Saturday, February 11, 2012

Such Interesting Questions, Young Reader!

In reading reviews for a certain YA book I came across one Goodreads reviewer who, though they didn't particularly care for the book itself, thought that it brought up some good questions to discuss with young adults. My first thought in reading this was something along the lines of, well, that's kind of crap. I mean, are the teenagers supposed to read this book that isn't very good just because there are some good questions for them in it?

Then I thought: self, hold up a second.

Isn't it true that sometimes the books that have good questions in them, interesting things to think about, aren't necessarily the ones we five-star and rave about? Take The Future of Us for instance: I liked that book. Liked, but didn't love. I thought there were some big flaws and it often came across as unintentionally funny; as if I were laughing at the book instead of with it. Still, I couldn't help but think that wow, the book was bringing up some really interesting topics. In my review I mentioned the questions of changing your future.

Like I said, The Future of Us was a good book and I enjoyed it, but what if you don't enjoy a book? Is it worth reading a book with plot, characters, or both that you don't like, if it raises interesting questions? And if so, is this more important as a teenager than a grown person?

As far as fiction is concerned we read (or at least, I read) for the stories. But should we sometimes be reading for the questions/topics instead? What are your thoughts on this?


  1. I like this post, Jordyn!

    When I pick up a book, I want it to 1) entertain me, and 2) make me think about something. BUT, at the same time, I don't want to be fed an agenda. That's how I felt when reading UGLIES and GRACELING, for example. I like to think, but I don't like to be forced to think a certain way. However, I think very few authors are capable of towing that line down the middle. Most authors' works I encounter are either entertaining-but-superficial (don't make me think about anything, and there's really nothing substantial going on), or ones that make me think, but make me feel like I have to think what the author's thinking.

    1. I had a different experience than you when reading UGLIES - I love that series and didn't feel like I was being forced to think a certain way, but I definitely know what you mean. I think with books that are issue-driven in some way there's a fine line and if you already agree with the book/author, you might love the book, whereas if you don't agree you're going to have a hard time with the book. Kody Keplinger's books, THE DUFF and SHUT OUT come to mind for me; probably if I agreed with more of what she sets forth in those books I'd enjoy the books more, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of room to disagree and still like the book.

      I think probably part of the reason it's so hard to find books that make you think, but don't make you feel like you have to think a certain way, is because the characters in the books have to make some sort of decision: whatever the issue is, they have to come down on a side of it. You really can't have wide-open questions in novels (at least, not that I can think of...)

    2. I was thinking more about this post after reading it, and you know, the only author, so far, who really presents issues that make me think, without feeling forced to think a certain way, is Neal Shusterman. I would add CS Lewis to the list, but he's not a 'current' author (and I kinda am partial to the guy anyway). But Neal Shusterman has an ability to go right down the middle and defend/question both sides of an issue in a way that I don't see with anyone else.

      Kody Keplinger - gah, there's no way I'd read anything by her. Ever. I was at this author event and heard her speak, and I had to fight the urge to get up and walk out right in front of her. That girl seriously bothers me, and if I think about it too much, it would bother me how many people think her characters are likable - like Bianca and Wesley - when they are seriously so disgustingly flawed. If I did even a tenth of the things Bianca did, my parents would've shipped me off to military school (true threat). Anyway, now I'm going on a tangent.