My Goodreads Quotes

Allison’s quotes

"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that God's writing? If I were writing a book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right--in the way that's best for us."
Do you really believe that, Mother?" Peter asked quietly.
Yes," she said, "I do believe it--almost always--except when I'm so sad that I can't believe anything. But even when I don't believe it, I know it's true--and I try to believe it."— E. Nesbit

Thursday, June 16, 2016

YA Tropes I Hate: Caste Systems

Earlier this year, I simultaneously read Red Rising, by Pierce Brown (which I did not finish) and Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard (which, spoilers, I did finish but did not enjoy.  At all.)  It was a surreal experience.  Both heroes are scrappy, low-in-the-caste system spitfires.  They both, through strange twists of fate, are forced to join the upper class, which they hate.  (Sound familiar?)  I admit, however, that although in both the lower classes are called Red, the upper classes are called Silver in Red Queen and Gold in Red Rising, so they're obviously totally different.  And, if you observe, 50% of the titles are different, which obviously invalidates my point that they're the same book with different character names.

Suffice it to say it was a surreal experience.  I was only able to finish one of them but felt like I've gotten the full experience of each.

Tons of books use the caste system these days.  It accomplishes two purposes.  First: it adds a lovely Asian influence, which has become quite popular in YA literature, without all that pesky research required for, you know, actual Asian influence.

Secondly, and more importantly, formulaic books are just more fun.

Understand that when I say formulaic, I don't mean it derogatively.  Perhaps 'highly structured' would be a better phrase.  It's not a bad thing at all.  Lots of books that I love are highly structured.

J. K. Rowling, for example, brilliantly utilizes the school system and school year to plot her novels.  This always seemed to me a terrific idea because, if she ever ran out of plot, she could go ahead and make it Christmas, then start again with a fresh semester.  In addition, the regularity of the school year, classes, and homework provide the perfect contrast to the magical curriculum, keeping the fantastic from becoming utterly strange.  Shannon Messenger uses this trick as well in her Keeper of the Lost Cities books.

Formulaic plotting accomplishes another feat by adding a time limit, which immediately adds urgency to the plot.  Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series does this marvelously.  Every book has an expressed time limit, as well as the series' overarching deadline: sooner or later, Percy will turn sixteen, and all the prophecies at his birth will come true.  It gives the books awesome pacing.

As awesome as these formulaic approaches are, however, at the end of the day, they are just that: formulaic.  After approximately a thousand books formatted the same way, I have really grown tired of Rick Riordan's plotting.  J. K. Rowling used the same system for seven books, but she chose to depart from it when expanding the franchise into a movie spin-off, and I don't think that is a mistake.

So there, readers, are a few examples of highly structured plotting: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Where do you stand on the matter?  How formulaic is too formulaic?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Irish Adventures: The Conclusion

The astute observer may have noticed that the account of my Irish vacation trailed off after my stay in Cork.  Eight hours in a hospital, four x-rays, two doctors, and one nurse tends to have that effect on you.  My grandmother was able to finish the vacation without ill effects, although her jaw was broken in two places.  She has surgery soon, so prayers would be greatly appreciated!

Anyway, I felt obliged to finish the account of my vacation.  I can't muster up the detail I had writing in the moment, so enjoy a pictorial tour of my vacation!

The Imperial Hotel in Cork, who helped me call an ambulance, brought my grandma food and ice packs, and generally proved themselves to be amazing people, sent a lovely breakfast up for us the day we left.  It had yogurt (which grandma could eat!  Hurray!), orange juice, croissants, and Irish breakfast tea.

We took the train to Killarney, where we stayed in an exceptionally charming hotel.  It had late Victorian furniture and was absolutely beautiful.  Here's a picture of the drawing room.

The next day, we toured the Ring of Kerry.  It's an exceptionally exquisite patch of countryside.  This is Dingle Bay.

This is my favorite picture I took of the trip.  There are so many bright, brilliant colors in Ireland!

These are the Cliffs of Moher.  I spent most of my time here speechless with anxiety, because people hop over the safety rails to get better photos.

We spent our last day in Ireland at Dromoland Castle.  I got to hunt with falcons.

It made me.  Wildly.  Happy.  Also, my grandmother gave me that sweater in Ireland, fun fact.  It's my new favorite.

I got to hold an owl.  It was possibly the best day of my life.

The next day, we flew home.  I was glad to leave, but I'll be even gladder to go back.