|Anne Hathaway as Emma Morley in One Day. Not quite as I imagined her|
But there was one section of the book that brought a tear to my eye - and it's not the bit you might imagine.. Emma Morley, my favourite character (much too good for feckless Dexter), becomes a successful writer for teenage girls. Yay! She makes an unlikely amount of money really, really quickly from these books. Good for Emma (suspend disbelief)!
But is she proud of her work? Emma is not. 'It's just a silly kid's book,' she tells Dexter (not too sure that her punctuation is spot on there, but I'm quoting verbatim from the Kindle edition). It's entirely in character for Emma to play down her achievements when she's talking to Dexter, but she even does it in her own thoughts. 'The city of Sartre and De Beauvoir, Beckett and Proust and here she was too, writing teenage fiction albeit with considerable commercial success.' Hear that internal sneer.
Later on she tells Dexter: 'I love it. But I'd like to write a grown-up book one day. That's what I always wanted to write, this great, angry, state-of-the-nation novel, something wild and timeless that reveals the human soul, not a lot of silly stuff about snogging French boys at discos.'
Hmm. I almost threw my Kindle at the wall. It's all very well for well-meaning strangers to ask whether you'll write a proper book one day (although actually they're a lot more likely to chortle on about how you'll probably be the next J K Rowling). But it's something else completely when one of our own starts doing it. Emma lost all my sympathy right there and then. As I was 78 per cent through the book (one of the joys of a Kindle is knowing exactly what percent of the book has been read before it starts annoying or boring the reader), I finished it, but the magic had gone. When Emma - no, I won't spoil it if you haven't read it - but I didn't care much. She'd let the side down.
Now in real life I haven't come across any Emmas. The YA writers I know love their work, wouldn't want to do anything else, they respect their readers and their peers and they strive to create the best book possible, whether it's gritty crime, sparkling romance or wild fantasy. They don't diss their own work, because they know it would be rude to readers and fellow writers alike, not to mention the publishers who risk money on their books.
And then I read this article. Two YA writers, Katie Crouch and Grady Hendrix who are writing YA books and think it's just fine to sneer at the genre. They obviously don't read it - they seem to think that Twilight includes explicit sex scenes (as if!). They describe themselves as literary predators, they produce shoddy work, they assume their readers won't notice or care as: 'Readers in Y.A. don't care about rumination. They don't want you to pore over your sentences trying to find the perfect turn of phrase that evokes the exact color of the shag carpeting in your living room when your dad walked out on your mom one autumn afternoon in 1973. They want you to tell a story. In YA you write two or three drafts of a chapter, not eight. When kids like one book, they want the next one. Now. You need to deliver.'
They're comparing their churn- it-out world of YA with literary fiction...'And literary fiction readers are tough,' they say. Teens, one infers, are not tough critics, but will happily lap up any old rubbish.
Katie Crouch and Grady Hendrix, I hope the comments under your article will make you pause for thought. If you think so little of YA fiction, go and do something else. Read the last 20 per cent of One Day, see what happens to Emma Morley and reflect. And then get on your bike...