Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ah, the notorious Young Adult novel...

Since for a few of you, this is the first blog of mine you've ever read, this is going to be a wonderful illustration of how my thought process works.

Today was day 3 of a 4 day off weekend. As such, I wound up driving north to one of the outlet malls that actually has store I want to shop at and has prices that make me feel like it was worth driving up there. On the way home, I stopped in Ashland, Ohio, to hit one of the Amish markets that has really good cheese and pickles. And fudge. Pumpkin Pie fudge.

Anyway, I was hungry, so I drove into town and hit the McDonald's (Hey, Monopoly started and I want to WIN!) south of the Ashland University campus. And then I walked around campus for a while, remembering my time there.

See, I actually applied to Ashland and was accepted back in 1994, mainly because of the experience I had in 1992 there at the Governor's Institute for Creativity. Where in my particular group wrote, directed and performed an original one act musical. (I wrote 1.5 verses of a song and most of the scoring for the song. I also contributed most of the humor to the script, since adolescents and hormones usually equates with emo.)

So, what the hell does any of this have to do with a book blog?

We had two "talent shows" during the 2 week camp. A few folks read excerpts from novels they were writing. I read a story I had written that was based on a 2 sentence synopsis in a Christopher Pike book.

Yes, Christopher Pike. Some of you of a certain age may remember his rather large catalog. And R. L Stein.

Back in my high school days, I was known for reading tomes. Usually Steven King's back catalog, Anne Rice's Vampires, Clive Barker's stuff...Stuff that was very adult and huge time sinks. Thankfully, there's a wonderful world of Young Adult novels that are also horror themed. Christopher Pike (Showing my lack of Silver Age geekdom, I found out later that pseudonym refers to the original Star Trek) had a bunch of these. Of course, I also noticed that he tended to slip in New Age philosophy into many of the later novels, which made them more fun for me to read.

Mind you, he also wrote a few that went a bit on the preachy side. The Road to Nowhere is a good example of this. Not only does it center around a time loop (which is one of the sci-fi conventions that never ceases to annoy me), it also gets into the abortion debate. When I reached the last page, I gave the book a razzberry.

He also wrote a few which I still have copies of and still occasionally pick up and read. The best of them is The Midnight Club. It centers on 5 teens in a hospice (and believe me, I wish more hospices were converted mansions on the Pacific coast) who meet at midnight every night and tell stories. (If I tell you World's End is my favorite Sandman collection, will you see a pattern emerge?) One of the major plot points revolves around past lives and shared karma. But the real reason I loved it so much as a kid? One of the supporting characters turns out to be gay. Which is a major rarity in Young Adult (or maybe not anymore, it's been a while since I've had any reason to read it. That, and YA seems to be expanding a bit. See Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc. Now that Dumbledore came out [after he's dead, of course]...). But there it was. A gay character I could semi-relate with in a book. Something that was largely missing in my teen years.

He did write some Adult fiction as well, but the only one of his adult novels that I ever read centered around using K to bump people out of their bodies so dead Nazis could possess them. It was kind of stupid.

But still, Young Adult got a largely undeserved bad reputation. Much like "Adult" fiction, there's often hidden gems among the dross, which makes me suspect the ones I liked best had the same ghostwriters.