Good morning book people! It’s grey out this morning, which is actually a good thing–it’ll make it easier for me to stay inside and catch up on work today! That, and the Mir-Cat and I are sick. Why is it that mummies must always catch whatever their kids have?
This morning, I’m all about the flashbacks–there’s so much great stuff out there that was popular last year or the year before, and has faded a bit, even though it’s still very relevant today. And so, without further ado…
First up, author Marianna Baer has an absolutely brilliant post on sex scenes in YA over at A Crowe’s Nest. It’s full of examples and insight, and is never condescending. A must-read.
Over at Forever Young Adult, the most swoon-worthy YA couples of all time. A couple of my favorites made it in here–Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe (Anne of Green Gables), and Macy and Wes (The Truth About Forever).
Another oldie but goodie–an interview with Printz award winner and Australia icon Melina Marchetta, over at YA Highway. Marchetta is a fixture in Australia; her debut novel, Looking for Alibrandi, is on reading lists all over the country.
And finally, back to Marianna again–using a couple of Sarah Dessen novels, Marianna explores how to get the most out of introducing a new character with dialogue, action, and internal monologue. I love this post, and have it bookmarked for my own future reference.
I’ll (most likely) be back later with a Cover Notes post. Have a great day, everyone!Read More
Good morning, book people! It’s sunny & kinda-sorta warm in Cambridge this morning – I actually ran outside! And now I’m home, with my boys, coffee, warm beignets, and a pretty fun day ahead, showing my cousin around town. What more could a girl ask for? Oh, wait…Easter eggs! Fortunately, the Mir-Cat has a few to offer around…
Yesterday, ex-Agent (wow, that makes him sound like a Bond villain) Nathan Bransford posted about virtual witch hunts and respect within the writing community. A must-read.
Agent Kristin Nelson has a short video (1:58 minutes) with a couple of useful query tips. She also has The Book Lantern, an in-depth look at the supporting characters in a story. It’s broken down into “Parents,” “Mean Girl,” and “The Friends,” and is very, very useful. Works as a great checklist for avoiding stereotypes.
SLJ’s A Chair, A Fireplace, & A Tea Cozy has a very well done review of Melina Marchetta’s The Piper’s Son. Marchetta is an Australian author; her first book, Looking for Alibrandi, is on a lot of reading lists back home. SLJ’s review is very positive–which I mostly agree with–though I don’t think Marchetta’s “teen/twenties guy” voice is as strong as her “teen/twenties girl.”
Check out The Big Kahuna Round of SLJ’s Battle of the Kids Books. So far, I’ve only read A Conspiracy of Kings–which I loved–but all these books look good.
And finally, another must read–Library Journal’s Annoyed Librarian on the Devolution of Public Libraries, and privatization. It’s a little old in internet time, but an essential post.
And that’s it, folks. I’ll try and take some more pics of Borders while I’m in town, so we can see how the remaining stores are holding up. Have a great day!Read More
We all do it, right? Glance at a group of letters, pull out a word. Reading is so ingrained in our minds that it’s almost impossible to not read signs, titles, anything with words on. But there’s reading, and then there’s reading.
Today, reading mostly falls into two categories: reading for pleasure, and reading for information. Reading as an art–really reading, reading deeper, to get within a story, to pick it to pieces and learn how it works–is fast becoming forgotten.
But What Does “Reading Deeper” Mean?
Reading deeper is about thinking deeper, about tapping into critical thinking skills. Instead of being carried away by surface currents, a deep reader asks questions. Unlike general reading for pleasure, though, deep reading requires active thought.
Anne of Green Gables – Why does Anne Shirley want a more romantic name?
Little Women – Why does Jo care about cutting her hair off?
Wuthering Heights – Why does the weather mirror Catherine and Heathcliff’s moods?
Another way to think of reading deeper is to think of it as reading between the lines. In the first Anne book, Montgomery establishes that Anne thinks herself unworthy of love and affection. But instead of simply telling the reader this, Montgomery uses contrasts. At first glance, a reader might chalk Anne’s dislike of her too-ordinary nose and freckles up to vanity. But when taken in context alongside the girl’s history as an orphan and her want of a more romantic name, Anne’s inner thoughts are made clear.
But what I think of as deep reading goes beyond reading between the lines–it’s sometimes called analytical reading. In an article for CopyBlogger, founder Brian Clark writes:
At this level of reading, you’ve moved beyond superficial reading and mere information absorption. You’re now engaging your critical mind to dig down into the meaning and motivation beyond the text. To get a true understanding of a book, you would:
- Identify and classify the subject matter as a whole
- Divide it into main parts and outline those parts
- Define the problem(s) the author is trying to solve
- Understand the author’s terms and key words
- Grasp the author’s important propositions
- Know the author’s arguments
- Determine whether the author solves the intended problems
- Show where the author is uninformed, misinformed, illogical or incomplete
Reading for Facts or Fun
How is this different to reading for fun or information? When we’re reading for fun, we let our conscious minds drift, giving ourselves leave to be caught up in the story. If the action gets a bit intense and our favorite character’s in danger, we might skip ahead, looking for their name, or words that indicate everything’s okay in Trixie-land (I read a lot of Trixie Belden this way when I was a kid). Sometimes, we’ll go back to fill in the blanks. Other times, particularly if the book is something akin to a cozy mystery, we just keep reading and assume anything important will be covered later.
Reading for information also involves skimming, particularly if you’re a speed reader. Instead of taking in every word, we skim a page until we find relevant sections, then read more comprehensively–sometimes reading quite deeply, but only within a given section.
Of course, there are exceptions–as anyone studying literature, history, or even reading itself, like my crit partner and friend, Livia–will know. If you’re writing a paper on The Old Man and the Sea, you pretty much have to read deeply and pull the book to pieces because that’s where the information you’re using for the paper comes from, in contrast to, say, a biology paper on photosynthesis.
Unsurprisingly, deep reading and critical thinking are important skills for writers. But they’re especially important for YA writers.
Why We Need to Read Deeper, Especially in YA
It’s easy to dismiss YA and teen readers–we’re constantly reminded that teens have short attention spans, that there are half a dozen cute kittens and dancing hamsters just a couple of clicks away. To some extent, the YA bestseller list even supports the idea – Twilight, The Mortal Instruments series, even The Hunger Games are full of flash and bang. Why? Because it’s hard to be distracted when:
- things are blowing up
- a demon is chasing you
- the hot guy you’ve been dreaming about is leaning in close for a first kiss
Some flash-bang books are definitely worth a deeper read–there are a lot of layers in The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) and The Mortal Instruments (Cassandra Clare) that are lost in that quick, exciting first read.But for every popular action-packed book, there are a dozen contemporary YA novels being devoured every day. Yes, some of them are edgy, issue books about abuse, rape, eating disorders and the like. But the majority are not. The majority are, on the surface, simple slice-of-life books about school, or summer jobs, or a pair of pants that magically fits four girls with drastically different weights and heights.
Why are teens reading these books? Because they’re relevant. On the surface, the stories may seem as ordinary as Anne Shirley’s nose. In truth, the authors are catching hold of the things most important to their readers on a subconscious level. (Good examples include Ann Brashares’ Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi and On the Jellicoe Road, Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Does My Head Look Big In This? and, to some extent, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, particularly The Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire.)
Remember when I said deeper reading leads to deeper thinking? That’s just the first part of the chain – deeper thinking leads to deeper writing, too. Think about it–if you invest time figuring out why and how a book like When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead) works, you suddenly have a whole lot of information about story construction at your fingertips (see Clark’s list above for ways to get started). And while you may not sit down and write out every detail you’ve gleaned (though taking notes is definitely useful), they’ll rattle around your brain and inform the next thing you sit down to write. And that information will help you write a deeper, more relevant story–the kind that catches hold of your reader’s mind, then doesn’t let go until it’s done.
Which slice-of-life YA novels have caught hold of you? Why? Do you read deeply?
P.S the kidlet has been trying to add to this post all day. Here’s what he has to say.
Image Credit: lusi, via sxc.hu