Thesis Thursday: Merry Christmas and Here’s What’s Happening in the New Year

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

giphy1Praise Santa because I’m finally home. I made it out of my penultimate semester as an undergrad alive. (Mostly.) Honestly, since I’ve gotten home I’ve mostly been sleeping around requisite holiday stuff.

But anyways. You aren’t here to read about how tired I’ve been. You’re probably here to read about my thesis. Otherwise I’m confused why you clicked on a post titled Thesis Thursday.

I don’t know if I ever spelled this out, but the two thesis projects I had thisgiphy2 semester had two very different goals. One was for my Writing BA, and that necessitated me writing at least 50 pages of original work. I wrote way over 50 before I even considered participating in NaNoWriMo in November. I think I hit about 170 pages of the novel when I won. It’s still not done. Maybe like … 3/5ths done, if you want to get specific. I’m never really sure when I’m writing because I don’t plan a damn thing. But anyways, that one is completely finished and done as far as the school is concerned. I’m going to finish it, but on my own time.

baby-napThe English thesis, on the other hand, is still a massive work in progress. The goal for this last semester was to research things for it and then write the first chapter, and the goal for next semester is to write the last two chapters, defend it and present it. Not necessarily in that order, as I’ve learned, since my presentation is in the middle of freaking April and it’s assumed I’ll still be writing it then.

The finished chapter is currently titled “Taming of the Tropes: How the 81pujydq2ylFemale Assassin in YA Literature Showcases the Biggest Issues and Best Possible Subversions of YA’s Most Popular Tropes” and basically it’s about how so much of YA lit presents a supposedly empowering female main character and then takes away all her power and agency with a really creepy and terrible romance arc. Specifically, I looked at female assassin literature using Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Poison by Bridget Zinn, Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton and–of course–Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. If you want the fangirl version of my thesis, it’s that Throne of Glass is the only one that gets close to present a truly empowered female character while also presenting a plot that thoroughly subverts popular tropes that I’m sick and tired of seeing.

buriedinbooksThe origin of this thesis was me trying to figure out how I could just re-read ToG forever and this is what happened. I’m happy to say that it held up to my intense scrutiny (mostly), because some of them did not. I wrote a blog post about how shattered I was by this re-reading of Grave Mercy, and I reviewed Poison, so if I get around to it I’ll post a reaction to my re-reading of Graceling (mostly okay) and a review of Seeker (mostly not okay).

However, Thesis Thursdays is a long way from over! My second chapter is 200going to deal with marketing strategies for YA books, like cover trends, blurbing, etc, and how that factors in to commodification and tropes, and my third will tackle different publishing strategies as weapons for and against this war of commodification and tropeism. (While still talking about how amazing Sarah J. Maas, Bloomsbury and the Throne of Glass series are.)

Basically, sit tight and wait for next semester. Expect a bunch of bleary-eyed rants about more things that frustrate me. Whether I’m doing research for my thesis or just writing it.

Also, Michaela and I have not forgotten our Betwixt the Books goals. Look for new videos–both solo and together–as we try to figure out how to keep making BookTube videos while separated, since Michaela graduated a semester early and LEFT ME. Coming after the holidays is our promised #imbibliomancy episode on Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant!

Thanks for reading, guys, and happy holidays!

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Thesis Thursday: The Grave Mistake I Made with Grave Mercy

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

anigif_enhanced-buzz-25659-1382022824-41So I just turned in the first draft of my first chapter of my English thesis. It’s 21 pages yelling about romance in female assassin YA books. I cannot remember my own name but I can quote you full passages of the five primary texts I used and I can make it rain with the pages of all the research I printed out that I didn’t use. Well. So it goes.

One of the texts that I used, however, was Robin LaFevers’ Grave Mercy. When I first read and reviewed this book in 2012, I gave it five stars. One of my specific reasons was this little number:

And the romance. Color me SO HAPPY. Sure, it’s the typical line where they start off disliking each other and then realize they love each other, but it worked. The reasons they were so untrusting of each other were REAL. The worries they had were REAL. The progression of their relationship was REAL. They came to trust each other before they came to love each other, which is how it should be. Hallelujah.

THREE YEARS AGO GRETCHEN WAS SO DUMB, GUYS.

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The romance between Ismae and Duval may be real, but for all the wrong reasons. I had no idea until I started picking apart the book for my thesis how DAMN AWFUL the romance is. In my thesis, it ends up being my example of the weird, physically emotionally domineering dynamic that YA books cook up and call love.

grave mercyHow did I never realize that Ismae is constantly equating her feelings about Duval with panic and fear? How did I never realize that almost every time he touches her, she mentions wanting to run away? How did I never see how physically domineering he is towards her, and how often he undercuts her agency? How did I not notice, in the end, when she panics because she thinks he’s going to force her to marry him in that moment and she won’t be able to say no and she isn’t sure she wants to say yes?

This isn’t a direct attack at Robin LaFevers. I get that half of it is because Ismae has had a bad history with men and violence. Duval is sometimes kind to her. But her decision to move past her abusive past and towards Duval is never fleshed out and he’s so physically domineering towards her that it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Now, anyways. I mean, look at that quote from three years ago. I thought this was the bees knees.

Way too much romance in YA is not the healthy kind, but very few peopletumblr_inline_nw29xt4a531sobk6c_500 realize it. (I’m looking at you, Twilight.) That’s part of what the argument of my thesis is. But it just wasn’t what I expected from Grave Mercy, because I remembered loving that book SO MUCH.

I still do. I think the concept is great. Killer nuns? Always and forever, a great idea. However, in terms of the romance, I’m honestly still in shock. 2012 was right in the middle of my stride as a reviewer, where I thought I’d gotten pretty great at sniffing out those terrible kinds of story lines. I don’t want it to be true. But there’s the textual evidence to prove it.

giphyI don’t know if I’m frustrated with the state of YA publishing, myself, this book or my thesis more right now. It’s sort of the same feeling that I had after I wrote a whole paper about how terrible Disney’s Tangled really is. I loved that movie. I can’t watch it anymore after the way I dismantled it in my paper.

Maybe I’m still in shock. I don’t know. Maybe I’m going crazy. I’ve spent the past 72 hours with my nose in books, research or my computer, working on this stupid thing.

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All I can tell you is that I’m worried there are other books that won’t survive a re-read, and I don’t want to know which ones.

Has this ever happened to you?

Thesis Thursdays: Why I Signed Up for NaNoWriMo Even Though I Plan to Lose

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

I know what you’re thinking: why is this a Thesis Thursday post? Well, if you click that link above and re-read that again, you might remember that I’m writing TWO thesis: one is an academic paper and one is a novel.

Er. Well. “Novel.”

Basically, I need a minimum of 50 pages. Technically, once I hit 50, I can stop. But–and this is going to sound so conceited but hang in here with me–50 pages is peanuts to me. This is because I write with a bunch of short paragraphs and a bunch of snappy dialogue in my first drafts. That, plus double spacing, means that I am ALREADY under ten pages away from the 50 page minimum but I just topped over 11,000 words.

So, if I’m that close, why NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), you ask?

I could tell you that it’s because I’m committed to this book idea (I am) and that I savor the challenge (I do). I could tell you that it’s because I miss NaNo (I do) and I want to be a part of that again, even if I’m not really competing (I do). But there is one very distinct reason, above all others, pushing me to compete:

I’m out of plot.

You might have been thinking, “Ew, why would you take a already started novel into NaNo you cheater!” or just “CHEATER CHEATER PUMPKIN EATER!” That’s fine. But, trust me, it’s not like that. I just wrote my eighth chapter last night, which exhausted all of the planned plot that I had for this idea. (It was a very spur of the moment idea.) So I am going into NaNo with a set of characters I love, a few things that have happened and NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT.

That’s what’s beautiful about NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t allow you to say, “Well, I’m stuck, better put this down.” You have to soldier through and make things up on the fly–no second guessing.

That’s what I need right now. I’m so committed to this idea that I have, but I’m so confused by it. I don’t know where to go. Even if I can’t make 50,000 words (which I probably can’t), I need the drive that NaNoWriMo will give me. I mean, I once won NaNo in eight days. I get COMPETITIVE, even if it’s just with myself. (That was the year I wanted to beat my record of eleven days.) I need that to keep going.

If you’re on the NaNoWriMo journey yourself, feel free to friend me–adkwriter15 is the handle. If you are on the fence about it, DO IT. Join me in enjoying the journey but not intending to finish the race. Who knows what’ll happen?

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Thesis Thursdays: The Joy of Public Libraries + New Book Possibilities

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

As you may know, I’ve been struggling to find good books to use for my thesis. I need YA books with female assassins but assassins are different from warriors (i.e., knights, etc) and finding females trained to kill human people is actually harder than it looks. I have a lot of feminist ranting thoughts about this (which will probably at some point be a post), but for now I’m going to stick to something more positive:

How much I love libraries.

When I was younger, I used my local library a lot more. I didn’t have all that much money for myself, and I devoured books too fast to buy too many anyways. How else would I have gotten through EVERY SINGLE NANCY DREW EVER PUBLISHED (at the time)? My library. How else could I afford to read every single Clive Cussler title? My library. Remember when Bibliomancy for Beginners did all thirteen Series of Unfortunate Events books? Thanks library! I volunteered there. I knew everyone by name. I lived there.

But I began to become frustrated with my library for several reasons. One, I lived a while outside of town and getting there was hard. Two, I wanted to own my own copies of things so I could read them again and again. Then, when I started blogging, I had such a cache of free eARCs that getting even more books from the library seemed overkill. So I stopped going.

I think my on campus library made me forget what real libraries look like. It’s all academic textbooks and sheet music and old newspapers. So when it came time to look for books for my thesis, I immediately discounted “library” as a term that could help me find what I needed. I turned to the internet and got lost in Google. Then my friend Taylor (might recognize him from Bibliomancy for Beginners) said, “Want to go to the public library for thesis research with me?”

GUYS LIBRARIES ARE AMAZING, NEVER FORGET ABOUT THEM.

I spent hours sitting on the floor of the YA section, going title by title through their selection, looking for thesis books. This might sound tedious, but actually that’s what I want my heaven to look like: shelves and shelves of books I want to read for me to go through. I only made it through a small section, but I managed to find four books with possibilities and that’s way more than I had before. (I’m going to list these below, in case anyone has read them yet, to see if anyone knows if they have what I’m looking for.)

How else would I be able to read these books, when I don’t know if I actually can use them? I don’t have enough money to just spend them on books willy-nilly. Don’t even mention illegal downloads, because I DO NOT do that. How else would I be able to browse book by book in a methodical manner? My local library has a FANTASTIC YA selection, by the way. It’s perfect. Just perfect.

So, guys, this is important: SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY. LOVE IT. DON’T FORGET ABOUT IT.

(And thanks, Taylor, for dragging me along.)

New books for consideration:

Hit by Delilah S. Dawson

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

Thesis Thursdays: Review – Poison by Bridget Zinn

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

poisonPoison by Bridget Zinn

Published March 12, 2013, by Disney-Hyperion

Goodreads | Amazon

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

Two stars

When I realized that I was doing female assassins for my thesis, I bought this one basically without thinking about it. I’d wanted it for a while, and it seemed PERFECT. This synopsis looked A+ on par, everything I wanted, going to be the best thing ever. While I don’t regret buying the paperback … I was wrong.

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Thesis Thursdays: An Introduction

Okay, nobody panic. This feature sounds kind of pretentious and crotchety, but it isn’t. In fact, this feature (which may not always be weekly) will be a combination of book reviews, tirades against academia, writerly panic and frustration, rants about book tropes and fan girl freak-outs–usually about Sarah J. Maas, probably. Let me explain.

I’m a senior this year. *INSERT PANIC HERE* I have chosen to inflict upon myself the year long English Honors Thesis course that my Department offers here. Now here you might expect me to say that I’m studying Shakespeare or some post modern writer or something.

Well, you might. But you’ve been following me on this blog and you know that that isn’t my style.

First things first, remember that post I wrote about being an English and Writing double major? While I’m writing this English Thesis, I’m also completing my Writing Senior Project, which is a novel. This will come into play later.

16034235The topic of my English Honors Thesis, broadly, is YA publishing trends and female assassins. It’s conception came from me saying HOW CAN I JUST KEEP REREADING THRONE OF GLASS FOR CREDIT? Turns out, my thesis adviser really likes what I came up with. I’m not going to bore you with the academic details, I’m just going to say that I’m going to be writing about the tropes of these books and therefore reading a bunch of books like Throne of Glass to make my point. Which is where the rants about annoying tropes and the book reviews come in. I’ve actually got a short list on Goodreads about what books I’m considering.

The YA publishing trends component of this is going to mean that there are some books on there that don’t make sense, but don’t fret. I’ll explain that all in due course whenever I figure out what the hell I’m doing.

Don’t forget that novel I’m writing! It occurred to me, rather late in the game, that if I was doing all this work talking about tropes of female assassins and what they do well and what they don’t that maybe I should WRITE the book that destroys all the tropes I hate and is actually more like what I want to read. So far I’m two chapters in and while I’m way rusty (more on this later), I’m making myself laugh so that’s about the best I can expect.

Still with me? If not, that’s cool. I honestly don’t know if anything remotely interesting will come out of this besides amusing rants and more book reviews, but that’s okay. At least it’ll help me sort out my thoughts.

Tune in next week when I discuss Poison by Bridget Zinn, why I can’t tell if I like it or not and why I’m confusing myself as to whether or not to consider it for my thesis!