December 27, 2013

2013 in numbers

In the spirit of Freia Lockhart, here's a summary of my year:

Novels published: 1
Sleep-ins past 9am: 1
Dinners out without Little Ms Marmalade: 3
Books read: 76*
Hokey-pokeys sung: 98
Hours spent blending, mashing and otherwise soggifying foodstuffs to render them suitable for consumption by toothless members of the family: 105**
Raspberries blown on a cute, round tummy: 256***
Nappies changed: 2190****

The fact that I've struggled to come up with two points that don't directly relate to being a mum pretty much sums up 2013 for me. Hopefully this time next year my roundup will include, at least a word count of a work in progress, if not a finished manuscript.

Happy new year, everyone. May 2014 bring us all good things (and a double dissolution election for Australia).

* Does not include board books or the number would be far more impressive! For the record, my YA favourites this year have been, in no particular order: Wildlife by Fiona Wood, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, After Iris by Natasha Farrant, Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil and A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty.
** That would be Ms M, Mr Fantapants and I still have our teeth.
*** Ms M again.
**** I initially put down what seemed like a random high number (1280) but then I realised that - Ms M being a rather, ahem, regular girl - I could actually estimate this pretty accurately. The true estimate shocks even me.

December 18, 2013

Rant: YA has a history. Read it.

Jennifer Hubbard's recentish post on the history of YA novels reminded me how much it gets my goat when people carry on as if YA didn't exist before the 1990s (at the earliest - in many cases people seem to think Twilight was the first book ever written aimed at young people). I should add that the people I'm referring to are not readers, who I can forgive for thinking that YA began when they cracked the spine on the first YA novel they ever read, but librarians, booksellers, people who host writing panels, reviewers and even YA authors themselves.

I began reading what we now think of as YA when I was about 8. (I had an older sister and a dedicated children's library whose staff didn't bat an eyelid if you read 'above your age', unlike our school librarian who kept trying to force me to read Milly Molly Mandy.) It started with light, romantic books that epitomised the image of teenagerdom I already had in my mind via Gidget movies, The Brady Bunch, and other assorted American series from the 50s/60s that were still being repeated on Aussie TV in the early 80s. I distinctly remember reading Beverly Cleary's Fifteen and Sister of the Bride and imagining going on my first 'date', which I thought would probably be with a nice, cleancut boy from our neighbourhood. From there I moved onto more contemporary fare, scouring the library shelves for books by Paula Danziger, Betsy Byars, Paul Zindel and, of course, Judy Blume. (Interestingly - to me and no one else, I suspect - I didn't read these authors' middle grade novels until I was older and had run out of books with teenaged protagonists to read.)

Now, when I see one of the books that made such an impression on my young self at an op shop or garage sale, I snatch it up greedily. My bookshelf includes well-worn paperback copies of The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, I'll Get There. It Better be Worth the Trip and Pardon Me, You're Stepping on my Eyeball, all of which stand up well to rereading three decades later and up to four decades after they were written (attested to by the fact that many of them have been republished since the YA boom).

As well as the books mentioned above, YA 'classics' I love and heartily recommend include:
  • The Pigman by Paul Zindel, which taught me that weird can be wonderful. (Actually, that's true of all of Zindel's books.)
  • Forever by Judy Blume, written in response to her daughter's plea for a book about teenagers who have sex and don't die, a la Love Story. (Not only that, in Blume's world they use contraception and even orgasm, which may have raised my hopes about teenage sex but was also a better education than they offered at school back in the dark ages). This isn't my favourite Judy Blume novel, but each time I read it I think it's still groundbreaking.
  • The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars (have tissues handy)
  • The Pistachio Prescription by Paula Danziger
  • The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations by Ellen Conford (actually, pretty much anything by Ellen Conford)
  • It's OK If You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein (anyone who thinks 'new adult' is new should read this and pull their head in)
Yes, YA's come a long way in terms of recognition, particularly in the last decade or so, but let's not forget where we came from.

The writing hasn't dated, even if the cover art has