Because my internet time has been limited recently, I’ve only been vaguely aware of the latest blogging ruckus. I consider myself so much on the fringes of book blogging that I felt like adding any words to the discussion was unnecessary. Plagiarism is bad – end of story.
But then on Twitter, Michelle at Galleysmith linked to this post at Book Reviews and English News which was the first time I felt compelled to say anything, and it is not even about the plagiarism controversy. I don’t care for the bloggers the author is referring to (and frankly agree with a lot of her thoughts in her other post), but I don’t think the bloggers have that much power. I also took issue with her reference to YA history. I know that it was far from the main point of her post, but I think it makes her argument weak. I posted a comment on the post, but also decided to post it on my own blog, too. Not because I think anyone cares what I have to say about it, just because I want to own my words here.
I think you attribute more power than these bloggers actually have. They are a small percentage of book buyers and I don’t think the publishers listen only to them. Publishers also listen to the teen readers and the adults in their lives. When I talk to publishers at conferences, they are much more interested in hearing what my students want to read than in how many hits my blog gets. YALSA sponsors teen book groups that get ARCs for the teens to read, the teens give feedback, and the publishers really listen to what they say. I think that small percentage of bloggers you refer to really just read each other. Publishers have started to be selective with their freebies and I have been told by people in the industry that it is partially in reaction to these greedy types.
I do think that when it comes to marketing and cover design, it’s easy for the publishers to fall back on the “pretty girl in a pretty dress” cop-out that certain bloggers fawn over. “Where She Went” is a book that I can get lots of guys interested in reading because it is from the guy POV, but once they see the cover they shut down. I wish publishers would save the girl covers for the books they are fit for like Anna Godberson’s books, and get creative for the rest. I think a lot of that, though, isn’t blogger influence; it’s laziness.
I think some of your argument also ignores history. As far as adult women going gaga for teen boys, I remember lots of older screaming women at my 1st New Kids on the Block concert in 1989. Not all of those boys were adults yet, but that didn’t stop the lust. These certain bloggers lusting after fictional boys are nothing new.
You also ignore a certain amount of publishing history when it comes to YA. I really think “Catcher in the Rye” is classic YA, and S.E. Hinton is still loved by teens. Walter Dean Myers continues to publish and be loved. In my teens, I never read RL Stein, but I loved Blume’s “Forever” and gobbled up every Norma Klein I could get my hands on. Klein’s YA was published in the 70s and 80s and addressed some racy topics for teen readers. Rowling didn’t invent YA, and I think the argument can be made that the first couple Harry Potters are NOT YA.
It’s possible that because you were “expected” to read the classics that you never discovered the YA that was out there. I know some of the English teachers I work with now also turn their noses up at YA today and are horrified that teens would rather read about Katniss than Catherine and Heathcliff.
I also don’t think it’s fair for you to claim that YA is lacking in variety. Yes, when you browse the book store shelves, it does seem like it’s all girly stuff. Yes, I always wish I could see more options (along with more people of color). But I keep a lot of my male readers happy with John Green, Paul Volponi, Cory Doctorow, Scott Westerfeld, Patrick Ness, Jack Heath, James Dashner, Michael Grant, Ned Vizzini – just to name a few. I cannot keep Alexander Smith Gordon’s Lockdown series on the shelves. The male/female Hungers Games readers in my library are equal.
Yes, I am a female blogger who tends to write about books, but I don’t identify with the bloggers you refer to. I have experienced a certain amount of schadenfreude watching this whole dust-up. (My theory is that some of the members of this “blogger clique” you refer to are the same people who attend conferences like ALA and behave like monkeys: grabbing multiple copies of ARCs, knocking over publisher displays and sometimes even the publishers themselves in their haste to be greedy.) I know the main point of your post is to wish for variety in YA publishing, but I think you use several weak arguments to make that point, so I couldn’t help but voice my opinion.