Tuesday, January 25, 2011

To catch the hot guy, you must read a lot.

Around Christmas time

Mr. F.: I picked this book up for you at the library so that you would have something to read while we're away.  It sounded like something you would read.

*Lady Susan picks up the novel and starts reading the jacket.*

Lady Susan: *quoting*, "The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum.  Abby's senior year of high school is textbook perfect: She has a handsome and attentive boyfriend, good friends, good grades, and plans to attend college next year. But when she meets Dante Alexander, a foreign-exchange student from Italy, her life suddenly takes a different turn. He's mysterious, and interesting, and unlike anyone she's ever met before. Abby can't deny the growing attraction she feels for him. Nor can she deny the unusual things that seem to happen when Dante is around. Time behaves differently when they are together - traveling too fast or too slow or sometimes seeming to stop altogether."

*somewhat sarcastically* I don't know what makes you think I  would be remotely interested in this book.  This is nothing like the books I normally read.


So the book wasn’t too bad.  Like other readers I saw a lot of similarities with _Twilight_.  When I was checking out the author (wondering who she was and if she was just capitalizing on the Twilight success by writing something similar but also completely unique(tongue in cheek here)), I noticed that she too was Mormon like Stephenie Meyer.  O.k.  Well, her bio doesn’t explicitly state that she is Mormon, but she grew up in Sandy, UT, attended University of Utah, and works in the publishing department for Deseret Book (a publishing company that caters specifically to the Mormon community).  Plus she says things like “Besides books, Lisa loves movies, sunsets, spending time with her family, trips to Disneyland, and vanilla ice cream topped with fresh raspberries.”  Excuse me, but who would ever write that in a bio besides a cheesy Mormon mom?  Disneyland and vanilla ice cream!?

The plots between the two books are quite different, and I am not going to reveal any spoilers here.  What struck me as similar between the two books and what I would like to discuss, is the portrayal of the two main characters and their so-called romance.  

First we have the girl who, in both books, happens to be just averagely attractive.  In fact, in both books, the authors don’t spend a whole lot of wordage to describe her appearance beyond the basic hair type.  It makes me wonder if it is intentional--to make it so any young girl reading the book can imagine herself as the protagonist.  Both girls are “supposedly” smart with their strength being English (Of course.  Heaven forbid she be good at something like physics).  Although in Bella’s case, we have no proof of this fact other then the author’s statement that it is so.  At least Abby shows that she can engage in a literary conversation, of which there is one....maybe two. And......that seems to be the sum of their accomplishments.  Awesome.     
This is in direct contrast to the hero of the book whose utter hottness is described in rather painful detail, making sure to spend the appropriate amount of time on the hair, eyes, and chest.  The hero also has an almost uncanny ability to know almost everything about every subject.  Oh!  And be good with his hands (in Edward’s case it is the piano, in Dante’s case it is his woodworking skills.)  

Somehow, this AMAZING guy who is really too good to be true, seems to instantly fall in love with this nondescript, average girl whose only virtue seems to be that she likes to read a lot.  Could someone just shoot me now?  Because in no way does this supposed romance work for me.

So my question is this: Is this a general fault of YA literature?  Or is this more specifically a fault of Mormon written YA literature?  I am inclined to believe the latter, only because I don’t seem to have great difficulty believing other romantic scenarios in other prominent YA books.  My sample size though is rather small so I am hesitant to make a sweeping generalization here.  It is also possible that this is a random fluke: two Mormon authors with poor characterization skills just happened to get published and I read them.   

Don’t let the fact that you  haven’t read these books stop you from voicing your opinion!


heidikins said...

I'm already over this book. I haven't read it, and probably won't. I'm sure it's a lovely story, but I want a YA book where the main character is obsessed with debate or (like you) physics or is insanely good at calculus. I want her to be awesome and smart and confident and I want her to somehow save a flock of baby ducks, or a national forest, or a village in Mali. I am so done with the mediocre main character. Give me something awesome.


Melanie said...

Interesting thoughts. I particularly agree with the idea that authors don't describe female leads' appearances in detail so that the readers can project themselves into the story.

I recently read Matched, another YA novel by an LDS author. Although the main character is much stronger, smarter, and well-rounded than a helpless, flawed Bella, and the romance is a lot more balanced and believable, not much is said about her appearance. The author does, however, describe one of the male main characters as quite handsome (with accompanying details) and provides a lot of physical description of the other main male character.

Janssen said...

I haven't read the Hourglass Door, but I'm wondering if it's written in first person. It seems like it might have something to do with that - because it makes sense for someone to notice how someone else looks, but less obvious to describe themselves in major detail.

yola said...

As one who's read her fair share of romance novels (both smutty and chaste), I can tell you this is a pretty standard recipe for your run of the mill romance novel and not unique to LDS or YA authors. It's just unfortunate though that writers can't come up with more compelling role models for young readers to admire.

Lady Susan said...

@ Heidi: obviously not a "must read"

@Janssen: I believe it was written in the third person subjective. (Don't I sound all smart? I just looked it up.) It would make more sense if it was first person, I agree.

I am thinking that the author was deliberately vague. Or perhaps she knew her audience (mostly female readers) would be more interested in the description of the male characters rather than the female.

And it wasn't just the lack of physical description.....the dialogue/plot/etc. does nothing to make the girls seem any more compelling. In fact, the only thing Bella seems to have going for her is her "insatiably good smell." *snort*


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