When I think about my disgust with YA (young adult) fiction, I blame the Hardy Boys.
Frank and Joe Hardy are tools. I realized at Case File #93 that all of their adventures followed the same stupid plot, lacked any subtlety, and were about as realistic as dragon babies, so I had to stop reading them and move on to something with some substance.
As such, I did not want to read The Hunger Games when my friend loaned it to me. I abandoned YA when I was 9 years old; I did not want to go back to it. (Incidentally, my first adult book was Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. It was the smallest book on my mom’s shelf of hardcover, book-of-the-month Pulitzer Prize winners. (Most of those books still crack when you open them, indicating that, while impressive, collections like that don’t always get read. (Sorry, Mom.)))
I’m glad, however, that the guilt I feel over hanging on to other people’s books finally drove me to try out Suzanne Collins’ uber-popular trilogy. I’m about 20 pages away from finishing Mockinjay, the final installment, and I find it hard to overstate how much I appreciate the fact that these books exist.
As a teacher, I’m always looking for books of this quality for my kids. They need good material to read. They are desperate for it. They want books that don’t treat them like morons, books that aren’t condescendingly cobbled together with whizz-bang action and cartoonish characters. They want good writing, interesting plots, speculative stories that are still believable.
As a reader (and would-be writer) I appreciate the fact that The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay are smart, original, and readable. Fine, the writing falters whenever Suzanne Collins starts spouting technical specifications for weapons or survival techniques that were clearly gleaned from Wikipedia, but that is a small price to pay for characters like Peeta the baker or Katniss the Mockingjay. An indictment of reality television and the callous schadenfreude that defines modern society? Sweet! A love story that feels authentic to the pain and confusion of adolescence? Excellent! Mutated hornets that send you into a spiraling, hallucinogenic world of shiny memories? Um… awesome!
I’m glad that there is hope for an age group that has all but given up on reading. I’m glad that people like Suzanne Collins have chosen to treat kids like intelligent human beings, instead of Frank and Joe Hardy’s approach of assuming that I don’t notice plot holes and cliché.
Yes, I know that the Hardy Boys aren’t real people, but I really hate those guys.