Wednesday, May 18, 2005

When You're Young at Heart

I've decided that all the cute guys are in Nashville singing country music. I came to this conclusion last night when I was channel-surfing and I noticed the Academy of Country Music Awards was playing. Bingo, it hit me, all the cute guys are country music singers! Normally I eschew the twangers. Country music has got to be the whitest music on the planet, Charley Pride notwithstanding. I got sucked in by The Dixie Chicks and the Judds, and Garth Brooks. The Mavericks are country but with a Latin Twist. Now there's this guy, Cowboy Troy, who wants to be the first hip-hop country music star. God love him, if there is a place in Nashville for a six foot six black hip-hop country star, I'll eat my underwear. But good luck, if Josh Gracin from American Idol can be nominated for best new artist anything is possible (FYI, Josh, get a suit that fits).

But Keith Urban, the Australian guy who sings country is totally cute, and who can deny that Tim McGraw is hot. Not to mention little Kenny Chesney who just married Renee Zwellweger, and I saw a few other hotties in the audience and singing on stage.

Okay, enough about men. I meant to blog about YA novels today, but I got distracted by all the cute guys. I was reading over at Diana Peterfreund's blog the other day about the market for YA novels. YA is really hot right now. It seems that alot of publishers are looking for really well written high concept YA novels that are good, not the Sweet Valley High crap, but more The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or Gossip Girl. Dorchester has the Smooch Line and NAL has JAM coming out. It seems like every author has a young adult project coming out, including Melissa Senate, Marianne Mancusi, Nicole Burnham, Alesia Holliday (as Jax Abbott), and even my friend Marley has a YA partial. Actually she has 2 YA partials.

I have a guilty secret. I never really read YA when I was a teenager or even in college. I pretty much stopped reading YA in seventh grade. It just didn't interest me to read about teenagers when I was one and hating it. I think the only YA novel that I remember reading in high school was by Norma Klein. Most of the time, I read either romance novels or biographies. Or I was reading classic literature for my English class, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, that sort of thing. I read Madame Bovary and hated it.

None of my friends read YA either unless it was Catcher in the Rye (which I still haven't read). We read a Seperate Peace and Lord of the Rings but that was for class. The rest of the time people were reading Ken Kesey or Tom Wolfe. We were sophisticated NY teens, most of whom had been reading on a college reading level since 6th grade. What did YA have to offer us?

I watched Dynasty, Dallas, and Knots Landing or Masterpiece Theatre on television. My idea of a fun read was I, Claudius. I hated being a teenager. Like the character in 13 going on 30, I couldn't wait to be an adult, out of the house, and pursuing my acting career. My teen years were wasted on me. I was never one of those people who thought that my teen years or college years were the best years of my life. I still think my 40's are going to be the best years of my life, and onward.

Now, that I'm thirty-something (okay 40, but 40 is the new thirty, just ask Teri Hatcher), I find that in the past few years, I've been reading more YA novels. Maybe it's all those years of watching 90210, or Buffy, or seeing The Princess Diaries movies, but I suddenly found myself in the YA section.

Wow! It's certainly exploded from when I was a teen, and I was searching the Coliseum Bookstore for the latest Harlequins and Silhouettes. I first started out reading Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series, and then I discovered Christopher Golden's series of books about a college student, Jenna, who worked for the county medical examiner as her school job, and the supernatural mysteries that she was involved in. Then I discovered Fearless, and Gossip Girl.

Soon, I was hooked. Perhaps reading YA gives me a chance to experience those things that were foreign to a private school teen from NYC. I mean we didn't have a football team, cheerleaders, homecoming. None of the guys on our basketball team would have made a 3 string college team. We certainly lacked school spirit. Everyone went to the prom, because if you didn't there wouldn't have been a prom, there were so few of us. My graduating class was comprised of 34 seniors, 19 girls and 15 boys, most of whom had been going to school together since we were 5. By graduation, we were sick of each other.

Reading YA, I get to experience the teen years and experiences that I didn't have. It also shows me that the more the world changes, the more things stay the same. Teens today might all have cellphones, I-Pods, computers, X-Box, and more freedom or disposable income, but they worry about the same things that we worried about. What am I going to do with my life? Do I have to decide now, what if I don't get into a good college, am I screwed? Does he like me? Why am I weird? Will I ever grow breasts? Why are my parents such losers?

I know I'm not the only adult reading YA novels. I borrowed my first Gossip Girl novel from a woman in my writer's workshop, who is also in her thirties. She writes lyrical, beautiful, literary fiction. In fact her first novel, her agent considered sending it to YA publishers, but she turned it down.

Having said that, I don't know that I want to write YA. I feel the same way about Regency novels. I adore reading them, I know a lot about the period, but I feel that everyone is writing in that time period, and what could I say that would be different? Unusual, what high concept could I come up with? I don't know that I could really add to the genre.

Plus, I have too many ideas perculating as it is to jump on the YA bandwagon. I'd rather leave it to the writers who are passionate about it, rather than try to muscle in just because it's whats hot right now.

In the meantime, I'll be waiting for the new Harry Potter, and reading A-List and Gossip Girl.

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