This probably belongs on FolioFiles rather than here, but as it’s more about me than the actual book(s) in question, I’m sticking with my gut.
Earlier this week (late last week? permalink only has month, not day), Slate published a piece in which the author opined that adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.
…Anyone who knows me doesn’t need to ask my reaction to THAT opinion, but I plastered it in plenty of places around the interwebs, and as a result, Book Riot’s Amanda Nelson now follows me on Twitter (and I just spent the last ten minutes replying to ALL OF THE THINGS she has said since I last looked. She’s my most recent friend-lust.)
At any rate, I’d like to plug a not-marketed-as-YA book (because that’s all YA is, right? Marketing. You know this? Good, moving on): Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
I’m listening to the audiobook, and during the first couple of chapters, it was really difficult for me to decide what I thought of the narration. The narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite, has a distinctive voice, with undertones that remind me of Paula Poundstone, and Lily Tomlin. Very expressive, but occasionally maybe a bit too shrill, or giving a character a full head of steam too early in a diatribe. However, in some ways she is so very spot on that I continue to listen and feel as though this is still the best format for this epistolary novel.
14 year old Bee is perhaps the best-voiced character, and while she is the narrator, she is not the protagonist – or is she? Is this book YA? Or is it literary fiction? Or is it chick lit?
Does it matter?
What matters to me is that, for the first time since…. Okay, The Fault in Our Stars, but that’s practically cheating – maybe The Book Thief? a book has made me cry, sob so hard that I had to stop listening/reading before I could continue.
“I felt so alone in this world… and so, loved, at the same time.”
This line seems so trite taken out of context. But in context, when Bee says it, when her whole world is changing just, as she thinks of it — when you see an egg in its shell, it’s an egg, right? And when you see what’s inside that shell, heated up in a pan and flipped onto a plate next to two strips of bacon and homefries, it’s an egg, right? but, those eggs are so, SO not the same. That’s what comes to mind during this inner monologue of Bee’s.
There is something about being fourteen and a half, and realizing that everything is crumbling around you, and there’s not a thing you can do to stop it.
I don’t care who this book was written “for,” or even who it was marketed to. I don’t remember whether I first marked it as “to read” because it was on the LibraryThing Hot Books, or because someone told me I should read it.
All I know now is that, I am the target audience for this book. Bee’s story is, in many ways, my story – what my story might have looked like under slightly – but not significantly – different circumstances. And I don’t know if I’m ready to find out what she does next. I know what I did. And I like Bee, I admire her spunk and devil-may-care attitude and independent spirit. But that makes us so different. So moving forward in this book, it’s almost like… I have to prepare myself to be chastised. To be shown what could have happened. What could have led me, and maybe even my siblings, maybe even my mother – to a better place than each of us are now. And to listen/read on, I have to be ready for that.
That’s kind of a big deal.
There are books out there that elicit the exact same feelings in early teens, adolescents, and yes, young adults. They are marketed to a certain age range, but by whom? I don’t know the answer to this, but I’d be very curious to know. What’s the demographics breakdown of the people who market new books to booksellers? How many have 4 year degrees? How many from private universities? How many are working within a 50 mile radius of where they grew up? And maybe we’re not talking about the actual peddlers of books – maybe it’s the editors? the marketing team? the—- who decides these things, anyway? Who decided that this book was NOT intended for a YA audience, cuz I don’t see it tagged as such, or mentioned on the YA internet circuit…
Anyway. the bottom line is, this book hit a nerve I didn’t even know was exposed. And for that, I thank the author, and the narrator. Bee brought it home.