Posts tagged ‘King of the Screwups’

May 5, 2011

“Teens will like”

I was just perusing Goodreads and saw this beginning on one of the reviews. “Teen will like” and then later “Teens will identify” – and I’m not sure why, but that really bothers me, though I’m sure I’m guilty of it as well. Obviously, as a writer of YA I want to write novels that teens will like, but if I spend too much time thinking about their likes and dislikes, my story will get lost. Because lets face is, not all teens like the same thing. In fact, the reason there are so many different “cliques” in high school is because teens are so different. Is there any book/movie/song that every person likes? If there was, there would be a backlash as soon as people started talking about it. (Even Harry Potter has his naysayers, though those people are obviously unhappy in their general lives). My point is, to say “Teens will like this novel” is a huge generalization.

For an adult to even try and guess what teens will like is patronizing. I believe that for every teen, reader or no, there is a right book and for every book there is the right reader. For example, I just finished reading K.L. Going’s King of the Screwups which was in fact where I found the quote that offended me. Sorry “Darlene” on Goodreads, but you put yourself out there – here’s her quote, copy and pasted¬† “Teens will like this YA novel about a boy who just can’t seem to do anything right, even when he’s deliberately trying to do things wrong!” And a kid with a not-so-nice dad may have a different reaction to a kid with a great relationship with his father.

That’s great that you think teens will like it, but did you? You were the reader, weren’t you? Yes teens may have been Going’s intended audience, but if an adult reads it, they bring an entirely different lens to the story. I enjoyed the novel, felt for Liam and as an adult worried about his future. His father is emotionally abusive to both him and his mother, but that term is never used. His father is consistently disappointed in him, but he never realizes that no matter what he did it would not be good enough. Eighteen years of this weighs on Liam’s self-esteem, though fortunately,¬† he inherited his mother’s good looks and charismatic personality. This seems to be a big reason why his father treats him the way he does, but that is left for the reader’s interpretation. His father kicks him out and Liam goes to live with his estranged cross-dressing “Aunt Pete” and tries everything he can to be the son he thinks his father wants, but he can’t change who he is, so he feels he even fails at that.

I can’t imagine how a teen will feel about this novel – would they get that years of emotional abuse will effect Liam for the rest of his life, or will they enjoy the story at its surface, as our friend Denise says “about a boy who just can’t seem to do anything right, even when he’s deliberately trying to do things wrong!” My prediction is that it will depend on the teen, and their own experiences, and that is something you can’t predict.