literature

Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and You

Written by Grant Goodman, 2/16/2015 Time travel. Rocket ships. Wizards. Dystopias.

You will meet many people in your life who look down on “those kinds of stories.” They are the serious types. They believe in their serious literature.

We can let them believe in that.

They can have their stories about sad people in sad cities. Because, honestly, we read those books, too. Every now and again, we need a palate cleanser, a waystone that lets us step back into our own world.

The deep truth is this: we like other worlds. We like worlds that don’t already exist.

Besides, the biggest milestones of human storytelling tend to be about magic and dystopias.

The Odyssey is full of witches and sea monsters and Cyclops. Beowulf fought a dragon. Shakespeare filled his plays with ghosts and wizards and prophecy. Mary Shelley brought the dead back to life. Jules Verne sent humanity to explore the moon long before John F. Kennedy was born.

Reading fantasy and science-fiction connects us to the roots of the world. The desires to explore and to escape and to imagine are built into us.

That’s why we need Suzanne Collins to send us into the arena. That’s why we need Darren Shan to show us the hidden world of vampires. That’s why Ray Bradbury once wrote, “I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”

So go ahead and dive into sci-fi and fantasy.

But don’t be afraid to dip your toes into realistic fiction, either. There’s excellence to be found there, too.

LINK: Marissa Meyer's Top 10 Books/Series of 2014

My guess is that some of you know about Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series. You know, the one that starts with Cinder.

She went ahead and listed the 10 best books/series that she read in 2014. Since she's a YA author, you already know that she has great taste in books.

Check out her list and add all of those titles to your stack of books to be read.

VIDEO: Neil Gaiman's Advice Will Change Your Life!

The one and only Neil Gaiman offers some amazing advice about writing, comics, art, luck, success, and work. His speech is inspiring in the truest sense of the word. [vimeo 42372767 w=500 h=375] <p><a href="http://vimeo.com/42372767">Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/uartsphilly">The University of the Arts (Phl)</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

A Reader's Resolution

A Reader’s Resolution Written by Grant Goodman, 12/31/2014

This year I will go on a thousand adventures. I will travel across countries, through space, and all throughout time. I will partake in daring rescues and tragic failures. I will be a part of star-crossed romance and the kinds of deep friendships that we should all be lucky enough to have.

I will discover twenty new sentences that give me chills. I will find a new author whose words give my world more meaning and color.

I will do what I can to deal with the fact that there will always be more books than I have time for.

I will stop losing so many bookmarks.

This year I will turn more pages, tame more dragons, and solve more mysteries.

This is a year for reading.

5 More Amazing Sentences from YA Novels

In case you missed the first installment, check it out HERE. 1. “This is the first kiss that makes me want another."

--Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

2. "Too late, I found you can't wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else."

--Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

3. “We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.”

--Peter Beagle, The Last Unicorn

4. "...there's something about a girl and a night and a beach."

--Cory Doctorow, Little Brother

5. “Autumn has a hungry heart.”

--Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Feminism in YA: Tris Prior (DIVERGENT Only)

Feminism in YA: Tris Prior Written by Grant Goodman, 10/17/2014

NOTE: Full of spoilers for DIVERGENT

Beatrice Prior’s story follows the traditional tropes of teenage rebellion: when given the chance to pick a lifestyle, she completely rebels from her family’s traditions of being bland and selfless (Abnegation). Her pick is Dauntless which emphasizes combat-readiness and mental fortitude. With this change of identity, she also changes her name to Tris and—of course—gets tattooed.

What does it mean to be a strong woman in Tris’ world? If you’re a member of Dauntless, you jump out of moving vehicles, you leap off of rooftops, you let a hot guy throw knives at you, and you engage in full contact hand-to-hand combat. In Tris’ case, finding access to this strength means casting aside her family and her old lifestyle.

In fact, as she continues to grow, she loses more and more. Tris chooses her own path and in doing so she is sexually assaulted, shoots one of her friends (the circumstances are extenuating) and gets both of her parents killed. That’s a heavy message there.

Yes, she does find a way to express who she is. She has a smoldering relationship with Four and she finds a small core of people who want to be around her. Yes, she makes decisions on her own and literally confronts her own fears. The cost, though, is exorbitant.

Tris is a fascinating character, without a doubt. I’m honestly torn on how to reach a conclusion on whether or not she’s a strong role model for girls. Her intentions and her thirst for independence are admirable. The message about what you need to go through in order to succeed, though, is terrifying at times.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Let’s discuss this further in the comments section.

The Importance of a Sense of Wonder

The Importance of a Sense of Wonder Written by Grant Goodman, 10/5/2014

“Stuff your eyes with wonder”

-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Look, I’m not against mainstream fiction. I read a lot of it. My stack of books that I’ve read includes plenty that focus on people in New York, trying to deal with the daily pressures of life. They’re great reads. But they don’t spark up a sense of wonder. Most of the time, they hit me with character loss and disappointment, followed by a brief flash of triumph. That’s the connection.

The YA lit I tend to read still has those emotional moments. In addition, though, it feeds my imagination in a way that fills with me awe.

For comparison: mainstream fiction is like a real-life candy factory, full of loud, metallic machines and conveyor belts. YA genre fiction, however, is Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, stuffed to the brim with wild ideas and impossibilities.

I need places like Hogwarts, with its nearly-headless ghosts and its moving staircases. I need inventions like the anti-gravity tech in Steelheart. I need to know that Tally has access to toothbrush pills in Uglies. I want to see Edward Elrich use his alchemy.

Those are the ideas that exist outside the ordinary. They’re a reminder that we can color outside the lines. They push the boundaries of what we accept and they make us think about whether or not we can make those little pieces of fiction into reality. To me, they’re as necessary as oxygen and music. Without them, everything is gray around the edges.

So what are the YA creations and inventions that you’ve come to love? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Why YA Works for Adults, Part I

Why YA Works for Adults, Part I Written by Grant Goodman, 9/24/2014

You don’t have to hide it anymore. You can come right out and say that you read YA, even though you’re an adult. YA-focused book clubs are popping up in every major US city. Book signings are filled up by post-grads and young couples.

So what led us here?

Part of it is the ongoing nerd revolution. The central tenets of geek culture have seeped into the mainstream. Maybe it’s that the people who loved the stuff as kids are now finding themselves in positions of power and attention. Or maybe that Harry Potter kid broke open a fissure in the collective hearts of humanity and everyone realized that books starring teens can connect to all of us on a very deep level.

Much of the appeal of YA for adults, I’m going to posit, comes from a sense of nostalgia. We’ve had time to recover from the hormone rush and the anger and the senses of loss that run deep. The media we consume at that age stick with us for life. There are studies that have been done and they tie adolescent experience to why we hold so tightly to the music from our teens. It should make perfect sense, then, that a book centered on teenage life will invariably trigger memories of our own lives, the kind that are soaked in intense emotion, that really light up our brains.

This could be for better or for worse. There were moments in Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart that absolutely made me cringe, because David’s social oversights and blunders reminded me so much of my own (you know, despite the fact that he’s busy trying to kill supervillains in a wrecked version of Chicago). And then, of course, there are moments in which you witness a character get something right, and you remember how it felt to finally get something done that even the adults in your life couldn’t accomplish. Read Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave and you’ll get several examples of that. (I’ll leave it vague, no spoilers here.)

This topic, why YA appeals to adults, is one I plan to come back to every now and again. Until then, though, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

What are your thoughts on why YA is taking off among an older readership?

Post #001: What It Means to Be a Reader

Post #1: What It Means to Be a Reader By Grant Goodman, 9/21/2014

You get it. You’re in on the big secret. You know the password.

You have an active imagination. You know how to tune out the noise around you. You’re a page-turner, you have ink on your fingers, your homepage is set to GoodReads.

To be a reader, of course, means everything.

It means that you’re willing to jump into other people’s shoes. You’re okay with exploring a new world. You understand that it’s fine to feel like fiction can surpass reality. You spend so much time surrounded by reality, anyway. So you open up a little door to somewhere else, you test the waters, and when you come back to your own world, you see things a little differently.

Being a reader makes you a magician. You make something out of nothing. You bring life to someone who doesn’t exist. The flick of your eyes across the page is the spark that makes characters run and fly or crash and burn. Without you, nothing happens. Harry stays under the stairs forever. Katniss never leaves District 12. Beatrice Prior never becomes Tris. You make that happen.

The world of a reader is often solitary. You don’t get together with people so you can all read in the same room at the same time. That isn’t really how it works. You spend your time in that worn, comfy chair, or out on the balcony in the sun, that place where the light is just right.

But you have to do it by yourself.

This is not a curse. You learn to become happy with being in your own head. You explore your thoughts. You learn to appreciate silence. Sometimes, you realize, it’s better to step away from the glowing screens and the buzz of traffic and the constant conversation. There’s time for that, too, but you don’t need it as much as you used to.

You, like so many of us, know the value of words, the weight that they can carry. They can melt you down, they can freeze your blood, they can soothe. But words can hurt you, too. They can leave scars, they can break your heart. Maybe you turn those scars into tattoos. Maybe you write down those seven magic words and tape them to your desk. Or maybe you just lock them away and keep them as a treasure for yourself. That’s fine, too.

Whatever the case, you’re a reader. You’re one of us.

So, welcome. This is November Notebook, a place for people like you. You’re going to like it here.

-Grant