Sunday, April 23, 2006

Teen Fiction and Body Image

Still trying to re-finish the Book That Would Not Die. I've been working on the same scene for three days. It's kind of complex, so I've had to develop multiple timelines to show where everyone is at each particular time, then I've had to figure out what should happen at each moment, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Five pages of scribbling in a notebook later, I may be able to just write the silly thing today.

First, though, I have to get to the library to return some books. I've been reading some young adult books lately, since my agent keeps suggesting I consider that. She thinks my voice and the fact that my books are already suitable for teen readers would make it a natural crossover. So, in my spare (ha!) time, I've been researching the market.

There's some really fun, clever stuff out there, like Fly on the Wall, the last Girlfriends Cyber Circuit book, and Sarah Mlynowski's Bras and Broomsticks, which has a fun twist on the fantasy plot of young person discovering she has magical powers. In this book, it's the heroine's younger sister who discovers that she has magical powers. Talk about stirring up sibling rivalry!

But there's also some stuff out there that would have to fall into the "what were they thinking?" category, considering that there are adults who should know better involved in the process of writing and publishing these books. Yeah, back in the Dark Ages when I was a teen, I did sometimes want to read about popular girls, but these take that desire to be on the A-list to extremes. For one thing, even though the characters and the target audience are in their teens (or younger, since kids usually "read up," looking for books about characters several years older than they are), their behavior is indistinguishable from what you'd see in an adult chick lit novel -- lots of drinking, smoking and sleeping around. Designer clothes are everything, and you're nobody unless you can get into all the right clubs and parties. In one book, the supposedly "good girl" heroine, who was still in high school, was getting drunk and waking up in strange places, smoking and playing strip poker with guys, and sleeping with her boss's son in her boss's house. And she was the nice, wholesome character.

Then there's the whole body image issue. Yeah, there's lip service ridicule of the super skinny girls, but the book still needs to mention that the heroine -- who was supposedly normal-sized at the beginning of the book -- has lost weight and trimmed down during the course of the book, so that by the end, she can look fabulous in swimsuits and designer clothes, be the new "it" girl and be seen on the arm of the hottest, richest guy.

I could rant about the kinds of lessons girls are learning through this kind of stuff, but it's been done so much better, by none other than JK Rowling, who proves once more why she's my writing/career heroine/role model. She's at the top of my list of writers I'd love to get the chance to hang out with. I already managed to do that with Connie Willis, and I've got Alan Dean Foster lined up for the fall, so Jo, call me! We'll do tea! The kids can come, too!

No comments: