The Hollywood Teen Romance I Need to Happen

Lately I have been feeling like I am all about the book reviews, which is fine, because it means I am reading (yay for reading!) and I have so many books to read.

But I am oddly not satisfied with my reading.

Don’t get me wrong, I have loved so many of the books I read. They are truly great, and I would love to have found them. But have you ever loved something so much, you ate it all the time, and even though you still love it, you also wonder what else could be done to make it better?

Take The Royal We for instance. If you read my review, you know how I feel. And as most of my friends can attest, I have been hankering (much like I would for tacos) for a princess book or a Hollywood teen romance.  A Royal We came along and I DEVOURED it. (In case you can’t tell, I am hungry). But it oddly left me wishing for something more.

Actually what I really want is an insightful book about Hollywood and romance. Rebecca Serle’ Famous in Love, which I was soo excited for, and then it fell flat for me, was a good spring board, but I want more.

I would recommend for anyone in the same boat to check out Emily Evans’ The Accidental Movie Star. It was closer to what I wanted to see then Serle’s book, though the TV show might end up fulfilling the things I wanted to see expanded on in her book.

Basically, I have been saying Hollywood Teen Romance would be the next thing. I have wanted it for at least three years now.

So the Hollywood teen (new adult?) romance I want would explore what happens after they get together. Say for instance, you ( a regular girl) met and started dating the heartthrob of Hollywood (I have no idea who I am imagining in this role, to be frank.  So for the time being just say the girl met a Henry Cavill looking man at a Starbucks (side note to my side note: He’s hot)).

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Marry me.

How would this relationship work? How would she feel about him being away to work? Maybe she is cool with it because she is not looking for a relationship, and is in her first year of college. How would he feel about having to be away? All those college parties are just ripe pickings for a hook-up. How to they navigate keeping their relationship secret from the paparazzi? Kate Middleton storyline!  And how do they deal with these hurdles as they become more involved?

I want this book. I want the nitty gritty of navigating this relationship. I want to see the actual Hollywood process!  This is my Hollywood teen romance.

Let me just orchestrate this.

UPDATE: I just found out Map to the Starsa Epic Reads Impulse title, is on this same premise. I promise to read and report back my findings.

Complex Characters: (Not) My Hero, Klaus

Randomly, I have been thinking if there have been any protagonists in YA books who are clearly not a hero, but not a villain either.  The closest I could come up with is Mara Dyer in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Truth bomb: I am obsessed with The Originals and a large part of that is because of Klaus Mikaelson.

When Klaus was first introduced in The Vampire Diaries, he was the villain. Like straight up. He killed Elena’s aunt. He terrorized the residents of Mystic Falls. But somewhere along the way, fans fell in love with him. I personally fell in love when he revealed his softer side to Miss Caroline Forbes.

And then he jumped ship to his own show.  And suddenly, the villain that had been developed for a season and a half became the protagonist of another. At first, I wasn’t so sure I would like this. Klaus was THE villain. Yes, he had some redeeming qualities, but even he would admit he was evil.

However, as the second season develops, I find myself getting sucked in (pun totally intended).  He still does the villainous things, and other characters view him as a villain, but, especially on the most recent episode, Klaus has greater complexity. He admitted to killing a beloved character, even though he didn’t, because everyone else needed to fear him. We can debate whether this actually played to his advantage or not, but I digress. The videos below give a bit better context to the situation.

Unlike Rumpelstiltskin, who reveled in being a villain, and Snape, who was a conflicted hero, I am not sure what Klaus is. He certainly acts like a villain, but I am not sure he revels in it. More like a hurt child acting the way everyone says he must.

There are now books about The Originals, but I would love to see a YA book tackle a protagonist like Klaus, a character everyone else views as evil, but that we as readers can see differently. Actually, Julie Plec should just write that book for me.

Reflections on Writing as a Many-Booked Thing: Looking at Series

Last night I had the pleasure of attending New York City’s Teen Author Festival panel on writing book series. The panel included Dahlia Adler (Daylight Falls), Sarah Rees Brennan (The Lynburn Legacy), Seth Fishman (The Well’s End), Kass Morgan (The 100), Barry Lyga (I Hunt Killers), Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Curse), and Eliot Schrefe (Endangered), moderated by David Levithan (Every Day). 

I am so glad I went! The panelists were funny and insightful. As someone who wants to work in young adult intellectual property creation, it was very helpful to hear about crafting stories from authors and balance it against my editorial mindset.

Brennan, though a staunch trilogy supporter (I do not agree, but I would welcome a discussion with her), had the best trilogy outline:

            Step 1: Set up

            Step 2: Make-out (or complications are presented)

            Step 3: Defeat Evil

After she said that, I felt like my mind had been blown. Sometimes, as readers, we immerse ourselves so much in the plot, we miss the big outlines. Macro plot vs micro plot.

Another aspect all the panelists discussed or touched on was the nature of cannon. Everything in the first book is cannon, and though you can introduce new things, you have to explain it. Adler mentioned how as she was writing her second book, she realized that the romance she was trying to write felt forced and lacked chemistry; it wasn’t until later she realized that character was a lesbian. But because she was in book 2, she had to go back and make sure it didn’t conflict with information from book 1.

Rutkoski likened writing a series to a game: you have to find where all the pieces go. Levithan made a valid point: Of all the books in a series, Book 1 is the MOST important. It is the book that will make your readers come back. In regards to questions about if you should hold onto ideas that might work in other books, Lyga had this to say: Don’t hold anything back. You will have other brilliant ideas.

Highlights from the night include:

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I will be attending the all day Saturday symposium so stay tuned for more on all things YA writing.

My Addiction to I.D. TV

I have a confession: I am addicted to ID TV, Dateline, and 48 Hours.

But here’s the kicker: I can’t read true crime.

The true crime books are too much for me. I often explain it like this: reading is an active activity and TV is a passive one. With active activity, you have to engage your mind. When I read, the book becomes a movie in my head. TV is different. You can turn on the TV and do other things. I like to cook and work on this blog while the TV is on.

Recently, my roommate made fun of my addiction, and a light bulb went off. Is there YA true crime?

By YA true crime, I don’t mean crimes featuring young adults or teens. I wonder, because I know I am not alone in my love of ID TV and Dateline, are the true books aimed for young adults? (Of course I am thinking 16 and older readers.)

I recently read two Romanov’s biographies. One, by Robert K. Massie was aimed for adult readers and the second book by Candance Fleming was aimed for young adult readers. One thing I noticed between these two books was how the subject matter was dealt with. Massie’s was much more dry and in the details. Fleming’s focused on developing a story and balance. So why am I mentioning these two books?

When I was thinking about YA true crime I realized that if it is to be done, it has to be handled just right. The writer will have to balance the darkness of the story and not overload a young reader with every detail. The thing I love about Dateline and 48 Hours is that it is not just the crime, but the hunt for the who and why of it all.

I would like to see some young adult true crime books. Detective books and murder mysteries are about to come back into the spotlight, and I think this should be a development in the YA nonfiction lists.

If you have ever read a young adult true crime, please let me know in the comments and I will check it out!

The Importance of Being a Book Cover

Recently, while surfing LinkedIn (it’s Facebook for working professionals), I stumbled upon this article about 7 Book Marketing Predictions in 2015.

What caught my eye and inspired today’s industry thought of the day was this little gem: “The best way to sell a self-published book is to not make it look like it was self-published.” The quote above mentions self-published books, but this is applicable to every book. I know I briefly touched on my love of a beautiful book in a previous post, but today, let’s focus on the cover.

Did your mom ever tell you not to judge a book by its cover? Yeah? Well, that was bad advice. Hear me out. The book cover is HOW TO GET YOUR BOOK NOTICED. A good book cover should tell the reader something about the book but also intrigue them to pick it up in the first place. A bad cover can send the wrong message about your book.

Secret: publishers put more money into book covers than you think. Book not selling well? They will redesign the cover. On top of that fact, the books the publishers have designated will be the bestsellers (yes, the system is slightly rigged) get more money for better covers.

So, you ask, can we see some examples?

Below are two books: one cover I hate and one I like.

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I can see you scratching you head wondering which one I liked. The first one, The Beautiful Cursed, is the one I don’t like. It is a historical/fantasy book with gargoyles. When I first got the book, I was like, “Is this self published?” For a major publisher, I was thought it looked cheap. SHE IS FAINTING ON THE COVER. The second, Mothership, is a truly hilarious book. Think Juno meets Alien.

But here’s the deal: Motherhsip didn’t sell well. Librarians said the colors  and illustrated cover attracted younger readers. So it got a redesign. The Beautiful Cursed must have done moderately well, because the second book has a cover in a similar design. Both of these covers are, in my opinion, bad covers. One I just don’t like, and one that underserved the book.

But what about GOOD covers?

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There are many examples of good covers (most covers are fine, it is just the great and terrible ones you remember). Red Queen is a great cover. It recently published, but when you look at the cover (and I am talking look at it, i.e. feel it as well) you can tell the publisher wants this to do well. The cover tells you a bit about the story: princess, blood, meant to do well in the marketplace. The Mara Dyer books are the same.  The cover compels you to pick it up.

This has been an especially long post, so I am going to wrap this up.

A book cover is a selling tool. You are meant to judge the book by it. Sometimes the book is better than you expect. But sometimes the cover shows it’s not. Go forth and judge away!

Why I Volunteer and What It Means

I volunteer to read with homeless children. Would I recommend it? Heck, yeah I would!  It is an amazing opportunity to give back to my community and also do some market research. Not to mention this sweet mobile library (in a former small school bus).

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If you have a second, educate yourself on how kids use and engage with books. Scholastic’s  Reading Reports are a great way to see how both parents and kids view books and reading. US literary and reading statistics are import to know as well.

One thing I see a lot when I volunteer is kids reading below their age level. My first volunteer session, there was a little girl who struggled with the chapter books. Now, I have been amazingly blessed with two things: a mother who made reading a priority and a higher than average reading ability. So it was difficult for me to first understand how much these children struggled.

There is one thing all everyone knows: you are less inclined to do the things that are difficult or boring. Most children are not reading on their age levels. Lexile Levels are great way to address that.

Today’s volunteer work was different. A girl (we’ll call her Jane) chose to read with me today and I was informed she couldn’t read. I have heard this before from some from some of the struggling readers, so I usually try and coax it out. However, the program leader confirmed: Jane had never been taught to read.

Jane was suppose to practice reading, but he problem is that Jane is 10 and the books she is trying to read are the earlier readers that are meant for younger children. No 10 year old wants to read a book about a dog named Spot and his red ball. In fact, Jane really wanted to read Manga.

The dilemma came in when it was time to pick books. Jane wants the Manga because she knows the stories from TV. The program director is telling her she can’t get them because she needs to learn with the younger books. And there I am, the volunteer who is there to encourage reading (not to mention the fact that I know how import it is to get kids reading what they want to read).

How do you balance these two warring wants?

Jane needs to learn to read the basic words, but she also needs to be engaged to be encouraged to continue wanting to read.

My Thoughts on Jupiter Ascending

***SPOILERS****

I recently had the opportunity to see a preshow viewing of the Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending. To say that this movie had potential would be an understatement. It had the actors, the beautiful sets and computer renderings, and amazing worlds that I am itching to explore. It LACKED a great script and pacing that allowed viewers to really enjoy the story.

As I am watching the movie, I can’t stop thinking about how this would make a better YA trilogy than a movie. In fact, this movie is the movie that should have been made AFTER a YA book was first published. Jupiter Ascending should have been three books. I will vaguely outline my thoughts below so as not to fully spoil the movie. I do recommend it as a Netflix option.

Book 1:

We are introduced to Jupiter, a Russian immigrant, who works as a house cleaner, but dreams of more. One day, she is attacked by aliens (think cross between the Worms from MIB: Men in Black and the Silence from Doctor Who). A hunky man named Caine, with awesome space boots, saves her and reveals that Earth is not the only plant with sentient creatures. We, as readers, get the back-story of the human race, why Jupiter is special, and exactly why aliens were sent to kill her. A bit of space travel later, and some crumbs of back-story for Caine, Jupiter ascends to her space heritage, and learns the secret of time as a commodity.

Of course there are some fights and building romantic pairings (it wouldn’t be YA without it).

Book 2:

Jupiter now controls her space heritage and must contend with adversaries intent on taking that from her. Her growing attraction to Caine is stymied by Caine’s personal drama.

Book 3:

After thwarting a plan to steal her heritage, Jupiter returns to earth to discover her family has been kidnapped by The Big Bad in a ploy to steal her heritage to make the commodity of time. Jupiter and Caine finally realize their feelings.

As you can see much better as a book series. There is more time to explore areas that were glossed over by the pacing of the movie and allow for world building.

Transmedia is the future, people. And Jupiter Ascending would benefit from that treatment.