Was I ever a teenaged girl?

I suppose I was. After all, I was not on a soap opera and hence victim to the Soap Opera Aging Syndrome, where a kid disappears at any age, and reappears about six months later as an 18yo (or thereabouts), yet the parents and other characters have not aged a bit. No, I did indeed go through the chronological ages 13-19, so I was, in fact, a teenager.

I’m not sure I was a typical one, although I’d guess most of us weren’t (or aren’t). I’ve been reading a lot lately about Twilight and The Hunger Games and other female-targeted YA stuff and in many ways, I end up scratching my head. I don’t recall — and I fully admit that my recall isn’t perfect, because no one’s is — being a big reader of YA stuff when I was, in fact, a YA. I remember, at about age 13, reading Dune by Frank Herbert. Although the hero of the book, Paul Atreides, was a young man, this was not “young adult fiction.” This was a full-fledged sf series that went on (and on and on even after the death of Herbert) for quite a while.

The  main YA connection I remember with Dune was the movie that came out in 1984. (I beg you, dear reader, do not see this movie. If you must watch an adaptation, watch the SciFi channel’s miniseries.) I was 14, and I went with a friend of mine in my class, and there were three or four screaming peers in front of us, dying for a glimpse of Sting in a ridiculous codpiece. Aside: I re-read the book specifically because I was going to see the movie, and thanks to director David Lynch, I came out more confused than when I went in.

Sorry, I digress. My point here is that I did not read whatever the popular books for teenage girls were in the mid-80s. I confess to reading a few Sweet Valley High books that belonged to a friend of mine. They were okay. And I recall a couple of other romances. But I didn’t seek them out.

Why? All I can say is that I know, at the moment, I do not care for books with teenage protagonists. I’m not sure I did when I was a teen, and perhaps it just never changed. I think I didn’t care for those teenagers because I wasn’t like them. I was not tied up with being interested in boys. I just wasn’t. I read my books and hung out with friends and went to some dances, but I didn’t date until I was sixteen, and even then it was unexpected. My girlfriend and I had actually made plans to do something the night of the junior prom, as neither of us had been, or expected to be, asked by anyone (nor was there anyone we wanted to ask). Imagine my surprise when, in fact, a guy I knew from a school music program asked me. He told me he’d been trying to flirt with me; I hadn’t realized. (Luckily, my friend got a date, too, so we all went together.)

But I was not terribly into makeup, or boys, or any of that “typical” stuff. To this day, I have never had a crush on anyone. I just haven’t. So when I read books in which teen girls are all gaga over makeup and boys, or moping over same, it’s hard for me to relate to. And that, in a long roundabout way, kind of brings me to the current thing with vampires and gladiatorial combat.

In the library last week, while my daughter did her thing, I pulled Twilight: New Moon off the shelf. I read three or so chapters, I guess, and while I didn’t think the writing was so awful (although I’ve read a number of articles that disagree), nearly every character got on my nerves. I have to say that the first-person narration bugged me, too, but that bugs me in nearly any genre, so I wouldn’t give it any special weight here. However, after even just a few pages of Bella bemoaning how her icy cold vampire bf wouldn’t turn her into one, I was kind of done.

You probably saw this picture at some point; I originally saw it on Facebook. Again, not having read Twilight, I’d have to agree. I know it hurts to lose someone you love, and I’m willing to give a person a little fetal-curl time, but hey — get over it. There are other guys, many of them warm-blooded. And yes, I did read the Harry Potter books, enjoyed them immensely, and loved Hermione.

And on to The Hunger Games. These seem a bit more my style, although I am still wary. I’m a big sf fan, and I can get with the dystopian, bad future theme. I sense, from articles I’ve read, that I might have some logic issues, but I can also suspend disbelief and enjoy a story. I like the idea that Katniss, in these books, seems self-confident and perhaps a little cold (sounds like anyone would have to be to remain sane in Panem). The first-person narration, again, doesn’t appeal, but that’s an across-the-board thing.

What I have found most interesting about THG, at this point, are all the articles about the books and movies and pondering various themes. For example, in this article at Slate.com, the columnist looks into the economics of tesserae. At Salon.com, here’s a column about the sexual politics of THG and Twilight. Another Slate.com article looks at how environmental disaster and climate change figure into much of this dystopian theme. For those interested, here are two movie reviews, one from Salon.com and one from Hollywood-Elsewhere.com. I warn you, these are on the negative side.

What might put me off THG? Well, I can only by what I’ve read about the books. I’m not sure how much explanation is given to how the society fell to the point it is in the books, and I’d want to know. In the Dark Angel TV series from the ’00s, the US had fallen apart; blame went to an EMP that apparently took out the country, or most of it, electronically. Also, a point raised in the Hollywood Elsewhere review: is there no one among the elite who protests this arrangement of children killing children for sport? Resistance to stuff always pops up somewhere.

Like I said, I haven’t read either of these series, so my judgment is in general reserved, and any opinions have been formed by what I’ve read about them, and the little I’ve managed to read of the books themselves. And of course, if you read and loved (or hated) them, good for you — a book that can get a strong reaction out of a reader can’t be all bad.

——

P.S. You may be wondering what I am, in fact, reading. Right now, I am on book nine of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. On my Kindle, I am in the middle of The Neptune Crossing (Chaos Chronicles). On my nightstand there’s quite a pile, including Roger Ebert’s Life Itself.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by A on March 22, 2012 at 3:19 am

    First off, I have to say that I almost never comment on anything I see on the web but I just have a couple of things I’d like to share. I generally agree with you on not being into YA literature while a teen, with the exception of Harry Potter. I also feel the same way about the Twilight series; Bella’s character comes off as weak and mostly just annoying. I have to disagree with you about The Hunger Games series though. When my sister told me I should read the series, I was, at first a bit weary because of the concept. However, as I began reading the books, I really started to get into it. Your comment about there being no resistance to the brutality of children killing each other is, to be honest, wrong. The is most definitely resistance. That is the whole basis of the series; Katniss, the main character, becomes the unwilling face of the rebellion. I found Katniss to be extremely realistic as a character if you consider circumstances and her reality. The televised aspect of the hunger games is, at least in my opinion, a comment on the extremes that reality tv can take. There are some other pointed comments on our society in general, such as our acceptance of violence through movies and video games. I just feel that to comment on something that you don’t even understand is a bit like judging a book by its cover. But, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. I just thought I’d share mine.

    Reply

    • I haven’t judged the books at all, at least I don’t think so. I have my biases, as I said — I’m not usually into YA books, and I don’t care for first person narration, but I can put that aside if the books are good. Also as I said, THG sounds like the kind of book I would enjoy, YA aspect aside, so right now it’s only a matter of getting my hands on the books to read them. There’s a waiting list at my library for both the print and e-books, and I’m not ready to put the money out yet, but I’ll get there. So at this point, any opinions I have are based on what I’ve read about the books and so I certainly haven’t made any kind of final judgment about them.

      On the specific point of the resistance, as I said in the blog entry, I was going by what I’d read in a movie review. Naturally there will be things in the book that are left out or conflated or otherwise “messed with” for a movie. The reviewer wasn’t talking about the rebellion that Katniss eventually leads. He was talking about how, as the games are getting underway, there seemed to be no resistance from the elites, and he found that hard to believe. Now, perhaps in the book there is this kind of objection, and they just didn’t put it in the movie.

      Reply

  2. I graduated from the Hardy Boys as a subteen to SF as a teen ager. I too though Dune the book was good and thought I was the only one that felt the story was out of sinc in the movie.

    On that vein I as you said suspended logic and enoyed the recent John Carter movie (I saw in in 2D which may have helped) and I was raised on John Carter comics. This renewed my interest and I recently down loaded a multibook series by the author of the series in my Kindle. I don’t know it it was reedited by I have found it supprisingly readable. Of course at 74 they really were not written that much before my time. But I have always been good at as you say at suspending logic that keeps me from injoying stories. I even manage to do it in some of you stories over the petty causes of conflict between some of your and other’s caracters, Keep please posting them and I am waiting for your next book

    I also enjoy getting into your thinking from your blogs Thanks

    Reply

    • Some of my stories definitely require suspension of disbelief — the were stories specifically, I’d say — but that’s not a bad thing. Nearly every story requires it to some degree.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Lady Falcon on March 22, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Was I ever a teenage girl? My mom from the earliest I can remember called me her little adult. I am the oldest of her two children and she was but 19 when I was born. When I was in the 4th grade I tested on the CAT (California Achievement Test) as having a grade 13 reading level. I assume that means I could read and comprehend as well as a freshman in college. However, I’ve never been real sure those standardized achievement tests were really all that accurate.

    In 5th grade my favorite author was Madeline L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time, Swiftly Tilting Planet, etc). I was also reading The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis and The Black Stallion Books by Walter Farley. I read a few Sweet Valley High books checked out from the library and a few Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins but I never got into any of those. My mom worked for “The Stars and Stripes” Bookstore at several bases we lived at so she was always bringing home books with the front covers slashed (they had to do this when it was time to take a book off the shelf…I have no idea why…but she was allowed to bring as many of these home as she wanted single titles-she couldn’t bring 10 of the same title home and sell 9 of them).

    By the time I was 13 I was reading Harlequin books which admittedly in the early 80s didn’t have a whole lot of sex..it was mostly romance..one of my favorite Harlequin writers was Penny Jordan. I was also reading Connie Mason’s historical romances in my early teens. I also discovered the Edgar Rice Burroughs books about this time so I am really looking forward to seeing “John Carter” but, I have to re-read the Martian Chronicles first. Around the age of 15 I got ahold of a “Wifey” by Judy Blume and “Fear of Flying” by Erica Jong; oh boy, were they an eye opener…lol…I have no idea if mom ever knew I read those. Dad was steady pushing “The Old Man and The Sea” at me but I just couldn’t get into it. I did like “Hit Hard” by David J. Williams which he suggested; I still have the copy he gave me on my shelf now. In my late teens I was reading Tom Clancy at my mom’s behest.

    When I wasn’t reading I was playing softball, running Cross Country, playing Soccer or hanging with me team mates. I didn’t date either. Hah, that is an understatement but that story is for another time.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Nic on March 23, 2012 at 1:45 am

    To be honest, I definitely wasn’t the typical teenaged girl either. Not into make up and frilly pink tops, I was more into jeans and books.

    So no, my typical choice in book wasn’t the ‘norm’ either. I read a lot of Dean Koontz and Anne Rice. Later on I grew tired of the Sci Fi genre and moved on to authors like Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Dan Brown, Mary Higgins Clark etc. Jilly Cooper is also a great favourite, even though people tend to look at me strangely when I burst out laughing whilst reading one of her books.

    I’ve never been into the normal romance novels, where the female lead is usually some helpless, usually spineless woman who needs a man to dominate her. Lord knows, if some man tried to shake me like some of the male leads tend to do in a Mills & Boons novel, I’d probably inflict some serious damage before kicking his ass out the door. I also prefer some suspense in the story, not just plain romance, so that the end is not a forgone conclusion.

    As for the Twilight series, the books weren’t that good, the movies are okay’ish, but I do love the soundtracks. They’re well worth a listen.

    So yeah. Being different from the norm, in my humble opinion, is much interesting.

    Reply

    • Posted by Lady Falcon on March 26, 2012 at 6:54 am

      I can’t stand a spineless woman. You can be a woman and you can need a man but you can also have strength and courage and intelligence and heart. Stephanie Laurens is a good author for strong women. She does write Regency Era romance so her women are stuck in certain social strictures but those women rule and are not afraid to use the social strictures to their advantage as well as step outside of them when necessary. There is always a crime or a mystery to solve in the novel so there is plenty of action. Nora Roberts is a favorite of mine as well. I laugh out loud and both Roberts and Laurens often…my family has gotten used to it but I still get looks from my co-workers.

      Reply

    • Sometimes I think there are enough of us who are different from the norm, that perhaps being different *is* the norm. 🙂

      I have read a lot of Nora Roberts, and although I enjoy both her romances and her “…In Death” series, I tend to think her dialogue in the romances is just a little stilted. It’s like she stops just short of going into being old-fashioned, at least at times. However, that doesn’t take away from it over all.

      I long ago said that after reading a friend’s paper on romances, that the idea of an “intelligent and independent” heroine stuck with me. She doesn’t need to be an Amazon who can take on the world, but yes, she needs a spine, preferably her own. I even admit to a soft spot for “damsel in distress” type stories, except that I want my damsel to figure her own way out, with perhaps a little help. I think what I like is when she finally trusts someone to offer her help and then she acts. So it’s all her, but with a little help from friends, much as we all like things to be.

      Reply

    • I like suspense, too, although I find the suspense is in “how will it happen,” instead of “will it happen.” Generally in a romance, once you you have your two leads introduced to the reader, you know they will end up. The question is how do they get there. Now, of course they may not end up together, but I like my happy endings.

      I read a lot of the authors you mentioned, Nic, and have reasons why I dropped them after a while. Dean Koontz, for example, got very repetitive in his plots (although I haven’t read anything by him in 10-15 years, so perhaps he’s changed). After one of Rice’s witches books, I tossed her over — the books were boring and overlong and the sexual violence was a total turnoff. Roberts, I like and read (see above), but Dan Brown — I admit you can get caught up in his books, and I’ve read several, but I won’t read any more. “Digital Fortress” was the worst, I think.

      I can’t say there are too many authors I read currently just because they’re who they are, but the list would include Roberts, Neil Gaiman, and Neal Stephenson. I also just got “The Hunger Games” trilogy on my Kindle, but I feel obligated to finish my library books first (for the record, those are the Lemony Snicket “Unfortunate Events” series and “Whale Rider,” since we recently re-watched the movie).

      Reply

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