Huzzah! January’s TCWT Blog Chain is here, and this month’s prompt is:
“What is something you feel is generally written well in fiction? What is something you feel is generally written poorly?”
Well, if I had to pick one thing that bugs me, it’s the young adult genre’s tendency to romanticize or overlook creepy behavior. An obvious example is Twilight, where Edward watches Bella while she sleeps and this is considered perfectly fine, but I’m not going to bring that up because 1) bashing Twilight is so 2009, and 2) I haven’t actually read it; everything I know about the series I’ve heard from other people. So instead I’m going to talk about another terrible young adult novel, The Fifth Wave.
Now, I originally gave The Fifth Wave a three out of five stars, but my opinion of it has slowly but surely decreased over time, to the point where it’s now a one out of five. I tried reading its sequel, but I got roughly fifteen pages into it before being forced to light the book on fire, whilst chanting “Burn, demon, burn!” the whole time.
(Warning: There are spoilers. But The Fifth Wave isn’t worth reading anyway so it’s fine if you read ahead.)
Anywho, the main character (Cassie) falls in love with Evan, a guy who is actually an alien from outer space sent to help murder all of mankind. And that’s not even the worst thing about him. No, he continues to do creepy things like:
- Bathe Cassie while she’s unconscious.
- Read Cassie’s diary without her permission.
- Not allow her to leave his house. “If you try to leave, I’ll just follow. You can’t stop me, Cassie.”
Yet Cassie falls in love with him anyway. Why? Because he’s hot. He’s like, super muscular, and his eyes are all warm and chocolatey. The fact that he is attractive (we know this because the author/Cassie constantly feels the need to let us know how hot he is) apparently makes up for his unhealthy behavior. This all leads up to a contrived love triangle where Cassie is stuck deciding between creepy stalker Evan and boring, perfect Ben. Which leads us to. . .
Love triangles. Young adult books are terrible at them. At best they feel like a waste of time and at worst they make me want to steal candy from a baby. (Because why the hell would you give a baby candy anyway? It’s not like s/he’s going to remember it.) I hate young adult love triangles so much that in my current WIP, I purposely set up the beginning of a love triangle just to kill off two sides at once. Why? Because fuck triangles, that’s why. Triangles are for squares.
[Exception: The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stievfater. All the character dynamics in that series feel natural and realistic, which is just one of the things that makes it the best ongoing young adult series I’ve ever read.]
Now, to abruptly change the subject: let’s talk about dialogue. Specifically, dialogue in fantasy novels, and how it has a tendency to feel overly clever and fake, as if the author is trying way too hard to be witty. Take this little snippet from The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson:
”I can see you are a woman of discriminating taste.”
“I am. I do like my meals prepared very carefully, as my palate is quite delicate.”
“Pardon. I meant that you have discriminating taste in books.”
The book is filled with lines like that. I assume they are meant to lighten the mood and they do, sort of. (I always end up cringing, and said cringe makes me forget about all the bloodshed and death.) At first I thought that the character was intentionally written with a bad sense of humor and that no one else wanted to tell her this because they didn’t want to hurt her feelings. But having read Mistborn and half of Words of Radiance, I’ve come to the conclusion that the author is simply not that great at this whole “humor” thing, and that’s okay.* After all, not everyone can be as hilarious as me.
But I feel like this is a consistent problem in the fantasy genre, at least of what I’ve read of it, which admittedly isn’t much. Even A Song of Ice and Fire, which has the highest hit-to-miss joke ratio of any fantasy series I’ve read, occasionally includes a line or two that made me think, “No one would ever say that, or if they did, they would be immediately punched in the face.” This needs to stop.
On the bright side, I believe that epic fantasies are great when it comes to getting the reader invested in the characters. I’m pretty sure this has to do with the sheer amount of time you get to spend with the main characters. If you spent over a thousand plus pages with a character and don’t at least form some sort of attachment with him or her, you are either a terrible person incapable of empathy or the writer is simply not that good.
Because the twelfth of January is about to pass, this post must come to a premature end. Sorry if I rambled too much in this post, or if it was incoherent. Rest assured that it will be edited and revised the moment after I get some sleep. Here’s a list of all the other participants:
11th – http://kirabudge.weebly.com/
29th – https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)
*I mean, Sanderson is a boss when it comes to everything else.