Thursday, May 2, 2013

Adult authors trying to write for teens

Several famous authors for adults have recently tried "writing teen" - everyone wants a piece of the The Hunger Games action. As a long-time teen fiction fan I decided to investigate just how successful they have been. What I discovered was mostly great, with a little bit of horrible thrown in for good measure.

Changeling by Philippa Gregory
I loved Changeling! It’s a great mix of a rich historical setting with an intriguing story. I think Philippa Gregory has hit the mark perfectly. Set in the fifteenth century and brimming with witchcraft and fabulous concepts like heresy, the tale follows the fortunes of Luca, an almost-monk who is expelled from his monastery and Isolde, an heiress who is trapped in a nunnery. I don’t want to give too much away, I’ll keep my message simple; “read it!"

Confessions of a murder suspect by James Patterson
I surprised myself by really enjoying this weird novel by James Patterson (and his co-writer Maxine Paetro). It was slightly gruesome and highly entertaining all at the same time. Tandy (short for Tandoori) is a girl unlike any character I’ve ever met. Completely devoid of all emotions she is a genius, who is frustrating as a narrator because she plays with her audience, revealing only what she feels comfortable with. Tandy’s parents are murdered in their locked apartment, where only their children are sleeping. Gradually you build up an understanding of the world Tandy has grown up in while simultaneously trying to work out how and why the Angel parents were murdered. I liked it. Well done James P. Although I must say I’m becoming sceptical about how much input he has in his dozens of books he “co-writes” each year. Perhaps I should say well done Maxine Paetro instead!

The edge of nowhere by Elizabeth George
This book makes we want to cry with frustration. What I thought was going to be a great author branching out and penning a seat-of-the-pants teen thriller turned out to be a complete dud. I will confess now that I only got about a quarter of a way into the story before I gave up in exasperation, so my review is massively limited.

A young girl, Becca King, has a strange ability to “hear” the thoughts of others. When she “overhears” her stepdad’s thoughts on a murder he has been involved in recently, she and her mother decide they need to escape before he does something bad to them too. What’s horrible about this story is the writing. Becca sounds like she’s about 80 and there’s a whole boring subplot in which Becca’s mother is obsessed with food and keeps judging what Becca’s stuffing into her mouth. “Laurel claimed corn was what was fed to cows and pigs to make them fat, but since Laurel said that about nearly everything Becca wanted to eat, Becca didn’t give much thought to the matter.”

I challenge someone to persevere to the end of this story and tell me if it gets any better!

Between the lines: A novel by Jodi Picoult
This wasn’t even slightly what I expected. Jodi Picoult and her 12-year-old daughter co-wrote this story, and the first thing I will say is that “Between the lines” definitely sits at the younger end of the teen spectrum. Delilah hates school and loves books, disappearing frequently into her imagination. Until one day, she discovers that a character in her favourite book has a mind of his own. Flipping between the storybook world and Delilah’s world, we discover a book in which the characters have their lives outside of the story. Full of beautiful illustrations, this is a visual treat, although I think the cover looks too much like Picoult’s adult work, and gives away little about the contents of this story. It was very readable, although I wouldn’t say I loved it.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Fforde writes crazy adult fantasy fiction. His writing is clever and you need your wits about you to keep up with the ludicrous plot twists and turns and references that turn into jokes several pages later. In his teen series, "The Last Dragonslayer" Fforde sticks with his successful style, shifting only the age of his protagonist to a fifteen-year-old named Jennifer Strange. Jennifer's world is our world, only not quite as we know it.

Magic exists but its strength has been waning over the years with Wizards forced to lower themselves to rewiring houses, and using magic carpets to deliver pizzas. At the heart of this story is a premonition that the Last Dragon is about to be slain, creating who knows what chaos in the universe. Jennifer Strange is fantastic, as are her companions, in particular the Quarkbeast, whose entire language exists of just one word, "Quark," and yet is far more entertaining than any of the characters in Elizabeth George's terrible story. Worth reading, but be warned your brain will pulse as it struggles to keep up with the hilariousness of this story.
 - Lucy


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