Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sending Grandma down a river and other adventures in YA lit...

So, one of my most favorite parts about being an aspiring author is having the opportunity to read other aspiring author's manuscripts. I don't have much experience, but each time I've beta read another person's work, I am left in complete awe at the world they have created, or at the way their sentences are put together, or at how they have developed their characters. Either way, while I was beta reading recently, I was reminded of my past life as a teacher and had to share.

The book I just beta'ed (is that a word?) involves characters traveling down a river towards swiftly approaching rapids (and obviously so much more). This instantly took me back to my days of teaching a book that involved white-water rapids (and not much more) to scores of awkward sixth graders. No offense to the published author, but this particular book lacked the sense of drama and adventure needed to capture the attention of hormonal sixth graders all but wiggling right out of their seats. In a nutshell, the book follows the main character as he travels down a river with his grandma and dog.

Every day, I would strategically leave off at a chapter where I knew the kids would think something big was going to happen. Little did they know, nothing was going to happen. No, Grandma was not going to fall off the raft. No, the dog was not going to bite Grandma. No, the rapids were not going to break apart the raft (although this seems extremely unlikely considering an 11-year-old built the thing himself). And then, before they knew it, the book was over, and they were left with that hangover-type feeling at having wasted so much valuable note-passing time on something as silly as the main character making it to the promised land in one, boring piece.

So, my point is, THANK YOU aspiring authors for creating magical stories that follow magical characters along a magical journey. Sorry unnamed published author, but the only thing magical about the unnamed book was reading aloud the last line and looking up to see confusion spread across 30+ little faces and the inevitable, "Wait, Grandma is still alive?" questions that always seemed to surface after shutting it. Classic.


sraasch said...

Maybe that lesson could be turned into a "How not to write a novel" lesson? That way, the kids would be expecting it to be awful. No high hopes.

The dog didn't even die? Geez. Authors always kill off dogs. That's like a staple in every book with a dog. Or at least have him "die" and come back.

Tara Maya said...

In sixth grade I read Clan of the Cave Bear. I can't quite see the teacher reading that out loud to the class.

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