The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective

The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective (i.e mine) is no one seems to know who YA is actually for anymore.

I came across a thread recently of several authors lamenting the fact that some reviewers were reading their books and then giving lower ratings because of several YA aspects in the story. For example the MC was too immature. Reviewers have actually have gone as far to state that they would have loved the book if they were a teenager.

So why does this happen? Why are adults apparently reading books they find too immature and slamming them for being something a 12 year old would want to read?

I think the answer is simple.

It’s because they aren’t being marketed as if they are for teenagers.

Let me be frank, YA is a hot mess of a genre. Even the name Young Adults implies the books aren’t for teenagers. But technically YA is meant to be for anyone between the ages of 12 – 18. However when you have books like ACOTAR and Six of Crows sitting in the YA section things get confusing. A lot of people wouldn’t read ACOTAR at 12 and Six of Crows deals with adult themes like sex slavery and addiction.

Now inclusion of sex doesn’t automatically make a book not YA but that’s not the point I’m making.

My issue is that YA books today are heavily marketed towards adults and you can tell this alone from the price tag.

What average 12 year old can afford special collectors editions that are about £20? Hell, you only have to turn up to YALC to see a serious lack of anyone under the age of 16 at a convention for YOUNG ADULT literature.

Clearly adults have more disposable income and while these books are written for teenagers they are sold to adults. I think it’s great that YA has great cross over appeal but the reason these debates start is people think adults are intruding on teenagers spaces despite the fact they were basically invited.

A perfect example of this is The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. Two book boxes are doing collectors editions of the entire series with new covers. One book box has always done a special edition. That’s three different sets of covers for books that is supposed to be for teenagers? I couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on books until I had a full time job which only happened this year and I’m 26.

Also, young adults, like myself (I.e not a teen) see “young adult” as something they should enjoy. And I personally (without specific industry knowledge of the genre age range) spent a good year reading YA and wondering why it was too immature for me. I remember very clearly the only YA books I enjoyed immensely was ACOTAR and Nevernight. The two books that are commonly seen as YA that aren’t. Do you see the problem?

I would love for publishers to finally stop the YA marketing hype and make New Adult a thing. The introduction of New Adult would provide a space for older teens and actual young adults and stop books like Nevernight getting into the hands of an audience it was never meant for.

In the future I do think reviewers should consider the audience of the book when complaining about immaturity etc. But when said book has been put into the hands of adult readers, book bloggers and book tubers I can’t blame them for reading it thinking it was meant for a reader more their age.

Popular Book Series I didn’t like..

I’d like to start by saying that this list is not an insult to the authors. I have other books by most of the authors mentioned that I LOVED I just didn’t particularly enjoy these and I’m going to be very honest and blunt about why.

 

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab

Kicking off with the one that makes people GASP. I tried really hard with this series but I GENUINELY was falling asleep reading this. People RAVE about these books but to me it just felt empty and kinda quiet. Like the world was really restricted and not built up. I was curious as to what happened to black London but not enough to keep me reading unfortunately.

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

So this series started off really well for me. I actually really enjoyed the first two books. Side note though: I’m very surprised these books are YA considering the pretty disturbing and graphic scene in the second book. Out of all the books I’ve ever read that scene shocked and disturbed me the most. This series went downhill for me in the final book which I was totally bored by and skimmed to the end. However I LOVE Strange the Dreamer and if you struggled with this don’t skip that series.

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

So this is an interesting one on my list because I have actually read the entire series. I was never fussed about Aelin, Rowan was basically furniture for all the personality he had and Chaol (imo) was just straight up racist/prejudiced. The only reason I kept reading was because of Manon who is one of my favourite fictional characters ever and I’m praying she gets her own spin off.

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Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

So this book is compared to Game of thrones a lot which is a big mistake. If you wanna know how much less world-building and characterisation there is in this book compared to Game of Thrones take a look at the map. Huge landmass with three blobs for cities and that’s it. This book was just bland for me and didn’t offer anything new or interesting to keep reading.

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Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

I think Joseph gives anyone enough of a reason to hate this series but the insta-love doesn’t help either. My issue with this book mainly was pacing, a lot of nonsense goes down and the big climaxes fell flat. I thought I was intrigued enough to continue the series but it turns out I wasn’t.

What I have learnt about myself is that I don’t tend to enjoy popular YA fantasy that much. The YA fantasy I have enjoyed has actually turned out to be New Adult with a few exceptions.

Book Review: The Goodnight Kiss by Jennifer L. Hart

Synopsis

A teenage serial killer with a mysterious past.
The deadly hunter sworn to protect her.
Secrets, lies and a shot at redemption.
It all begins with a kiss.

When 16-year-old Nic Rutherford heads out for a night on the town, she brings a full arsenal. Her best weapon? A deadly kiss that can take down the biggest game around—humans. Two-legged predators don’t stand a chance once she makes lip to skin contact. But her blessing is also a curse, one that Nic fears will inadvertently harm anyone who gets too close—her aunts, her best friend, or the mysterious new boy who possesses strange abilities of his own. 

Aiden Jager has the one thing Nic can’t resist—information. With his help Nic begins to unearth answers about her own murky past along with the key to a hidden world where magic thrives and the impossible becomes reality if one is willing to pay the ultimate price. Beware, for once the door is opened, there is no turning back.

My thoughts..

This story is a dark urban fantasy about a girl called Nic who can kill people by kissing them. Nic has appointed herself judge, jury and executioner over the local murderers, rapists etc for reasons unknown and with the help of her two aunts she kills them. Nic’s life is a mystery, she was adopted by two women who clearly aren’t what they pretend to be. There are a thousand different questions that this book raises and just when one question is answered you find you have more. I think that is what kept me reading until the end. I wanted to know who Nic was and what the hell was going on.

The main thing I struggled with in this book was the rather unusual blend of Norse and Greek Mythology mixed together with folktales and faeries. This is very confused by the fact the book is set in the real world, so you have an old Norse god running around after a teenage girl/faerie queen who kills people by kissing them. This teenage girl is looked after by her “Aunties” who are two of the three fates, but also vets in their spare time. All these aspects together just didn’t blend as seamlessly into one story as I would have liked.

Whilst this mix of Nordic mythology and folklore isn’t my cup of tea particularly, I think this book is perfect for people who loved the darker sides of those stories. This book has all the gritty realism of domestic violence and back-alley rapists but with a land of Giants and fae magic. What I loved most about this book was all the faerie aspects, The Seelie and UnSeelie Courts and The Wild Hunt.

This story is a strange and winding journey through familiar mythological and folklore territory that makes it unique. This book twists and turns a lot and while it is unfortunately mainly fuelled by every character being deliberately vague and unhelpful, is still is an entertaining and interesting read. I really liked the developing relationship between Aiden and Nic and the past histories that are being explored and explained between the characters. I’m looking forward to the next book and seeing more of the fae world that I love.

**I was given an eArc of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own**

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

 

Book Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight is the sort of book that you will kick yourself for not reading sooner. I loved this book so much I started writing this review about a 1/4 of the way into reading the book. I have never read anything by Jay Kristoff before, but in the space of 90 pages he is now one of my new favourite authors.

I am hooked.

The narration style of writing drew me in completely. I loved reading the narrators thoughts, reflections and jokes. The little footnotes some people may find distracting but I loved reading the extra information being given as there is so much to learn about this world. The story is being told in third person so you read things from the narrators perspective. The end result feels a bit like watching a movie with directors commentary which may take some getting used to, but I found this approach really interesting and like I’ve said three times already (I counted) I LOVED it.

This book is violent and twisted and explicit and at times difficult to take in, whilst also managing to make me laugh all the time. The dark humour gives the book a gritty realism and an edge that is often missing from fantasy books. Too often fantasy books are described as brutal, dark and twisted but this is one of the few books I have read that deserves all these adjectives and more. Excuse my language but Jay Kristoff does not f**k around and neither does this book. You’ll rather love it or drown in a sea of names and places you can’t pronounce wondering what the f**k you just tried to read.

I am absolutely in love.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Book Review: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Synopsis

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

My thoughts..

“Perfect for fans of Game of Thrones”

This book was in short easy, easy to read, easy to understand, easy to guess what would happen next. This book lacked all the depth, world-building and characterisation of Game of Thrones. Every plot twist could be easily anticipated pages before, the dialogue felt shallow, the secrets and intrigue easy to guess. It was in every way a cliche young adult fantasy. I’ve seen a debate before that young adult doesn’t mean the story is dumber or simplified but contrast this book to A song of Ice and Fire and that’s exactly what you get. There was no complexity, no tension, no depth to the characters.

I wanted to like this book but it wasn’t offering anything new. Three Kingdoms really basically described, two really hate each other and another one is impoverished because magic is disappearing. A really shoddily put together political situation of a princess and lord murdering a peasant over wine prices that acts as the catalyst for the ensuing warring. In terms of characters you have the princess who wants to marry for love and has no interest in ruling so of course what happens to her? The drunkenly lord who loves to “lord” it over and is quickly made into the creepy villain of the book. You have the cold, evil King who treats his son like dirt but the son still wants to impress him. That same son who has learnt to survive by pretending not to care etc etc.

The only reason that you would compare this series to Game of Thrones is the random deaths. The deaths in Game of Thrones add an element of realism with their brutality and swift nature. The deaths in this series are random and you don’t care because the characters where only introduced two seconds ago.

I thought long and hard about finishing this book but I’ve read it all before. I was told it gets better and the second book is way better than the first but I know me and this book will never see eye to eye.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Book Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Synopsis

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most – a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever. 
The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavoury hobby – it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good.

But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Publication Date: 6th March 2018

My thoughts…

This book is a darker re-telling of the Little Mermaid and it had lots to offer. To Kill a Kingdom has all the elements of a really good dark fantasy, there’s mermaids and pirates, siren’s ripping out hearts, a Sea Queen reminiscent of Ursula and a hate to love romance. The story was nicely paced and I think it does an excellent job of taking The Little Mermaid and making it darker and grittier than the film we all know and love.

This book held such promise for me but in the end it didn’t quite deliver. For me this book was a little too perfect, every twist and turn wasn’t a surprise, I felt like I was on a road I had travelled before. I didn’t really have any doubt in my mind at where this book was going or how it would end. Everything ended up being a bit too convenient, I could see what the author wanted to achieve, so all the character growth needed to get there felt a bit forced.

In the end Lira and Elian didn’t learn to look past their differences, they were moulded into being the same. I say this particularly for Lira who starts out as this blood-thirsty Siren, but this initial characterisation is proclaimed as false as you get further into the book and it ends up that Lira didn’t want to be that way she felt forced by her mother. For me good characterisation would be if they had both learnt to change, not the reader learning that they aren’t the way initially presented. It was all just a little too neat but this might be because it was a standalone.  

There was a few plot issues, namely Lira’s familiarity with all things human despite being from the sea, she recognised things like the smell of peppermint and honey. Are these common in the ocean? I also had issues with the ending, who goes through the trouble of hiding something as far away from the ocean as you can but then decides to built a moat around/through it? Wasn’t the whole point to be that it was away from water?

This book is by no means boring and for a ya dark fantasy it’s pretty decent. There were just several issues for me that stopped me completely enjoying the book, I didn’t find the banter that witty and there was a lot of it and I felt like the plot was often advanced by people overlooking the glaringly obvious. I know lots of people are going to love this book but I ended up being one of those who only liked it.

*I received a digital review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own*

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Book Review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I want to start off by saying this series as a whole has been a dream, Maggie Stiefvater is a fabulous author, I love the way she chooses to word things, I love how she described people and places and simple objects like a journal. There is a lyrical dream-like quality about her writing which I fell instantly in love with. I was very satisfied and at the same time left wanting after finishing The Raven King. It’s always difficult to end a series and there will inevitably be those who don’t like how the story ends and today I just happen to be one of them.

I will start by saying the most satisfying thing about this book for me was seeing my Ronan and Adam ship set sail. Their relationship development was such a joy to read and they were definitely my favourite part of the whole book. For me they outshined the main romance of the book Blue and Gansey, whose relationship I think ultimately ended up being much less developed and less interesting. The reason for this I believe is that Adam and Ronan are such strong characters and they develop more as characters than Blue and Gansey. I wouldn’t like to accuse an author of favouritism with her characters but it definitely felt like the focus shifted. There is significant changes to Ronan and Adam’s characters from the beginning to the end of the series, Blue and Gansey and Noah I don’t think changed that much in the end.

The most disappointing aspect of this book for me (apart from the end itself) was the loose ends that were left. In a previous review I explained why I liked the lack of explanation but for me when explanations were given they just seemed odd and there was too many questions that I felt needed answers.

First of all was this book started with Blue’s curse – if she kisses her true love he will die. I felt like this was the whole premise of the book but at the end it was just left. Is she gonna kill Gansey if she kisses him everytime? The book said Gansey would die because she was a mirror and something about Gansey being saved by Cabeswater, but this happened again? So by the logic of the first curse she will still kill Gansey but I wouldn’t know as this wasn’t explained.

Then we had the three sleepers who were mentioned a lot in book three but as we turned out this simply wasn’t true. Why was this even a thing when there clearly wasn’t three sleepers? We were told over and over again Gansey was meant to wake one of them. He never “woke” anyone who had been asleep. Furthermore Gansey’s weird ability to say what he wants to happen wasn’t explained. Unless you consider that everything he was able to command was a product of Ronan’s dreams so it would make sense that Gansey had the same power in Ronan’s dream that he had over Ronan. Again I don’t know for sure.

Finally we have Ronan himself, most of the magical realism in this book was based on psychic abilities, fortune telling and tarot card reading. How is it that Ronan can take things from dreams? A power so different to what has been described within the realms of normal within the book. This question is absolutely VITAL when you consider that Ronan is directly responsible for about 80% of the plot. It was never explained why Niall could do it and Ronan can do it but not Declan. For me this was the most important thing as without this explanation the books become a random series of events accidentally orchestrated by Ronan. These are just a few of the many questions and loose ends I was left with when finishing this book.

I also felt there was a lot of extra side characters and plot that was introduced only to be ignored and amounted to nothing by the end. For example Henry Cheng, I have no idea why I was reading about him, his mother, his dumb bee or his kidnapping. It was like he was replacement Noah and the replacing had to be done quickly. I liked Henry, I liked him a lot,  but I wish he had been more carefully woven into the story, and I would have liked him more if Noah hadn’t disappeared for Henry to appear. Henry’s friendship with Gansey was so forced I was convinced he was doing his mother’s bidding and was gonna turn on them all any second.

I have mixed feelings about the ending on the one hand I kind of loved what happened when they discovered Glendower and what that meant in the end. This element of realism was a really nice touch and showed that it was all about the journey and not the destination. The rushed series of events on the side of a road however, wasn’t what I thought this story was building to. I guess it just fell a bit flat for me, I didn’t get that feeling you get when you are reading a really intense part of the book. I felt like I had stumbled upon the ending without realising I was there.

I didn’t feel like anyone’s story was concluded properly it just kind of ended or maybe the right word was paused. I have no idea what happened to Maura, Calla, The Gray Man, Noah, Artemius etc. This may have been deliberate by the author to allow for more books, but I feel like the story of the Raven King should have ended, even if there are more adventures and stories to be told in this world.

Rating: 3/5 stars