When I was younger, I used to love YA novels – the ones my mom considers “fluff”, such as Gossip Girl, the Georgia Nicolson series, Meg Cabot books, and generally novels that didn’t explore much beyond going to high school and finding a boyfriend. I used to even want to write these fluffy books. But now, I can’t enjoy reading these books at all – much less think of even writing one.
I’m not sure when this began to change. I think it was more noticeable last spring, and even more so in the last couple of months, when I just couldn’t understand why. Why would anybody write about this? Why? Why do girls going to high school and finding boyfriends need to read books about going to high school and finding boyfriends? Why, I tell you? Even I, someone who has never gone to school and never had a boyfriend, finds this almost uninteresting. Sure, some of them have twists, like Meg Cabot’s books, where someone is a princess, or a mediator, or saves the president. Sure, some of them are the exceedingly popular “girl gets into trouble with parents/gets shipped off to some relative she barely knows for the summer so she can get a seemingly boring, yet infinitely rewarding job/magically finds her One True Love”.
But are these books really any good? Are they written well? Are they moving? Do they really have any sort of message that means anything? Do they make a difference in the world? Are they suspenseful and imaginative, with characters that you can really admire?
No. They are none of these things. Sure, they’re good. Sometimes. But they’re never great. And being great matters.
I shouldn’t single out these sorts of YA novels specifically. I also think romance novels are just as bad, if not worse – sorry, Mom. Plenty of books that are published nowadays, in every genre, are just plain trash. I think so many industries – movies, music, TV, books – are so hungry for money, they just don’t care if it’s really good or not. They just want to make money. Only a small portion of authors are really good at what they do, and they can be hard to find among the massive amount of bad ones.
But what are great books, you ask? Ones that aren’t ordinary. Ones where things that will never happen in real life do happen. And, of course, they’re well-written, imaginative, suspenseful, moving; they have great characters, a message, and they make a difference. I’d like to think I could be great author, though I’m not sure everyone feels the same after I wrote my first failure of a book – but knowing I have something to prove only makes me more motivated to be great.
What will make my books great? Daran is about a strong and determined girl whose parents have gone missing, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to get them back – including going to another world and risking her own life. The Outsiders is about a dystopian society that has gone to extreme lengths to control the world’s population, even going so far as to drug the populace so they no longer feel love or desire. It’s about one girl who has lived in that world her entire life and escapes, hoping to join a rebellion where she can take down the corrupt government and save her family. Another book I have put into my line-up is about an old man who dies, only to be cloned hundreds of years later into a younger body that cannot be destroyed and with his old memories intact. This reborn man is only one of a race of superhumans, including a lost love from a past lifetime who has also come back from the dead. I don’t know yet what else will happen in the book (or it could be a series), but I know it’ll be great.
How do I know these books – which I haven’t written yet – will be great? Because, unlike some authors, I care. I care, and I want to be great at what I do.