Weekly Wrap Up + What We Read 5/22/16

Michaela totally had this video on time this week, guys. I just didn’t post it. I graduated yesterday and also came back home, so I’ve been all over the place this weekend. However, here it is for the blog, finally!

Monday:

Tuesday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Friday:

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Thesis Thursday: Thesis Defended

13095941_10209728188466067_7456087342351197460_nWell. Here we are. The last Thesis Thursday post. Last Wednesday, I successfully defended my 84 page behemoth that had 7 pages of work cited, single spaced. The only thing I have left to do is get it bound and submit a copy to the English Department. My panel has already decided that I get English Honors, so there is no stress left. Just the finished project.

Chapter One, which took up all of last semester, 16034235was the real, serious English-y investigation. I read five YA female assassin novels and talked about how YA literature is either letting girls be their real, strong selves or … not. Mostly it was not. Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass remained my shining centerpiece, but … well. Graceling by Kristin Cashore actually sort of held up, but Arwen Elys Dayton’s Seeker, Bridget Zinn’s Poison and RL LaFevers’ Grave Mercy did not. All the links I just inserted are to my reviews or re-reviews of those books. Mostly, I ended up talking about how YA tropes end up promising strong female characters and then don’t give us that–and that makes me angry.

12801277_10209140220927246_1575951528546352262_nChapter Two y’all saw some of, but that was the hardest chapter to write. I was talking about the commodification of YA book covers, but my original thesis didn’t hold up. I ended up needing a lot more quantitative research than I expected, and I had to redo my entire thesis statement. In the end, what I ended up saying is that the YA book cover industry looks a lot more diverse than it used to, but only for books that can pay for good cover art. Everything else is still blase look-alike kind of stuff. I actually did a video summarizing some of my research!

Chapter Three was the one that made me REALLY angry. I even posted a video about how it13094374_10209689763425465_2413078371465464007_n almost got me to stop blogging for like 30 seconds. It was all about how the publishing industry uses the free labor of teens to get their marketing data, but how a lot of the really GOOD data is ignored for information about what sells–like love triangles. It was all stuff I knew, really, but seeing it proven was just … wow. It was worse than I thought, I guess.

At my defense, my advisor–who’s been with me through all four years of college–got kind of nostalgic about all that time she’s known me, and now seeing this project come to fruition. She knows better than almost everyone else how much time and energy I put into my study and love of YA, and how much this project really means to me. It isn’t just a research project. It’s the culmination of years of my life spent blogging and reading, and a deep love of YA literature that is coupled with a serious desire for improvement within the genre. I guess, in a way, I hadn’t thought about this as the project I’ve been working on for all those years. This was just, you know, this year. But … she’s right. It never was. This is my heart and soul on these pages.

13139156_10209728182145909_7859981542704917588_nAnd now it’s done. Well, the paper anyways. I’m far from done. This project has shown me that this kind of research–in YA, on YA–is what I really want to do. I want to live this kind of work. Yeah, I’m going to Korea for a year, but this is the end goal. I want to go to grad school and do an even better version of this project. I want to say something that someone is going to listen to. This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning.

Thesis Thursday: First Complete Draft is … Complete

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!

13094374_10209689763425465_2413078371465464007_nYou heard that right, folks. Since the last time I made one of these posts … I did it. I wrote the first draft of my third chapter. It lives and breathes in the world, bringing my page total for the first draft up to 75 pages altogether.

The fight is far from over. In fact, I really should be editing right now. However, all of the initial hard work is … done. On top of that, my defense was just scheduled for next Wednesday, so time is really running out on this whole thing. I can see the finish line–for this, as well as school in general.

I think there are only going to be one more of these posts, considering that there will be a Thursday right after my defense. Wow. What am I going to do with my Thursdays now?

Well. Hang on. Back up. Let’s talk about this third chapter that just, as far as these posts are concerned, appeared out of nowhere. The working title is all over the place, because I don’t like it and it’s really long, but here’s the gist: big, traditional publishers exploit teen online engagement for their own marketing gains, but focus on what their research says will make the next bestseller and NOT the next good book. While authors can make use of these new media outlets these days, publishers ten to ignore them and instead create these debilitating feedback loops with their own marketing departments that keep us trapped within really bad trends.

Out of all three chapters, this is the first one that really made me … angry. Like, really tumblr_mkqimsivr61ruw1vso1_500angry. And all the stuff I researched and talked about, it’s nothing that I didn’t at least subconsciously know about YA publishing. But seeing it, reading it, understanding the depth of the madness–it’s just terrifying.

I write posts like In Defense of YA: We need a Rebellion of Our Own because I genuinely love YA, and I believe that the genre has a powerful role to play in literature if only we can rescue it from its dependence on tropeism and “what sells.” However, writing an essay like this and seeing how far the traditional publishers go to keep producing the next new megahit … it’s sad. I start to wonder if the whole idea of a rebellion isn’t just some cute idea. I start to wonder if YA is eventually going to implode on itself, and if I’ll have to watch the whole genre fall apart.

200_sNot to be a total Debbie Downer, I guess that’s why I do this kind of research: because I think I can say something that someone can here. And my research did turn up a bunch of publishers doing really important and innovative things because they believe as I do. So, the battle isn’t lost. But, still.

I’ll probably come out with a From the Notebook video on Monday talking about how this paper literally made me consider deleting my blog and throwing in the towel on my participation in these schemes. Obviously, I only considered that for about 0.1 seconds before I threw the idea out entirely, because I love you guys and this community and I get excited about books and what we do. I could never leave.

But this paper did make me think about it. And other things.

Really wish I had time to process those things, but it is not this day. I have chapters to edit 5dfa891ff25b2dcdd6fdbba908cf9130and other papers to write and graduation to get through. There will only be one more Thesis Thursday post, I think, and then I’ll try to figure out something new to do with the day. I’ll tell you guys all about my defense, and maybe wrap all this work up a but more thoroughly. For now, though, this post is the honest truth.

I hate YA. I love YA. I really, really want to fix it. Who’s with me?

Thesis Thursday: Big News that has Nothing to do with My Thesis

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!

Alright, full disclosure: while this has nothing to do with my thesis, it has everything to do with my future. As you all may know, I’m graduating from Ithaca College in May. As with many grads, I have little money and many loans. As of Tuesday, I also have a (potential) job.

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I’ve alluded to this several times over the past year, but now it’s (mostly) official. Taylor and I–yes, your two favorite fighters–are headed off to South Korea together to teach for a year, starting in the fall. We don’t know where yet, but we’re about to get started with our Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificates and background checks and all that fun stuff.

giphyI’ve never been this terrified and yet excited about something. Sure, I went abroad to London and did a lot of traveling there, but … well … they mostly all spoke my language. The culture shock wasn’t terrible. I did okay. It was also only for four months, and I had a bunch of friends as back up and we were going to a university run by my home college. Everything was as safe as can be.

Don’t tell Taylor, but I wouldn’t have agreed to go without him. I’m not THAT brave. But this is an opportunity that I really, really want and have for some time now. I want to be scared. I want the adventure. Sure, there are going to be obstacles along the way that I am NOT going to enjoy, but I welcome them. I don’t want to be safe anymore. I really want to travel, and I also get to teach.

There aren’t many other times in my life were I would get to do this. That’s the main thing that keeps running through my head. It’s the reasoning that reminds me how disappointed I would be in myself if I didn’t take this chance. So. In a few months … here we go.

gifbilboimgoingonanadventure_zpsec9cc099

Oh yeah – I’m still going to be blogging as much as possible. It just may end up being a lot about South Korea.

March Wrap Up + PopSugar Challenge Update

Wasn’t it kind of March to end on a Thesis Thursday day? Especially because I don’t have a thing for a Thesis Thursday as of yet? Yes, yes it was. Unlike my February wrap up, I’m doing this one as a post because this is about the amount of time I have right now. GO COLLEGE!

I read 9 books in March. This is two down from last month, which is super depressing because February is so much shorter than March. Whatever. Spring break got in my way, if you remember.

51kgfanbhal-_sx322_bo1204203200_The first three books I read in March were all for my thesis. By Goodreads’ match, the first one I finished was Judging a Book By Its Cover: Fans, Publishers, Designers and the Marketing of Fiction edited by Nicole Matthews and Nikkianne Moody. While I originally picked this up for it’s section on book cover design, it will also be very helpful in my last chapter that talks about marketing and publishing books for young adults.

Then, I finished By Its Cover: Modern American Book Cover Design by41pqsnz4ttl-_sx258_bo1204203200_ Ned Drew and Paul Sternberger. This book was not at all what I expected, as it was a coffee table sized book with almost more pictures than words. It spanned decades of American cover design, but often only for the most “literati” books for the most popular of designers. I still managed to quote it though!

413benup3el-_sx324_bo1204203200_Wrapping up this month’s thesis work, I read Theodor Adorno’s The Culture Industry. If you are into theory about the mass production of culture, this is very interesting and I was so happy that one of my professors lent it to me. However, while the previous two books are nice reading for the lay-reader … this one is not. Don’t pick it up unless you want a headache.

In actually exciting news, Taylor and I both finally finished Mermaidsmermaids-600
and Other Mysteries of the Deep
, a short story anthology edited by Paula Guran
. We had been promising this video since we did our review of After: 19 Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, but it took us FOREVER to finally get done. While it is a longer video, we both found this anthology better than After. Very worth the watch and read!

27353499I re-read three books while I was on spring break, two of which were by Tellulah Darling. I read the 2nd and 3rd books in her Blooming Goddess trilogy, My Date From Hell and then My Life From Hell. When I came back, I did a series review of all three because I wanted to talk about them all so much. While these are hardly the best books I’ve ever read, they’re the kind of fluffy mind candy that you just NEED to read sometimes. I also enjoy a new take on the Hades and Persephone myth any day.

The last book that I re-read on break was Aimee Carter’s Goddess12637490 Interrupted. This is the 2nd book in her Goddess Test series (another Hades and Persephone retelling) and my favorite. I fully plan on doing a series review of this very soon because re-reading this reminded me just how much I love AND hate this series.

16221851I got through one single ARC read this month, which was Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan. This is a standalone novel that is far darker than anything you might expect by SRB. I don’t want to say too much, because the review is coming out tomorrow, but … oh dear guys. I really, really didn’t enjoy this one at all. I was so disappointed.

Last but not least, I read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This51-qq2tbipl-_sy344_bo1204203200_ was for our spectacular March Imbibliomancy episode, in which me, Taylor and Michaela get drunk and talk about themes–or try to. I am so angry, but I really like this one. Like, a lot. I almost gave it five stars. You should really, really check out that video for more on that and also serious hilarity!

For my PopSugar update, I only ticked off two more boxes. I decided to count Tell the Wind and Fire as my “book published in 2016” because I was so proud that I didn’t DNF it. Station Eleven also counted as my “book from the library.” That makes it 10/40!

Here’s to more reading in April! Or at least attacking the “currently reading” list on my Goodreads that is 7 books long right now. YIKES!

Weekly Wrap Up + What We Read 3/6/16

HA! I out-read Michaela this week! …but it was mostly for my thesis, so that was sad. Anyways. There’s also a bunch of great content this week, including some great ARC reviews, hilarious videos and more! Do I need say anything else? Let’s go!

Monday:

Tuesday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Friday: 

Thesis Thursday: Babbling about YA Book Cover Trends

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!

After getting out of my thesis meeting today, it turns out that I have too many thoughts about YA book covers. I want to say too much about them, in too many angles, in too many ways. I could write a million papers about YA book covers.

So, while that is not productive to me, I’m going to talk about a few things that came up for me and see if you guys think I’m crazy or if you’ve noticed this too. I’m going to make a serious effort to stay quick and to the point–and not get my professorial lecturing on–so many of these ideas will stay surface level. Tell me what you find interesting!

  1. Book cover trends in general – like, literally, what is going on with this? Books that 51ocax0kjxl-_sx326_bo1204203200_are all different genres–dystopian, fantasy, paranormal, realistic–they all look the same. Each one of them was just as likely to have a “girl in dress” or “half girl face” cover as the next. That doesn’t help you figure out what the book is supposed to be about? Sure, those were some pretty dresses, but do we care? I’d rather see actual content related covers, if you don’t mind. Of particular concern to me:
    1. Book covers that partition the female body – Why do we need book covers that focus just on female torsos? Why not give them heads or full bodies? Fragmentation of the female body has been long studied in advertising as a way to help objectify it. Which is doubly weird, since most YA books are marketed towards female readers.
    2. the selectionGirls in dresses – Okay, on some overs this is fine. Like, for instance, Kiera Cass’s Selection series. That makes sense. But on books where we’re supposed to get a strong female character, why are they shown in inactive poses in dresses that will not be very helpful in a fight? Or, at the very least, they never wear in the actual book?
  2. Book cover changes mid-series publication – Am I
    insane, or did this never used to happen? I never used to have to flip out because I bought one book in hardcover,

    Throne of Glass

    The original ToG cover.

    but by the time the next book came out, the covers had completely changed. Now, oftentimes this change IS for the better (I’m looking at you, Throne of Glass), but … it’s annoying if you want your covers to all look the same. But seriously, help me out here. This is a rather new phenomenon, isn’t it?

  3. Book series repackaging through the years – This is more of a pet peeve with a related example. I will never forget standing in a Barnes and Noble with Tamora Pierce as she lamented about the new “Twilight covers” of her Alanna series where it looked like her characters were wearing clothes “from the Gap.” I understand that the Alanna series is older now, but packaging it to look like Twilight doesn’t seem to be the best marketing strategy. It’s a very different book series. Have you seen other books that have be repackaged in weird ways?Song of the Lioness
  4. The Immortal RulesBook cover white washing – this is very much a last but certainly not least moment. I know that this is a long and storied tradition of publishing, but it really hit home with me when Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden series came out. Why would you use the half face of a white girl on the cover of a book about an Asian-American character? Okay, I know the annoying answer to that question, but seriously. Then, after the uproar, the books got new covers–but not of an actual Asian-American half faced girl. No, the books went the route of the symbol covers instead. Yes, that’s a new fad, but I’m also going to add an eyebrow raise to that movement. What are some other whitewashed covers that have annoyed you guys?

I think I want to say something along the lines of how YA book covers have become really 9780547959214_hresfrustrating, because they–like the inside flaps of the books they contain–are starting to all look the same. Don’t get me wrong, there is some FABULOUS cover art out there, but there are also books that just seem so … samesie. I’m really not a fan of the new symbol art thing. It seems like too many books are trying to be The Hunger Games. At the very least, it seems the symbols are leading back around to more artsy designs than the half-girl faces used to give us.

26114463Can you see how my ideas are flip flopping all over the place? I understand that books can’t all be fabulous pieces of art like the Throne of Glass redo covers or literally anything written by Jay Kristoff, but …sigh. There is SO MUCH IMPORTANT INFORMATION tucked into these covers. I want to talk about it all with my scholar cap on, but I can’t cover all this stuff with the breadth it deserves in the same paper.

Sigh. I need to decide soon. Fingers crossed.