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Starting a Book!

Long time no post! I’ve been super busy (not really haha, mostly slacking off).

So far, I’ve been reading an eclectic assortment of novels (non-fiction and fiction), cramming in school work in between, and thinking long and hard of college decisions (e.g. Going to college in NYC? Going to college in Boston?)

Yeah, so anyways, as the title suggests – I’ll be starting the process of writing a book! I’m already around 15,000 words into this thing, yet still sorting out the kinks of the plot. Right now, it’s difficult to sort out the knots and trellises of the story since it’s constantly evolving (and I’ll probably need many revisions), but as of now it’s going to be grouped into magical realism/ soft science-fiction. It deals with the evolving relationship between neuroscientist father and his daughter, plus a couple of other characters.

Soooo many fallacies in the plot right now, but it will be sorted out, trust me! I hope to finish this thing by the end of the school year, so I can send off the manuscripts and focus on editing over the summer. Most likely, I’m not self-publishing (heard bad things about it).

If anyone has advice on how to write a novel, that would be greatly appreciated. 🙂




And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

17797364.jpgThis is not a well-written novel. The premise is interesting – Emily, after enduring her boyfriend’s suicide, is sent to an all-girl’s boarding school in Amherst, the hometown of Emily Dickinson whom the protagonist draws many parallels. The novel touches upon difficult subjects such as abortion and suicide. However, many elements of this novel failed to be developed and were just, in general, empty.

The writing was tragic… there were so many grammar errors I wondered if someone had actually edited it. The characters, moreover, are not well developed at all. I didn’t cry or feel sad when the events unfolded. I wasn’t able to fully understand the characters; they remained pretty one-dimensional. The reasons and motives behind each character are not well explained.

Moreover, one thing that particularly irked me was the dialogue. It was all so gimmicky. I don’t think that teenagers speak like this; it’s almost as if the author is trying to hard to be cool.

The message of this novel is obscured by mainstream Christian thought in regards to abortion, which would be interesting, but it is too straightforward and does not deliver the message on any complex level. The way the character approaches her resolution is predictable and not at all interesting.

Simply put, this novel was a disappointment.

Time Spent: 2 hours

Rating: 1 out of 5

Tags: tragedy, young adult

How to Write the Worst Young Adult Novel

I’ll admit, I read A LOT of young adult novels. I also read a massive amount of best-sellers and classics. Sometimes I unfairly compare young adult novels to mature pieces. I’m not suggesting that young adult novels are supposed to be more elementary or mediocre; I have read some extremely sophisticated pieces. However, I’ll go over my criteria of what makes a bad YA novel:

Character/Plot Cliches: some novels are very cliche and repeat the same troupes we have seen over and over again. Don’t get me wrong: redundant storylines themselves aren’t that bad. For example, there have been countless World War II retellings, and some of them are excellent, some of them are plain bad. Another Romeo & Juliet story? That doesn’t necessarily negate it as bad. It’s when the author /fails/ the distinguish his or her story from all the other stories because they rely heavily on cliches…. I’ll list a couple of them further on in a different post.

References to “Classic” Literature: This is a general pet-peeve of mine and loops back to the first point of cliches. Especially when an asinine young adult novel doesn’t just lightly reference a piece of classical literature, but it bases its entire novel on that piece of literature. All the characters become super predictable. The plot is predictable as well. Come on, please be original. I don’t want to hear another poorly-done retelling of Pride & Prejudice in a typical high school classroom. That has already been done! Leave the classics as classics, please, and insert a bit of originality into your work my dear 🙂

One-Dimensional Characters: the popular girl. the nerdy boy. They all have predictable actions. They’re all just repeats of stories we’ve already seen. Yawn. If I wanted something more entertaining, I’d just watch Jersey Shore. It’s 1000x more entertaining than this crap. NOTE: I’m not saying that the characters have to be likeable! Daisy Buchanan wasn’t likeable, yet she was not one-dimensional.

Fails to Shed Light on Human Nature: the worst young adult novels are vapid and talk about people. Carter and Lizzy are in love but Lizzy’s dad won’t let her date. Great, but what else? Talking about people is boring. I want to know about the ideas. How does this novel approach human nature /differently/? That element elevates young adult novels.

Poor grammar: enough said.

Poor language (Failing to capture emotions): I mean, it’s great if you want to be straightforward with your prose. I appreciate that. But if everything has the SAME sentence structure, the SAME “Jessica fell in love immediately” without playing with language, I will derate your work.

THE ABSOLUTE WORST – Treats Readers Like We’re Stupid: come on. Stop pretending you know what teenagers like so you write with an inauthentic tone, cheapening the entire plot so you can sell out to the masses. Stop treating us like we’re incapable of sophisticated thought! We’re not all crazed hormonal girls who’ll swoon at any literary male character! Don’t make things too direct for us – that’s just boring and we’re not that stupid.

Hopefully I didn’t sound too harsh. Again, not berating young adult novels – I really do love them – they have made me laugh and cry and changed my perceptions a million times over, but sometimes it’s difficult to find a gem in a sea of coal! Hopefully these ramblings will help anyone who wants to embark on the holy quest of writing a young adult novel 🙂

Au Revoir,


The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe

Well, this book was, simply put, depressing. I had read the blurb on the back, expecting a cross between Less than Zero and The Catcher in the Rye, along with some insightful commentary. But in actuality, The Tragic Age was ridden with violent cliches and was distressing to read, a cheapened version of both Less than Zero and The Catcher in the Rye.

I understand that the premise of Less than Zero or The Catcher in the Rye isn’t to cheer the reader up with a feel-good novel or leave someone feeling all warm and fuzzy on the inside. They are more or less a teenage exploration of existentialism and absurdism.

Written in a snappy, snarky tone, the Tragic Age seemed like a re-do of Less than Zero, except most of the bizarre events that are characteristic of Less than Zero are highly played out, contrived, calculated, and just done for effects. 17 year-old Billy Kinsley is having troubles with school and his sister. Billy allows the world to be seen through his cynical, dark lense. He delves into a life of arson, drugs, and sex when he meets Twom. Everything else pretty much details their demise, and nothing happens that is too unpredictable for its premise, just a bunch of lurid, upsetting details. It was as if the author had a maniac violent trip writing this novel.

I was appalled by the lack of humanity displayed throughout the novel, especially at how lightly Billy treated his murdering of one of his peers. Sure, there are glimmers of hope – Twom is practically 80s Robin Hood reincarnated, but with a dark side. But there are overdone character cliches.

I would not recommend this novel for any light reads. It is too sensationalist and truly tragic.

Time Spent: 3 hours

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Tags: tragedy, young adult

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng unfurls itself as a typical suspense plot: Lydia Lee, beloved daughter of Marilyn and James Lee, found drowned in the lake. Ng’s novel hardly contains any lurid plot twisters or sensationalist pieces; rather, her work is like Faulkner in which her command of words, rather than the actions, captivate and excite.

Ng has an enchanting grasp of language. She is able to paint a vivid portrait of a family plagued by doubt and alienization in 1970s small-town Ohio. The father, James Lee, is a professor of American History, and frequently alienated for his Asian culture. In America, he longs to fit in. Lydia’s mother, Marilyn Lee, is a white woman who places huge pressures on her daughter to excel where she failed, and prove that women are intelligent and capable. She herself wanted to be a doctor and escape the domesticity her mother, a home ec teacher wanted, but her dreams were ironically crushed by motherhood itself . The couple meets at Harvard-Radcliffe, where they are trying to escape from their pasts. It seems that the outside world is unforgiving to interracial relations. After a tragic family incident, it seems that all expectations gravitate towards her daughter. From the eyes of all the family members, this is the inevitable consequence of a broken family, a balancing act.

Ng’s understanding of time, interwoven anachronistically throughout the novel, is wonderfully crafted and seamless. Her prose is poetic and a delight to read, capturing all the human emotions and pathos brilliantly. As third omniscience POV, each character, including Lydia’s younger sister Hannah and older brother Nath, have a part to share. Ng also captured the sentiments of the 1970s, including the racial, gender, and sexuality issues.

However, one thing that was rather flat was Ng’s portrayal of characters. They were rather one-dimensional, and their character traits were impetus for the plot, rather than true portrayals of a whole person. For instance, Marilyn is the portrayed as the intelligent and determined Radcliffe student who thinks she is better than all other women; James is portrayed as the stereotypical Asian. Lydia is the stereotypical, quiet Asian kid. As an Asian-American myself, I do think that sometimes Ng was spot on with dissecting the racial tensions, but I would have liked to see some more nuance to the characters.

It is a beautifully written novel, but in terms of substance, it is simply an excellently paced suspense novel and a portrait of a family, but not much else.

Time Spent Reading: 4 hours

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tags: tragedy, family, romance