From the Notebook: How My Thesis Almost Made Me Stop Blogging

Seriously. I’m not kidding. As I promised in my last Thesis Thursday, here’s an attempt at a better explanation of what happened while I was writing my third and final chapter. I know it sounds kind of depressing, but it isn’t. It’s really more about how I think I can be a better blogger, and maybe change YA literature along the way!

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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: 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: 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!