Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Holidays! and Giveaway Winners

This is my last post of the year – and it’s to let you know the winners of the Every series giveaway. 

So without further ado…

Prize pack 1: has been won by Laura

Prize pack 2: has been won by Lisa Fic Talk

Prize pack 3: has been won by asmith y

Congrats to all the winners, thanks to all who entered! (My youngest boys had a ball picking names out of the hat). If you’ve won, please contact me by email at elliemarney[at]gmail[dot]com to send your postage details, and I’ll post out your prizes in the New Year.

Finally - I’m stoked to have made it to the end of such a massive year.  Thanks to all of you who’ve been so supportive, reading here, and sending me emails and messages to say hi – it’s always amazing to hear from you.  I’ll be back in January, but until then I’m signing off: I’ll be out of radio contact while we go on our annual family camping trip.  Best wishes of the season – be it Christmas, Hanukkah, or end-of-year festivities of your own – from me and my family to you and yours.  Happy Holidays!

Lots of love,


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Meet My Character Blog Hop + Giveaway Prezzies

Hi again, and happy holidays!

Yes, I know – this is the time of year we tend to go a little crazy.  School events, work events, family events, friends events…  All the Events.  In amongst this, I’ve been working with my amazing editors to prepare Every Move for publication.  And we’ve done it!!  I mailed back the final passes today.  There will be final-final passes, and other fiddly bits, but Sophie is putting all the changes and little corrections through now (Sophie – respect), in time to send it off to the printer.  Which means we’ll have a Real Live Book in our hands very early in the new year!

But today I wanted to say hi to crime writer friends, with the Meet My Character blog hop.  This tour was kicked off by the lovely Sandi Wallace, who launched Tell Me Why just recently.  I was invited to participate by Angela Savage, whose most recent book in the addictive Jane Keeney series is The Dying Beach.  Angela is a good friend, a righteous woman, and a great writer – she launched Every Word for me in June, and I was delighted to accept her invite for the blog hop, answering a few questions about Rachel Watts and Every Move.

For the next stop on the blog hop, I’ve invited Nansi Kunze and Candice Fox to join us – they’ll be posting up their answers on their own blogs here and here by Thursday 18 December.

Nansi Kunze is a mate – I’ve interviewed her once already here on the blog.  Nansi grew up surrounded by books in Australia and the UK. After studying languages and ancient history at university, she spent several years teaching overseas-trained doctors how to pronounce rude words and teenagers how to mummify each other, while cultivating a taste for manga and video games in her spare time.  Kill the Music is her third novel, following on the success of her previous two, Mishaps and Dangerously Placed. Nansi lives on a small farm overlooking the Victorian Alps with her husband and son, and is currently hard at work on her next YA book (assuming that ‘hard at work' is synonymous with ‘researching glamorous locations on the internet').

Candice Fox is the middle child of a large, eccentric family from Sydney's western suburbs composed of half-, adopted and pseudo siblings. The daughter of a parole officer and an enthusiastic foster-carer, Candice was constantly in trouble for reading Anne Rice in church and scaring her friends with tales from Australia's wealth of true crime writers.  Bankstown born and bred, she failed to conform to military life in a brief stint as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy at age eighteen. At twenty, she turned her hand to academia, and taught high school through two undergraduate and two postgraduate degrees. Candice lectures in writing at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, while undertaking a PhD in literary censorship and terrorism. Hades is her first novel – it won the Ned Kelly Award for best debut in 2014. Eden, its sequel, was published in December this year.

Now on with the blog questions!

1/ What is your character’s name?

Rachel Maree Watts

2/ Is your character fictional or historical?

Definitely fictional – although she and I share a deep appreciation for flannie shirts and hot, intelligent men.

3/ When and where is your story set?

Every Move is contemporary – ie. set in the present day – and the characters travel from deepest darkest North Coburg to the Mallee area near Ouyen.  It’s the final book in the Every series; the first book, Every Breath, kicked off Rachel’s adventures in Melbourne, and the second book, Every Word, saw her travel overseas for the first time, to London, where she and her BF, Mycroft, investigated a murder and got into a whole lot of trouble.

4/ What should we know about Rachel?

Rachel grew up on an isolated sheep farm in the Mallee, and being raised a country girl has made her pretty physically tough and enduring.  She has a lot of practical skills – running a pump, driving a ute, shooting a rifle, climbing onto the roof to clean the gutters of dead possums…that sort of thing.  Her personal style runs to jeans, boots and t-shirts/flannies, and she generally ties her brown hair in a knot to keep it out of the way when she’s working.

She’s a fighter.  She’s also incredibly stubborn (what? Another character trait I share?  Certainly not - I’m not like that at all…) and her other defining personality quirk is that she’s fiercely loyal, and has a strong sense of family.

Rachel turned seventeen near the start of the first book, Every Breath.  Another important fact about her: she’s in love, with a certain dark-curly-haired, Sherlock-wannabe called James Mycroft.  Being involved with Mycroft has drawn Rachel into some hair-raising situations - murder, mystery and mayhem, not to mention the disapproval of her parents - but Rachel’s pragmatism and cool head in a crisis have generally seen her through.

5/ What are Rachel’s personal goals?

To keep her family together, and safe from Mycroft’s personal nemesis ‘Mr Wild’.  To recover from the trauma she endured in London – although she’s not sure how to do that.  To work out what’s going on with herself and Mycroft.  To discover who she really is and where she fits in. To pass her Year Twelve exams!

6/ What’s the name of the book, and can we read more about it?

Every Move is the title, and you certainly can!  It’s coming very soon. 

7/ When is it published?

1 March 2015 through Allen and Unwin.

If you haven’t checked them out already, you can catch up with the previous books Every Breath and Every Word here.  Hope you enjoyed this stop on the blog hop, and please do go and check out the other wonderful authors at their stops!

Now – in the spirit of holiday cheer, I’ve decided to give some stuff away.  And here’s the stuff!
Prize 1 is the North American edition of Every Breath

Prize 2 is a two-book set of Every Breath and Every Word

Prize 3 is a hot-off-the-press ARC of Every Word from Tundra (this prize only available to North American/Philippines readers).

If you’d like to win one of these prizes, please comment here on the blog, or on Facebook, @elliemarney on Twitter, or @elliemarney on Instagram.  Tell me what is your personal goal for 2015 (do you want to pass your Year Twelve exams, like Rachel?) and which prize pack you’d like to win.  My son will pick a name out of a hat I’ll choose a winner next week, and let people know before Christmas.  All prizes will be mailed out in January 2015.

That’s all from me for a while, folks.  We’re heading off on our annual family camping trip the day after Christmas, so I won’t be back online until January.  Many thanks for reading, and for keeping me company this year – it’s been a blast!  Lots of love and hopes that you all have a lovely Christmas and holiday season (may you receive many books!), and all the best for the New Year
See you in 2015!

Xx Ellie

Monday, 1 December 2014

Holiday Summer of Reading List Love at the Palais Du Chook

Well, here we are – I only started this blog two years ago, with a post about writing something over the summer holiday break, and we’ve suddenly arrived at the same point again.  Yesterday was the first official day of summer here in Victoria, and it’s promising to be a hot, dry one.  We’ve finished our Palais du Chook (see left), just in time to start keeping up the water to the new crop of baby chicks, and the garden is already starting to brown off.  It seems bizarre that I was whinging about how we couldn’t get the washing dry only a few short months ago – stick around a bit, and you’ll hear me complaining about the heat.

My year of buying only books by female writers is also coming to an end.  I made that first commitment, to buy only books written by women, after writing this post on women and the NYT Bestseller List.  I have to say, it was an easy task I set myself – so easy that I almost forgot I was doing it.  Books by female writers make up the bulk of my reading and buying anyway, so it was no hardship (should I have set myself a more difficult task?). I did a bit of an audit, and figured out I only cheated twice: once when I bought a James Dashner book for my sons that they desperately had to have, and once when I bought Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer – but that was at the launch of the final Lotus Wars book, Endsinger, so I didn’t feel bad (Jay also writes kick-arse Japanese steampunk female protags, which alleviated any remaining guilt).  Every other book I’ve bought this year has been by a female author.

Which doesn’t mean to say I’ve stopped reading books by men.  No way – I’ve just been getting them all from the library.  And there are definitely a few books by guys that I’m rather keen to get my hands on, so I’m looking forward to being able to buy them.  The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion is pretty much the top of my list (although I’m hoping someone will give it to me for Christmas – HINT), and other male-authored books I’m lining up for are Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga (god yes), Winger by Andrew Smith, The Last Shot by Michael Adams (and the third one comes out early next year! Double happiness!), Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovich, and The First Third by Will Kostakis.  I’m hoping to have a very large pile of TBR books to take on our annual camping trip over the New Year.

Now I thought I’d get in early and write up my favourite reads of 2014, because last time I did this it was, like, February already.  Not all of these are new – some were published ages ago and this was the year they called to me.  But anyway, here you go, my favourite reads of the year!

Outlander: Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon
Recced to me by loads of people, but most specifically Danielle Binks, and a hearty thank you from me.  I LOVED it.  An historical romance that gender-flips all the tropes? – I am so there.  And the teev series – wow! – reminded me of all the reasons I love Ron Moore.  And we won’t even mention Sam Hueghan…

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Original, eerie, beautifully written and mysteriously plotted.  I loved the weird photos, which made me think of Carnivale and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg, and overall an amazing ride

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
Such a beautiful book.  At the end of it, I felt like my world had been tilted on its axis.

The Incredible Here and Now by Felicity Castagna
This book was up for the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year award, and I’m so glad I wasn’t judging, I would be the most horribly subjective judge, but THIS BOOK.  Just a tiny heartbreaking sliver of Western Sydney in an incredibly crafted package that doesn’t feel crafted, but rather just feels like the most beautiful real life.

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
GAH.  Just…GAH.  I love Thomas Mackee.  And I love Melina Marchetta.  I have no idea why I haven’t read it before this year but I guess this was just the year I was meant to read it, and this book went off like a lightbulb exploding inside my head.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich
I haven’t laughed so much or been so absorbed while reading a paranormal urban fantasy for a long long time. Incredibly diverse cast, and I just loved the protag’s voice.  Bizarrely plotted, but it’s all part of the fun.

Through the Cracks by Honey Brown
Have I said often enough yet how I’m in love with Honey Brown and want to have her book babies?  No?  This is another searing psychological ride, not so much a thriller, but you have no idea what will happen to the characters, and you don’t want to put the book down until you find out.  Gorgeous writing – just gorgeous.  And dialogue – omg.  I always have a Honey Brown book on my desk, it’s compulsory.  And she has a new one coming out soon!  Woot!

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
I have picked up and put down various Maggie Stiefvater books for the last few years – I don’t know why I kept putting them down, maybe it wasn’t the right time to read them.  But this one – this one I could not put down.  The most awesome character descriptions ever.  I’m already desperate for the next book, The Dream Thieves, and if this is what all of Stiefvater’s work is like, sign me up.

There you go – ta da!  Finally, I’m gonna end the whole Reading List Love thing with a nod at The Book I Have Been Waiting For: I am so very very happy (I cannot even tell you: I am FULL OF SQUEE) that The Shadow Cabinet, the final book in the Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson, is about to be released.  How much am I longing for this book?  SO MUCH.  The only thing that would make me happier right now would be if Holly Black said she was releasing a fourth book in the Curseworkers series (please please say that could potentially happen!!  Holly, I love you and no pressure!!)

Okay, that’s it.  Just a few more parting words before I go about the Every series.

* Every Breath is going great guns in North America and the Philippines.  It was recently featured at The Midnight Garden here (wow!) and also on Jukebooks at theYALSA blog ( double wow!).  All you incredible readers and bloggers and book-buyers and librarians out there, YOU ARE ALL MADE OF AWESOME, and thank you so much!  I’m so very grateful for all your support, and especially huge thanks to Tundra Books for making it happen.  Also, so far as I’m aware, Every Breath will reach UK shores in Spring of 2015.

* Every Word is being prepped for a 2015 release in North America and the Philippines.  Woot!  Right now I’m going through typeset pages to check for last minute things before printing.
If you are keen for an Advance Review Copy of Every Word (and just gaze adoringly at those beautiful ARCs there for a second – aren’t they gorgeous?) then please drop into Instagram and gimme a follow – we’re giving them away to new-follower folks, so sign on up!

* Every Move – omg, we’re nearly at the finish line!  I’m doing final passes this week, and my eds and I are working our butts off to bring this book to print on deadline, which will make an early March 2015 release possible.  Honestly, after the writing and the re-writing and the editing and the copyediting and the proofing and the final passes, I must have read through this book at least a hundred times, so I’m getting tired and my butt is sore from sitting in front of the computer, and I am now also filled with the fizzy, scary nervousness of ‘will people like it?’.  There’s also lots of last minute anxiety about whether it’s going to live up to people’s expectations.  But in my saner moments, I’m pretty confident that you will like it (fingers crossed).  Either way, it’s coming very soon!

So that’s the end.  And I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, wherever you are in the world, and may you get lots of lovely books for Christmas! (and give them in return!)


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Every Breath Blog Tour Grand Finale - Bookmark Giveaway

Ze Blog Tour, it iz Over.


I had a wonderful time on the tour, and I hope you did too.  There are still copies of Every Breath being given away on a number of sites – on Goodreads, at Love At FirstPage, and at Bookish Broads – if you’d like to have a go at winning a copy.

And here’s the round up from the last few days of the tour:

Day 3

Lauren at Love is not a triangle has Ellie Marney take us on a virtual tour of Melbourne, where Every Breath is set. Still not convinced? Read Lauren’s review here@laurayjames
Priyanka at Priyanka Reads interviews Ellie Marney and showcases the covers from the Allen & Unwin editions! @PriyankaReads
Rachel at The Reader’s Den raves “Mystery, romance, danger and even well placed humor made for an awesome start to this addictive series! I need book two, STAT!” @rachelanbig
Mandy C. at Forever Young Adult is “ready to drop everything and meet you where you live, Book. I want to meet Rachel and Mycroft, and I want to go on adventures with them. I don’t really need to see the dead bodies, but I’d love to work through the clues, make connections and come to conclusions with Watts and Mycroft.”@mandyannecurtis at @4everYA

Day 4

Michelle at Michelle & Leslie’s Book Picks gives Every Breath five stars “because it’s friggin’ good and you need it in your life.” You should count the number of times Michelle uses the word “love” in her review! @chelleyreads

Christina at The Paperback Princesses invited Ellie Marney over to pick her brain. And find out what galahs are. @pbackprincesses

Shanika at Nick’s Book Blog also has a chat with Ellie Marney and asks her a cruel, cruel question, Watts and Mycroft – who is your favorite? @nicksbookblog93

Yash at The Book Wars writes a thoughtful review saying, “Every Breath dives right into the action, Watts is an engaging narrator, Mycroft is a magnetic character, the mystery is gripping, and the romance is fun.” @SeeYashTweet at @TheBookWars

Day 5

Author to author, Ann invites Ellie Marney for an interview on her blog, Ann Towell@AnnTowell

Dani at Refracted Light has a chat with MYCROFT. Read more about everyone’s favorite sleuthing bad boy!!! @RefractingLight

Danielle at Love at First Page has Ellie Marney stop by to talk about the research she did for her series on forensic pathology (read Danielle’s review too). @loveatfirstpage

Yash at The Book Wars also invites Ellie Marney over for a chat about Sherlock adaptations. @SeeYashTweet at @TheBookWars

Kat at Cuddlebuggery has a guest post and *drum roll* the cover reveal for EVERY WORD! @_KatKennedy at @Cuddlebuggery

Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, to all bloggers, reviewers, readers, booksellers, librarians, fans, retweeters and reposters, and anyone who joined in the fun.  And it was great fun!

Just to polish off what has been a wonderful week, I’m giving away 9 of these gorgeous bookmarks from Tundra (see the pic).  I will happily pop one in a Post-Pak for you, to anywhere in the world (Antarctica! The Amazon jungle! Anywhere, I promise) and I will send them off on a first-come-first-served basis.

To win a bookmark, please do ONE of these 4 things:

* Leave a comment here on the blog
* Tweet something like ‘#EveryBreath bookmarks from @elliemarney – yes please! You little ripper!’ (remember to include my twitter handle so I get it)
* Comment at the link to this blog post on my Facebook page
* Scrawl a similar message to the tweet above on something, then click and send the pic on Instagram (alert me with my IGname, elliemarney – did I mention I'm on Instagram now? Yep, I am)

I will take the first 9 messages I receive, and announce the winners – you can send me a mailing addy via gmail after that, and I will send you a lovely bookmark in return.

So that’s it!  Hope you’re having a good week.  I’m deep in the edits for Every Move right now – my deadline is second week of November, so I better get my bum into gear.  Take care, and see you round –

Xx Ellie

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

On the tour bus with Every Breath

Every Breath blog touring promotes my tendency to ALL CAPS which is only fair and just, as the blog tour so far has been pretty freaking spectacular.  Folks have been incredibly enthusiastic, and reviews are beautiful beautiful things, and I would like to say THANK YOU – my gratitude knows no bounds!

People have been getting in touch to ask if there’s anything they can do to support Every Breath during the tour – thank you for asking, and yes!  I would like to suggest (if you want to help) that you buy the book, pass it around to friends, talk about it online (make sure you ping me on Twitter @elliemarney, and I will retweet you), give it as a present to someone, say hi and leave a review on Goodreads, put it on Facebook?Instagram/Tumblr/Pinterest…  If you’d like to help, go for it!  Remember to use the #EveryBreath hastag on Twitter for sharing!  Also, I’m far away from Canada and the US and the Philippines, but if YOU see the book on shelves somewhere in your town, please please do send me a pic – I would love to share sighting s of Every Breath in the wild!

Here’s the round-up from the last few days:

Day 1

 Shelly at Raindrops and Pages is “head over heels for this book . . . There are parallels to Sherlock Holmes-don’t let that deter you from reading this book/series. Every Breath is that good. It’s quickly become one of my favorite books that I’ve read, and it’s one that I’m going to have a very hard time restraining myself from literally throwing it at people and going ‘READ THIS.’”
 Jo Ann at Journey of a Bookseller says, “There’s a lot of good fantasy, action, and brain work in this story and I enjoyed it a lot. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them. It’s a budding romance and a great partnership. Give me more!” @bkfaerie
 Lisa at Bookish Broads shouts, “IT IS AMAZING GO AND READ IT YOU WILL LOVE EVERYTHING. Because you will. I mean it…. EVERY BREATH is smart, dark, snarky and sexy all wrapped up into one unputdownable package…. I wanted to read this forever.”@BookishBroads
Day 2

Jen at The Starry-Eyed Revue invites Ellie Marney over for tea – Mycroft-style. You know you want it. There’s even a video to teach you how to make the tea!
Love this >> <<
 Shilpa at Sukasa Reads chats with Ellie Marney about the book, forensics, life, films, writing, and the FUTURE.
 Mandy C. at Forever Young Adult has Ellie Marney (aka the Crime Queen) share her 10 rules on how to write a crime story. Join them for part 1 (part 2, Mandy’s review, will be posted tomorrow).
Day 3 (not done yet - this news hot off the press)

Lauren at Love Is Not A Triangle says "This book is a winner!" - Ellie Marney takes you on a virtual tour of Melbourne (with pics!) and there is a delicious giveaway on the blog


Rachel at The Reader's Den says "Every Breath was a breath of fresh air...with multi-layered characters, a twisty mystery, and a swoon-worthy romance!"


I would like to give all the bloggers involved in this tour a giant HUG, and send them TimTams (that could still happen).  Someone I especially want to send presents to is Sylvia, my editor at Tundra – in fact, I have a special gift for her and Tara and Pamela and Five and the whole Tundra team, but I’ve been so flat out I haven’t had a chance to post it yet (I will, Sylvia, this week I PROMISE).

Finally - the Inkys! They were wonderful – I went to the Inky Awards ceremony yesterday, and met all the amazing authors on the Gold Inky shortlist (Claire Zorn, Allyse Near, Amie Kaufman, Will Kostakis – you rock).  Best of all, I met a whole lot of students from all over the place who had come to listen and watch and clap enthusiastically and generally be inspiring.  Congratulations to Will Kostakis, who took out the Gold Inky for his fantastic book, The First Third.  Will is a doll, and was kind enough to introduce me to his Yiayia (grandmother) who had come to the ceremony with him – all the way from Sydney.  Congrats also to Julie Berry, whose book All The Truth That’s In Me won the (international) Silver Inky for awesomeness.

Take care, may Every Breath rock on, and have a great week!

Xx Ellie

Friday, 10 October 2014


Oh my goodness - Every Breath is coming out in Canada, the US and the Philippines on October 14, only a few short days away.  Book birthday!!  Folks, this is such a big thing, and I can’t tell you how nervous and excited I am.  Yes, there are many feels.

I’ve been particularly thrilled by the way the excitement is spreading.  The blog tour dates are all lined up, and Cuddlebuggery is the last passenger aboard this train – the full blog tour schedule (Oct 20-24) is up here at the Tundra blogsite.  New reviews have been popping up all over the place, like this one at There Were Books Involved (so lovely!) and here at BookVerdict and here at Brittany's Book Rambles and I mentioned the Kirkus review, right?

I’ll be at the announcement for the Inky awards on October 21 – Will Kostakis (The First Third), Amie Kaufman (These Broken Stars), Allyse Near (Fairytales for Wilde Girls), and Claire Zorn (The Sky So Heavy) will all be there too, and there was some talk online about a WWE/Hunger Games-style Inky Author Smackdown…  But I’m sure we can be civilised about this! (I mean, unless you’d like to see us authors all battling it out…)  The event is open to the public, so if you’d like to come along, jet on over to the State Library website and book your (free) ticket.

I’ll also be at Clunes Library on October 22, and at the Little Bookroom with Kirsty Murray and some other guests on November 11, and no doubt you will catch me online, blagging about Every Breath in its new life overseas.

I’m gearing up for some big thank yous soon – my cup of gratitude and happiness officially runneth over.  But I wanted to say one big thank you first of all, to my partner, Geoff.

Geoff and I jumped the broom twenty years ago this year, and apart from our kids, he is the most important person in my life.  We have raised four sons together, and share two decades of memories.  People often ask me, ‘How do you write with such a large family?’ and sometimes the answer is ‘I honestly don’t know’, and sometimes the answer is my own discipline and sheer bloody-mindedness, but mostly the answer is ‘My partner’.  We parent and order the household together, juggling work and taxiing kids and other commitments, and splitting the household chores, but he will do the lion’s share when I’m on deadline, or in some other sort of writerly frenzy.

He is the one who revs me up, calms me down, prods me to keep going when I need it, encourages me at every turn.  We put up with each other’s foibles – my head in another world of characters, his footy obsession.  We talk about everything – everything.  He is my lifeline, and my inspiration.  And y’know, he’s hot (still.  After twenty years.  Uh huh.)  He would be mortified that I’m saying all these things about him in such a public space, but I would like to acknowledge all the whole-hearted care and commitment he’s given to me, especially these last few years, since the book-writing thing has taken off, because without him I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it.

So Geoff, I know I’ve included you in acknowledgement pages and dedications, and I try to say it every day, in small domestic ways, but I want to thank you – for the last twenty years, for love and devotion, for our sons, for everything.  I love you, darling.  Happy anniversary.

Xx Ellie

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

YA-Bashing is the New Black, or something, whatevs

Look, I should be working on another article for the blog tour, but I can’t help it: the number of articles and the increasing fervour of the debate surrounding YA literature in the media lately has kind of infected me.  And I don’t like being angry, it generally makes me cry (embarrassing but true) or get all tongue-tied, and it’s emotionally exhausting.  But I have to say my twenty-cents worth, even though, as friends have advised, you can't reason with crazy.  Because the articles that have popped up all over the place have made me angry, and here’s where I rant, so I will have at thee, Helen Razer and all you people who have flamed my world.

For those of you who don’t know about it, here’s a little intro.  Articles about how YA lit is crap have been getting a lot of media time lately.  Here’s AO Scott in the New York Times, decrying The Death of Adulthoodin American Culture.  And here’s Robert Lipsyte in the same rag, talking about how YA is too Girl-focused.  And here’s Chris Beha in the New Yorker talking about Henry James and the Great YA Debate. Michelle Dean wrote about Our YADystopias here.  Laura C Mallonee wrote a piece here on how it’s Time for Teen Fantasy Heroines to Grow Up.  There's lots more.  And if you really want to make your eyes bleed, here’s our very own Helen Razer saying that People who read YAliterature Should Just Grow Up too.  If you want to go read them and get really pissed off about what’s being said, be my guest.  It’s probably good that you read them, so you’re informed about what’s going on.  My suggestion: keep a cup of chamomile tea handy, or something else that will help you maintain calm.

Because a lot of what’s being written about YA lit is uncritically opinionated, poorly researched, badly thought-out, academically non-rigorous bandwagon-jumping, based on a whole bunch of ingrained assumptions about teenagers and writing and reading and literature and women (I’ll get to that later), written by people who don’t read YA, and would never sully themselves by doing so.  Most of the articles are op-ed pieces – they’re clickbait, as Danielle Binks has pointed out, designed to provoke a reaction.  There’s no academic rigour; although the publication of them in places like The New York Times gives them a veneer of intellectuality, there’s no real examination of the underlying issues (and there’s plenty of issues: see Maureen Johnson’s Cover Flip).  It’s maddening, and engaging with it is frustrating, like trying to hit a buzzing mosquito in a dark room (and probably equally doomed to failure).  But there you have it – this piece isn’t academically rigorous either, because I’m too cross (perhaps it’s easier to engage on the same wonky playing field anyway?) and because I think others have done it way better before me (see below).

But I have to say the lack of standards bugs me.  How can you critically pick apart a whole category of literature, of which you have partaken of only the most recently-noteworthy examples (and it’s the same ones, alwaysTwilight, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, The Fault In Our Stars)?  I don’t know.  If you position yourself as a critic (Helen Razer, I’m looking at you), then surely you need to have some idea of what you’re discussing?  But no – the people who’ve written these articles seem to think that this handful of books is representative of the whole category, and reading them is the sum total of their academic research on the issue.  The idea astonishes me.  It’s as if I said I played Frogger once (in 1985), and I now have the right to offer scathing commentary on the whole of the gaming industry.

I would like to point out, at this juncture, that there have been a number of excellent rebuttal pieces written as well.  And here they are: Anne Ursu wrote a rebuttal of Scott at Terrible Trivium.  Sarah McCarry’s piece on pleasure principles is a must. Kelly Jensen talks here about how Advocating and Writing for Girls is a radical act.   And Foz Meadow’s writes the most entertaining stuff – her pieces in response to Dean and Mallonee are excellent.  Most of these writers have actually done some examination of the issues, and – most tellingly – they have read the literature of the category that they are seeking to defend.  They are all better quality pieces than this will be, and I heartily recommend that you go read them, if only to make yourself feel better.

But I would like to posit a theory of my own as to why YA literature is receiving such a pasting in the media lately.  I know – the issues involved are many.  But I would like to unpack two of them, and I think they are the most relevant two.

First of all, I contend (and see how I did that? I contend something, and I don’t even have to cite anything to back it up! I can say whatever the hell I want!  Two can play the game, folks) I contend that people who criticise YA literature are afraid of teenagers.  This, our society tells us, is a perfectly acceptable position to hold – teenagers are scary, everybody says so.  The ages between 13 and 19, depending on the laws in your state or country, are an amorphous grey area where individuals are neither child nor adult (see Scott Westerfeld’s useful unpacking of the concept of childhood/teenaged years).  Teenagers do crazy shit.  They slouch and spit and wail and groan and bellow.  They smoke and drink and drive fast and have sex and stick two fingers up at religion and politics and custom.  They are not polite.  But above all, they are unformed.

Most adults look back – not too long or hard – at adolescence as a period of their lives that was both embarrassing and frightening, when their bodies and minds were in a state of flux, when things were out of their control (quite literally, when your parents are still dictating to you what goes).  They remember – not fondly – a period of crazy experiences, painful growth and change, humiliation, lack of direction, social embarrassment.  So they find teenagers scary, because hey, it was a scary time in their own lives.  Yes, folks, they’re projecting.

Teenagers dress differently, think differently, act differently to adults.  ‘Yeah, well, obvs.  Whatever.  It’s all g’: teenagers even speak a different language.  At a really basic level, adult fear of teenagers is a xenophobic fear of a completely alien culture (and maybe a fear of what that culture will propagate after the current generation’s demise).  I find it particularly telling, the way adults are so panicked about the level of social media exposure teens willingly (nay, eagerly) participate in.  Because most adults remember adolescence as such a shit experience that they don’t want to remember it, let alone have it pasted up on the internet (and as Lauren Beukes pointed out, that shit is forever.  Your ghastly drunken embarrassment on prom night? Now anyone can see it anytime they want, and it will never go away).

Most adults display a general lack of awareness of how teenagers think, create, dream and feel.  That’s okay – they just don’t get it, or have wilfully or unconsciously repressed the ENORMOUS spectrum of mental and emotional and spiritual experiences that they went through themselves at that age.  But I find it a bit sad.

When I tell people I am a high school teacher, they look at me aghast.  ‘How can you stand up in front of a room full of teenagers?  Doesn’t it freak you out?’  Well – no.  I like teenagers.  They have a refreshing honesty, energy and transparency that I admire.  Their exuberance, their beauty, their rebellion, even their mood swings – I find teenagers incredible, and although I too don’t have great memories of my own adolescence, I admire their bravery and ingenuity and dogged optimism in the face of it.

Adult critics who denigrate YA literature (and other types of children’s literature) seem to want us all to be ‘grown up’, to move away from childish literature into ‘adult’ fiction (or even better, non-fiction).  They remind me strongly of those who also criticise genres like romance and fantasy, because they are wish-dreams, there’s no cold hard facts, no ‘real life’.

I could rant on about how this is stupid, but I think CS Lewis – quoted in Ursu’s article – says it best:
“Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. … But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”  (On Three Ways of Writing for Children)

And I would also like to quote an entirely relevant excerpt from Ursu here:
“Isn’t this really the marker of adulthood? Learning to look beyond yourself to others? Isn’t a marker of intelligence a hunger to see the world outside your own experience? Isn’t that maybe why so many people outside of traditional power structures are draw to this lit in the first place? Everyone who insults reading these books is not just denigrating the quality of the books themselves, but of the very act of using your time to give a crap about kids and the things they give a crap about.”

Before this article gets too long, I would like to just point the finger once – and that should be enough – at the underlying sexism and assumptions about women and women’s writing in YA literature critique.  Female writers dominate YA, despite what the NYT Bestseller list might lead you to believe.  One of the reasons why YA literature is such an easy target is because it’s seen as a women’s field.  This is the second major issue I have with pieces like Razer’s.  Suggesting that YA literature’s success is a collective ‘dumbing down’ of culture – in other words, crying over the decline of the cultural authority of canonical (read straight white male) texts - is staggering perilously close to saying that women’s writing is shit.  I have talked about women and YA writing before.  And as I mentioned earlier, other people have unpacked this issue, and in articles way more erudite than this. 

Foz Meadow’s article says it best -

“…women, whatever their age, are held to different standards. We’re presupposed to be the moral and aesthetic gatekeepers of every genre we’re discouraged from actually enjoying, not just because girls aren’t meant to like that sort of thing (and if we don’t, we’re humourless, fun-hating harridans – natch), but because, if we do, it’s unseemly and inappropriate and we’re doing it wrong, and why does there have to be romance and boys and ugh, trashy films with magic and explosions are just so much better when they fail the Bechdel test and are made for teenage boys and young women need to stop participating in popular culture!...
 …Whether we’re conscious of our biases or not, we’re culturally predisposed to be extra critical of everything women, and particularly young women, do (to say nothing of the women themselves) – and now that YA novels have become such a breakaway phenomenon, with plenty of film adaptations still in the works, otherwise sane adults are falling all over themselves to declare the whole business a type of commercial heresy.”

If you want more on that, I suggest you go read the article.

And that’s all I’m gonna say.

xx Ellie