Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Decaffeinating Brodi

Contest Status: Remember- all people who comment this week get entered into a drawing for an autographed copy of Laurie Halse Anderson's book Speak.

We had a great discussion in the comments section yesterday about what is considered offensive material in Young Adult books. There seemed to be a consensus about graphic depictions of sex and recreational drug use.

A couple of comments mentioned that no matter what happens, it has to feel real, and honest, which is one of my favorite things about Young Adult books. Teens seem to have a knack for sniffing out something that doesn't ring true. There's no fooling them!

Feel free to continue the discussion today, or you may choose to answer this question:

What would you like to see more of in Young Adult literature? Less of? Are there any issues you would like to see Young Adult authors address? If you're a parent, what do you want your kids reading?

For those of you who weighed in yesterday, and therefore believe you don't have to comment today, ponder this: Cosmic fortune always plays a role in random chance. I'm not necessarily watching to see if you've commented more than once. But I can't say the same for the universe. The fates are always watching...

Did you dig those killer special effects? I especially love the sequence of the floating eyeball, followed by a cheap naked doll, followed by the spookiest image of all: e=mc2.

Personally, I can think of about a million things scarier than Einstein's theory of energy. In fact, I find it comforting that energy is directly proportional to mass. It helps me sleep at night.

Come to think of it, I can think of a million equations more disturbing. How about that Pythagorean Theorem? I remember having nightmares for weeks after learning that in high school. It was seriously some sort of cosmic joke.


I'm trying (sort of) to cut back on my caffeine intake. So I decided to sample some of that vitamin water that everyone's so hip on these days. Only the store didn't have the regular stuff, so I tried this "Fruit 2 0".

I was feeling rather triumphant, until the jitters started. So I took a closer look at the ingredients in my "water".

Fruit, check.
Water, check.
Vitamins, check.

Buttload of caffeine, checkity check.


I can only assume the universe does not want me to quit caffeine. The universe does not trust Brodi, the decaffeinated version.

And who am I to fight fate?


  1. Sometimes I think the reason that our vocabulary is shrinking is because some authors think that they have to use only common words so that their readers will understand them, and then readers use fewer words, and authors simplify more, etc. It's a Catch 22. One example (actually, the only example I can think of right now) is the Twilight Saga. While I am a fan of the story itself, the story teller (S.M.) uses the same words in all her descriptions, and if you were to go through and count how many times she uses the word "chagrin" or a form of it, it would probably reach well into the 400s. Maybe.
    I had a creative writing teacher once tell me that if I've ever heard something before, it's cliche. So I would say that I'd like to see more variety and more uncommon words (that I might even have to look up! GASP!) in young adult fiction.

  2. Ha! I can only think that Brodi didn't read that the drink was actually named "Fruit20 Energy." Keyword energy. Haha.

    I would love to see more books about people after marriage and in good marriage relationships. I quite enjoyed this aspect of The Grand Tour by Patricia Wrede.

    No need to enter me in the contest.

  3. Heather -- you might like Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson.

  4. I agree with Alysa. There are so many stories with unhappy marriages, divorce, abuse, single parents, etc. Who is representing the happy marriage, the secure couple (besides Grandma and Grandpa), wedded bliss despite life's trials? One of my college professors pointed out that in almost every Disney movie, especially the old Classics, there is only one parent. (I know they aren't books, but the point is still there). Even now, I can only think of a few: Mulan, Hercules, the Incredibles. We need more!

  5. Heather- I love your comment! I think teens, and all readers in general, are up for a challenge when it comes to vocabulary.

    Alysa- (and Heather) Solid, happy relationships. Interesting point! I know that in Young Adult novels, sometimes a broken home is simply a way of giving the main character more independence. Few parental figures keeping track of the mc's actions. But it's almost harder to find a book where the family is in tact.

    Good comments!

  6. I have never seen a decaffeinated Brodi...I am curious as to what she would be like.

    I am not sure what I want or expect from a YA novel. I think a protagonist that has flaws is always of interest. Whether the flaw is insecurity, dishonesty, etc...it adds dimensions to a character and it helps readers latch on to that character knowing that there is some real imperfection there. Holden Caufield is beloved by so many for over 50 years because he was all too real.

    As a parent, I want my kids to be aware that people are not perfect and they have serious flaws. With that said, I am also not looking for my kids to read YA novels with graphic sex, etc. It is a fine line but generally a line, at least from most books that I have read, that most writers don't cross too often in this genre.

  7. Wow, Sam- you have unsuspected depth. Way to pull out the "Holden Caulfield".

    btw- I've seen a decaffeinated Brodi. It's not a pretty sight.

  8. I tried to "quit" caffeinated drink one time and so I bought Propel Water Energy drink. Same thing happened as you. I got all jittery (not that I'm complaining) but then I read the label and found out it has 2X the caffeine as a regular diet coke. So I decided that I'm much healthier and happier drinking my diet coke. Good luck with yours.

    As far as the book thing goes, I'm trying to think what made the Harry Potter series so spectacular with every age group. He did not have a stable home environment, which is what made Hogwarts so appealing. He had a group of really good and true friends, which is a must. They never did any drugs (except for the witch-craft thingys). And sex was never an issue. It was all just very creative and imaginative writing that I would love to have my own kids read.

  9. don't ever give up the dt coke. i am 1/2 way through a 2 liter of dt. dr. pepper as we speak! LOL....

    i really REALLY like what sam said about flaws...can i steal his idea?? i think the media feeds our kids (and i have "teens") so much stuff about being perfect (i.e. body image...ESP! girls...) that i think it's GREAT for them to read about "heroes" that are quirky and silly and "flaw-y" and STILL GREAT! and can still overcome the challanges of being flawed.

    kinda like real life!

  10. Erin- so you are requesting the next Harry Potter. Coming right up...

    Dorien- I love flaws too!

  11. Hi, new to the blog but love the topic. I love, love, love YA novels (some more than "adult" novels), and I think part of it has to do with the uncertainty of that time of life and finding out answers to things (some not always so pleasant). Really well-written YA novels always have a common thread of discovery and growth. Usually the protagonist is trying to figure out the right thing to do but doesn't know who's right she should use - her parents', her friends', her's, etc.

    So, when I read a YA novel, I want to be able to go on that journey with the protagonist and laugh and cry and cringe just as I did at that age. It doesn't have to capture the same experience I, or any reader, had. But it should capture the emotion/feeling/tone that goes along with that time.

    Anyway, that's my two cents.


  12. Miss M- well put. That's why I love to write YA. Welcome to the blog. I appreciate your comment, and please do it again!

  13. I think we need more YA books with hunky paranormal super-powered guys, 4 paragraph kisses, and complex words like "bunghole" and "poop."

    I love characters with flaws. And characters who seem real even if everything around them is all crazy and fantastical.

    And as far as decaffeinating goes, Bro, you may want to try drinking you know, um, water. Not funky fruity "enriched" water, but just plain ol' Britta filtered water. I like mine with a little squeeze of fresh lime.

  14. Wow. As much caffeine as a cup of coffee. You really have to watch out on those "energy drinks" because apparently, caffeine and energy are synonymous. I blame my habit of frequent sleeping on my lack of caffeine.

  15. When I finished Ann Cannon's LOSER'S GUIDE TO LIFE AND LOVE, I was floored that something could be so hilarious, so entertaining, and yet be beautifully, artistically written at the same time. I have a weakness for really fun books, even if they aren't the greatest literary works out there. I think sometimes books that are fun and commercial set a lower standard as far as writing goes, and LOSER'S GUIDE was something that hit the best of both worlds for me. I'd love to find more books like that. Any suggestions?

    I almost started a five page essay on what I'd like to see less of, but I'll spare you.:)

  16. This isn't a total turn off (as in I'd stop reading it) but right now in my season of life, I'd rather not read books that are way too dramatic.

    I have SO many books I'd love to read and I'm constantly going for the books that make me laugh or love. The drama is good but if it's all that and none of the other it's a hard book to get through for me.

    As for the what would I want my kids reading: I went to a symposium a few months ago about teen reading and an english teacher made this comment. (Paraphrased) 'When you think about what you or other adults read are reading you're usually reading something fun. Sure *sometimes* you throw in a classic or a difficult book but it's usually something easy breezy. So when you're encouraging your teens to read let them enjoy it! '
    I guess when I consider what I want them to read I'll just be glad they're choosing to read.

  17. Oh yeah and ps I'm not sure if you're a water hater like my hubby (or just a diet coke lover like myself) but he found some sparkling water at the grocery store. It's sugar free so 0 calories but it comes in a few yummy flavors, and yes, there really is no caffeine in it. Haha.

  18. Bree- I like my water dirty. And I won't read a book unless it has the word bunghole in it.

    Emily- Ah, sleeping. Nasty habit.

    Kim- I want to see the essay! Send it. And I will pose your question to the group tomorrow. (About Ann Cannon)

    Debbie- that is exactly the point Laurie Halse Anderson made the other night! I love it. And please, send along the name of that tasty-sounding beverage. I admit, I am a water- hater.

  19. -heather way up at the top of the page,
    i think that too i have read so many books with divorced parents, one dies, both die, and they end up stuck with the mean parent/gardian or just one parent here are some
    the secret garden, percy jackson and the olympian series, twilight, harry potter, and the sisters grimm series. those are just the ones kids in my class would know.

    i think it would be awesome if books started using better words i am going to start looking up words in the dictionary.

  20. Quiting caffine?? Are you MAD woman?? Consider it a sign and just pour yourself a tall Diet Pepsi...I mean Coke (blech).

    My biggest draw to a book is a kick a$$ girl who has self esteem and isn't afraid to be herself...in whatever capacity - love, life, whatevs. That is why the items from the last discussion always rub me the wrong way when the character dives right in and participates.

  21. Brodi - I know the government pays my hubby to make sure I drink coffee every morning to eliminate a body count. =) Nothing worse either than thinking you are being good and then find out you aren't. Hang in there!

    What do I want to see in young adult literature. I enjoy the element of growth. Showing a character that is struggling with an issue, may make a mistake but learns and grows to make better decisions. I think it is a useful tool to show that we all learn and sometimes learn the hard way but that nothing is ever set in stone. That you can make a mistake and still be redeemed.

    I missed commenting yesterday, but too graphic depictions of sex, substance abuse or violence is something I think should be kept out of young adult literature. You can have elements of those things but more of a reference of/implication, not a clear description or play by play.