivid leaves, fall festivals, hay rides and the smell of apples and cinnamon. I've been annoyed with Florida weather because up north, people actually get seasons. I want a book that contains the season of fall. Every year around Christmas and Halloween, I do a major rereading session of all the books that remind me of those seasons. For example, I read Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater and Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins because they remind me of the feeling that I get around Halloween.There are some phrases and some writers who just manage to capture those moods perfectly. Sometimes I just want to be transported again to the first time when I read that book, when I was caught up in the story and completely forgot about my own world. I love reading those books where I'm just experiencing the same things that the characters are.There are even a few books where it's just a particular scene that I'm in love with. In I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, when Number Four and Sarah are at the carnival or festival and they go on the haunted hayride? For some reason, that scene just reminds me so much of fall. I want Halloween books around Halloween, fall books in fall, winter books in winter, and mermaid books at the beach. There are some books that are just so purely that mood that I can't help but reread them whenever I yearn to experience that sensation again. I just crave books like that.Give me mood and I'm hooked. And setting? If you've got a good setting, I'm pretty much guaranteed to love the book.For example, boarding school. Set a book at a boarding school and I'm pretty much in love. Granted, there are exceptions to this rule (Private by Kate Brian, for one, but that's mostly just because I'm not usually a fan of drama books) but I'm constantly on the search for new boarding school books. I read a lot of paranormal boarding school books as well (Hex HallFallen) because I love the setting and the genre.I'm also a sucker for the small towns. I want to live in New York, but I wish that I grew up in a small town. While reading Burn for Burn by Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han, I would kill to live on that tiny island. I feel like I would get so annoyed if I grew up in a small town but I would love to live in one now. I love the idea of it. Festivals and events and community and all that. I would love to live in a picturesque small town, the one that you read about in books or you see in movies.When I was younger, I wanted to live in a small town by the ocean. My point is that I love reading small town books now just because I love the classic feel of them. Lovely, Dark, and Deep is set in a small, wintery town by the ocean. The mixture of snow and ocean as a setting just kills me. I'm in love with it! The setting perfectly matches Wren's emotions and it just makes for an incredible experience.Setting and mood are the number one most important traits in a book for me. I appreciate beautiful writing but it has to weave in the mood and setting. I'm a sucker for imagery, even purple prose. As long as it paints a picture in my head, I'm good. The most beautiful writing for me is the writing that can transport me back with only a few words.The point of this blog post is just to talk about those books that remind you of certain feelings and settings. What are your Halloween books? Are they different from your fall books? What books do you read that just serve as a tugging reminder to a certain memory? Which books do you read when you want to experience something again? Which books just paint such a vivid picture in your head of a particular time that you just have to reread them again? Are setting and mood the most important traits for you?

Silver Linings: Social Media Safety

Sometimes it can be easy to forget how much we put ourselves out there. We're so immersed in the idea of showing off or connecting to the people around us that we forget that we're also showing the world who we are. Not everybody is like us and that can be easy to forget.This post inspires a lot of feelings for me because it happened to one of my best friends. It can be especially scary for me because a huge amount of my life is lived online.   There's a rush of pride that comes with talking about my blog. I love having something unique going for me - blog people know about my personal life and people in my personal life know about my blog. The line between my blog life and my personal life can be crossed, but it should rarely be crossed.One reason why this applies to book bloggers is because of the recent Stop the GR Bullies controversy. A website scrounged up extremely personal information about reviewers on Goodreads who they claimed were "bullying" reviewers. This can be explored to some extent, but never should they have gone so far as to give out personal information such as addresses, emails, phone numbers. And in most cases (of course, this is entirely in my opinion) the reviewers didn't do anything wrong! Many reviewers have kids and families - people put in danger by this reveal of personal information. John Green and Hank Green have had to put on their websites that it is not appropriate to try to find their addresses and come to see them. It's dangerous.I've done a few security measures - I don't say where I go to school, I block people on Twitter who make inappropriate comments. I don't give out my personal email to anybody in my blog life other than a few really close friends. But until now, I didn't realize exactly how easy I was making it for people to find out my personal information. But on my Twitter and blog, I have where I live, my age, and several other tidbits of information. As of today, it will be gone. Once I finish this blog post, I'm changing all my passwords, removing personal information, etc,. I'm going to keep my age up because it's a part of my identity and helps with the perspective of my blog, but I am going to be much more careful from now on.Something scary happened to my best friends today - somebody hacked her Instagram and posted porn on her feed. They had access to her accounts even when she changed the password and it was just scary to know how easily somebody could find her personal information. Her mom emailed everybody to let them know that she was hacked and that everybody should either set their Instagrams on private or delete it. Her dad is musing that it may have something to do with business - hackers working from a list of accounts to make Facebook look bad and make stock go down. Either way, it was freaky.I have two main uses for social media: "in real life" and "blog". The first is to make connections with the teens in my community. Without social media, I would be screwed. It's how I find out about parties, organize dinners with my friends. Many of the connections that I've made and friends that I've made have been started by a TBH on Facebook or a casual conversation. It helps to be recognizable and seen on social media in real life because it lets people know who you are. I'm of the belief that too much knowledge is better than too little and social media is a great way to know more about people. It's also the best way to know who is going out with who, who's done what, and other things that are helpful to know, especially going into high school. Before now, the only negative that I've sometimes experienced is hurt feelings when I haven't been invited somewhere with friends. There's another negative to it: sometimes we can forget that it's not just people in our immediate community (school, friends, etc,.) can see what we post and our personal information, especially if profiles are public.The second use for social media is for my blog. Without Twitter, my blog would have never have gained more readers. It's how I've connected with my favorite authors. I can't praise Twitter enough.  On Twitter, I don't screen my followers as much just because of the pure joy of reaching eight hundred followers (I'm four away!) and I sometimes only see the numbers and not the people. Twitter was such a helpful tool at BEA and is fantastic for publicizing blog posts. It's so easy to be another person on Twitter and social media that it also makes me feel better about myself. On Twitter, I can pretend that I'm somebody I'm not sometimes. I can be more confident and I have people who get me, when in real life, that's not the case. I have a great number of followers and regular conversations. The problem with this is that I still have a PUBLIC profile. As more of my friends have gotten Twitters, I've been tweeting more and more personal things, especially since I'm about to start high school. Tweeting with a public profile can mean lots of retweets and random conversations but it also means that everybody can see it and not everybody has the same standards or morals that we do. I put myself out there so much on my blog and social media and make myself vulnerable to my friends and community - but I forget that I'm also making myself vulnerable to the world.I've always wanted to be an "established" blogger and social media is a huge part of that. It's also a huge part of being a writer! I see followers and I feel popular and it makes me happy. I've left it really easy to connect with me - my personal Facebook is friends with a lot of authors and bloggers. Twitter is the best resource for a blogger. This is what I want to do and this is the best way to do this. I practically collect social media accounts. I let my normal life bleed into my blogging world. I don't want to be impersonal to my readers but there has to be a line. Safety should trump everything else. I'm going to be more careful about tweeting pictures of myself and my friends and just about what I say in general.  I definitely live a lot of my life on Twitter and I've forgotten how scary that the internet can be. The internet is also forever. Whatever you put up there, other people can see. People still get really freaked out when I mention blogger friends or a conversation that I've had on Twitter and I always got kind of annoyed with them until I realized how much of my life I live on the internet.Obviously, not everybody should take the following measures and not everybody is going to do so. I'm just saying is that this is what makes me FEEL safe. Do what you feel comfortable with. I'm not saying that everybody should be doing the same thing that I'm doing:What am I saying? Well, I support the usage of social media (especially Twitter) but take extra precautions. If you tweet a lot of personal things but you also want to get lots of blog followers and publicity, make separate accounts. I'm about to do this. Set the personal account to private. Screen your followers always. Don't put where you live in your profile and be very careful about what you put out there. Keep your blogging and personal life separate enough to be safe, be careful about what you put out there, and be careful about WHO you interact with.Some measures that I will be taking soon include creating a personal Twitter, setting my Instagram to private and ONLY using it for blog things like which book I'm reading, sorting through Facebook friends and Twitter followers to make sure that they're all appropriate, and making sure that I'm safe.   I'm going to keep my age up, but also sorting through tweets to make sure that I haven't revealed the school I go to or anything dangerous. My passion for blogging and networking is one of the biggest parts of me but please, if you network, be safe about it. I know it can be thrilling when you first start out to get a review request from an author and get all these books in your mailbox but be picky about your review request. If you suspect somebody, don't give out your address. I believe that Katie from Mundie Moms has a P.O. Box.This should also be obvious, but if you meet up with somebody that you've met online like a blogger friend or somebody, either meet with them at an industry event (BEA or ALA, for example, is where I met a ton of people!) or in a public place with somebody else present. Check through mutual friends whether this person is legit and be picky. For example, my (now ex) boyfriend Jacob was actually somebody that I met through blogging. We emailed for a while (using my blog emailed) and I checked with my friends who went to his school. I got my twin sister to come with me when we first met and we met at a carnival where tons of our friends and many parents were.Change your passwords a lot and if you even suspect anything. Better safe than sorry. Don't email your passwords to yourself if you have trouble remembering them. Keep them in a physical place! My mom, for example, has hers on Post-Its inside a cupboard.Like I said above, this is just what makes me feel comfortable. Do what you want! I have no authority to be telling you what to do but this is my opinion.It worries me to know how vulnerable I've been making myself without even realizing it. It can be hard to realize exactly how much you're putting yourself out there by having a blog and social media accounts. I definitely recommend social media for blogging, just be careful about what you do with it and what you put on there. Don't believe me about danger of social media? Read Want to Go Privateby Sarah Darer Littman.Please be safe. I love y'all!Grace

Silver Linings: Strength?

This is a post that I've been mulling over for a while but was really sparked into action by Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, my current read (it's excellent!) The thing about it is that Celaena, the main character, is an assassin. She's deceptively beautiful but has a reputation for being one of the most powerful and feared killers in the land. So many characters like Celaena have been popping up recently. Let's call it the Katniss Phenomenon. I adore both these books and Celaena and Katniss are both such strong and independent characters. But the question that I've been debating recently is: what about quiet strength?What about the girls who can't fight? The girls who aren't fast runners, aren't trained? They can't fight their way out of their situation. They only sit there and suffer. What about those girls? Why aren't we giving them the label of "strong"? Recently, there have been girls popping up in YA who can fight, who can shoot, who have black belts and are physically strong. They're plunged into impossible situations that they have to fight their way out of or think their way out of. What about the girl who's scared to fall in love but conquers her fear and finds herself happy? What about the girl like Alice in Living Dead Girl, whose strength comes from the fact that she's surviving in a world of horrors? Are we just ignoring them?Katniss has spent her life in District 12 providing for herself and her family. She's strong in the sense that she has a gift for archery and is willing to sacrifice herself for her family. She's badass and almost feral in her fighting abilities and strength to do things without thinking of herself first. There's a reason that there's practically a cult-like following behind her and The Hunger Games novels. They rock, and she rocks. She's strong and everybody uses her as an example as a strong character.Quiet strength is still strength. Even if these girls can't go and run a marathon, aren't the top of their prime in their sport, and they can't fight. They can be delicate or even not very smart. But those girls can still have something that makes them strong. I consider myself strong, but I can't even play volleyball well. I think that I'm strong because I'm comfortable being myself and I know what I want and I'm doing what I can to get it.Some strong girls are even weak emotionally. They can fight and they can save the world, but they're still nervous to go after what they want. It's in conquering that obstacle that makes them truly strong in my eyes. I think that all these characters are strong, but I just wish there would be more types of strong in YA. There are some different ones, but nobody ever seems to acknowledge it. Often times, the characters in the dystopian novels or the action novels are the ones being praised for being strong characters. There are still a good number of girls in contemporary novels being praised as "strong" but not nearly as many. We don't live in a dystopian world. Our strong NOW, in this moment, isn't the same strong that pops up in other novels. Our strong is something different entirely - having the courage to go after the job you want or write a risky article or even stand up for somebody who can't stand up for themselves. Why are we letting strong have a different meanings? So many people are strong and so few characters are praised for it.There are a lot of girls who are passed over in reviews. "Unmemorable characters". Sometimes it seems as if the only memorable characters are the ones who can fight or the ones who go out and DO something about their current situation. When I was at Teen Author Carnival, Jeri Smith-Ready, author of  the Shade trilogy, said something that I really agreed with. There was a panel dedicated to strong characters and she talked about it when it was her turn. She said that to make her characters strong, she had them overcome their biggest fear. I agree with that; the character may not be the best fighter or the best at what she does, but if they conquer their fear, they're strong. If they're comfortable being themselves, they're strong.There are a few weak characters out there, I'll admit. But I think that anybody who shows their most vulnerable side of themselves to somebody is strong. Somebody who endures something awful and still goes on is strong. Anybody who is comfortable in their skin or working towards something or anything is strong. Would you identify yourself as weak just because you can't do what some other people can?I love Katniss and I love those badass characters who defy the stakes. I adore reading about a character who is excellent with swords and can kill a man in less than three seconds. I love reading those high-stakes, epic novels that leave me breathless on the edge of my seat. But who's defining strength here? In a market that can easily be saturated with these types of characters, why are the quiet ones being overlooked?I love reading strong characters, whether or not they're like Katniss. I'm not bashing these characters. I love them just as much as everybody else. I still have dreams where I'm in the Hunger Games and can fight. We all wish we could be like Tris, or Calla, or Katniss. I wish I could fight as well as she does or fence or do something awesome. But my strength isn't in any of these things; my strength is in my blogging, and my writing, and my reading. Maybe the strongest person is the person that nobody notices.What do y'all think? Do you think that physical strength defines a character more than emotional strength? Just to clarify, I believe that those physically strong characters are just as strong as other characters. I'm not demoting them at all or demeaning them. I'm just saying that I think some quieter characters should be thought about too. If you're a blogger, think about that the next time you read something. Although it might not be "loud" strength, popping out at you, it may still be there.Thoughts? Comments? Comment below or tweet me. I'd love to hear what you think!