i'm tired of YA.

7:00 AM


Finally, Aimee complaining about something again!


When I say this, I mean it, 100% and absolutely: I'm tired of YA.

I can't say that I'm over-exaggerating, or that I'm making a broad statement I don't really believe just to catch attention and get clicks. I'm saying this as a person who reads mostly YA. (And enjoys a fair amount of it.) I'm saying this as a person who writes YA. I'm saying this as a person who doesn't think it's childish, or not worthy of respect, or not good. As a thing, I think YA is important.

It's because it's an important genre, an important age group, that I have a whole rant for y'all today.

I read a lot of YA. And the more I read, the more I'm sick and tired of it. Absolutely sick and tired. Maybe it's a personal thing. Maybe I'm too picky, maybe I just read The Great Gatsby again and I'm holding everything up to that impossible standard (always) or maybe there really is a problem, but in typical Aimee fashion, I've got a lot of things to nitpick.

Here are a few things I'm tired of.
my current mood is always jeremy renner's unimpressed face
I'm tired of YA protagonists. I'm tired of the "ordinary", John-Green-type boy, who's not really ordinary, who's bookish and a little bit nerdy and sex-obsessed and fixated on one girl and is selfish and lazy and unmotivated and "ordinary/lame/boring" but into a lot of really quirky things. I'm tired of the extraordinary girl who spends too much of her time making out with the dark and brooding antihero and "can take care of herself" in the sense that she's constantly being reckless and running into bad situations and basically being a spoiled brat. I'm tired of seeing the same hero or heroine -- whose actions aren't really heroic -- copy-pasted into a different book. I'm tired of reading about the same person over and over and over and caring less every time, especially when we give that same character a different skin tone or sexuality or mental illness (mental illness is not a personality or a plot device) and call it what makes them unique or gives them their personality. We glorify selfishness and angst and bad behavior and being a forever-young rebellious teenager, we make that cool, and we churn out protagonists who don't learn, heroes who aren't heroes at all, main characters who stay the same through the whole book. What's character development? We don't know anymore. 

You're not funny or quirky or unique. 

You're wish-fulfillment shoved into a story and given the actual interesting/human traits of a slightly damp cardboard box. (The true thing that irks me here is that we fill our genres with this kind of character and someone like Bella Swan, who's an actual normal human teenage girl if I ever read about one, is condemned for being weak and lazy, because strong realistic teenage girls are all the rage until they're acting like actual teenage girls.)

I'm tired of #diversity. Woah, woah, woah, listen. I don't have time to go entirely into this. That would require a whole blog post and backlash I don't feel like dealing with at the moment. Diversity is a thing I'm all for -- unfortunately, it's actual diversity, intellectual diversity, and that's a foreign concept here. A collection of characters who all act and think the same is not diverse. It doesn't matter if they have different skin colors or other physical attributes. It doesn't matter if they're not actually diverse. If we're not actually presented with the diversity that exists in humans, the wide spectrum of opinions and personalities and beliefs and political leanings.

A collection of varying-skin-toned liberal feminists who all think the same thing shoved into one story isn't diversity. It's a checklist. It's an idea that's taken over YA culture to the point where a story will be lauded not on quality, not on how well-done the story is, not on the ideas it presents or the complexity of the characters, but whether or not it has certain groups of people in it. It's a very strange list of qualifications that makes us more obsessed with making people happy or making the book "diverse enough" than, you know, actually putting out good stories. It's an impossible, always-changing standard that can ruin a book because it's not "diverse" enough, a thing that turns on itself because there's no set definition, there's no set point, and people will keep finding things to pick over regarding it until authors devour each other over something as simple as most of their characters being white. There's no winning. No doing things right. Holding it on a pedestal makes no sense and ends up with us reading a bunch of bland checklist-fulfilling characters where all we wanted were real ones.
I just don't know what to think of the fact that YA culture makes me feel like
Ron Swanson every time I interact with it

I'm tired of how YA treats teenagers. No, I'm not just tired of this, actually, and this is my biggest point, because 

I'm SICK of this, okay? 

We've reached the point where the teenage years, the teenage "experience", has become a thing to idolize, a #relatable thing we never want to grow out of. I can't go on Twitter without someone screaming about how YA isn't taken seriously, about how teenagers aren't taken seriously, about the importance of teens...which is all well and fine and good, because "teenagers" (a label that didn't even exist a short amount of time ago) are important. We are capable of more. 
 
So why isn't YA showing us that? 

If you want respect, if you want responsibility, maybe stop having your teenage characters glorify and be caught up in the wonderfulness of childish, irresponsible teen culture. Maybe stop writing books where teens can sleep with each other and it's no big deal, even celebrated. (Look, okay, I know what people are saying about teens and sex. I know it's not treated like a big deal. But sex does have consequences, especially when you do it as a irresponsible teenager.) Maybe stop treating relationship drama and ~feelings~ as the highest authority. Maybe stop making rebellion and disrespect and sneaking out a good or admirable or understandable thing. 

Maybe stop treating partying and going out and getting wasted and abusing alcohol and disobeying your parents and just the whole party scene in general as something that's normal instead of harmful, something that doesn't have consequences, something that's just a thing teens do. Stop.

Teens are capable of so much. We're capable of thinking beyond our hormones and feelings in the immediate moment. We're capable of thinking for ourselves, of having complex opinions. We're capable of working hard. Being responsible. Stepping up and being leaders, being mature, being respectable. But that requires work. That requires manning up -- excuse me, womaning up -- and getting over it and acting like 'adults', for goodness' sake. 

If you're going to tell me teens are worthy of respect, you'd better give people a reason to respect us, because partying and getting drunk just ain't gonna cut it. 

Maybe that's what bothers me most about YA books and YA culture, the thing that's making me tired. It's not about powerful, smart teens. It's not about heroism. It's not about stepping up. It's not about good, or true things, or sacrifice, or...well, anything that might make a story a good and true story. It's about wish fulfillment. Following our feelings. Doing what we want. Being #rebellious -- heck, even YA dystopia is the main offender in the whole rebellion fantasy thing. It doesn't just show bad behavior, it glorifies it. YA undervalues, underestimates us in a horrible way. It doesn't call teens to action. It justifies our feelings and behaviors, and makes us feel like we're rising up and doing something. 

It's feeding us trash, empty things that are more concerned with being politically correct than being good stories. It's empty instead of having something to say. (Yes, books are for entertainment, but words are powerful, and what you say matters, and stories should mean something. They should point to something more, something higher.)

This doesn't mean that adult books are automatically better and more mature -- there are endless amounts of crappy adult books, too. The point is that we glorify YA, we insist that it's important, that it's something matter...when we're not doing that. When it's just the same regurgitated lazy plots that people will buy with a few more "diverse" characters thrown in and lots of feelsy poetical metaphors to tug on people's heartstrings.

We can do better. We have so much potential, guys. (Allow me to direct you to Neal Shusterman, coughcough. Or Suzanne Collins. Or Lemony Snicket. or Jay Kristoff. Or Marissa Meyer, whom I love.)

There's not much else to say after that, is there? The more I read the more frustrated I feel, the more disgusted I am, the more I put down books after the second normalized drunken party and the first poetic "romantic" sex scene feeling gross about myself because this isn't empowering, this is just lazy.

I'm really, really tired of YA. I can't make it better on my own. I don't know if it will get better, in a culture that likes pleasure and a lack of personal responsibility and the glorification of being young and wild and free.

That's kind of all there is to say about it right now.

let's put a good spin on this: what are some of your favorite YA books? (are they Neal Shusterman? because if not, what's wrong with you?)

36 comments

  1. YES THANK YOU FOR THIS. I've been thinking this for a while now & it drives me up the wall. But I guess it's up to us to change it then.
    'The Raven Cycle' by Maggie Stiefvater is my favorite YA books,cause magic & strange things but mostly characters that are SO freaking real.

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  2. First of all: I. LOVE. NEAL SHUSTERMAN. He has to be my favorite author of all freakin' time.
    Second... I get the feeling you expected a lot of backlash here, but as a fellow "teen" (17 y/o high school senior), I know what you're saying. And I think I agree. You aren't the only one, so maybe there are more people who think like this than I thought. Keep writing!!

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  3. Yes! Yes! and can I say it again YES! I know for a fact that I have high standards for what books should be. For goodness sake I read and love old classic books that most teens dread having to read for school. I love the old 'language', the vocabulary, that makes reading and understanding these books hard. But I think that is what makes them to good to read. They are hard. They are long. And they are different. They have a purpose and a meaning. You just can't find books like that anymore!
    I have found precious few YA books that weren't cliche and stupid. (like you said) They take things that aren't that common (and shouldn't be consider acceptably) and magnify them to the extreme. They make little things like being rude and disrespectful to the people around you okay. They make having sex and doing drugs 'normal'. And you wonder why this is an issue among teens. It is almost like YA books have become some sort of porn and teens just read them for the 'thrill'. *exasperated scream* There is no worth in the books, there is not challenge. Books should be hard to read. They should challenge the way we act and think. They should make us think.
    Books have become to dumb down. The Hobbit is a perfect example of this. The Hobbit was a CHILDREN'S book!!! And most adults today find it 'too hard' to read. *rolls eyes* This is so frustrating to me...

    *Sorry for the rant. This 'might' be a topic that will get me riled up. Just a little bit. *ahem*

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  4. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST LIKE THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU OMG I NEEDED TO HEAR THIS SO MUCH FROM SOMEONE OTHER THAN THE MIRROR BECAUSE DANG IT I FEEL ALL ALONE SOMETIMES THANK YOU FOR THIS.

    omg I agree with you on everything in this post 150% but espeCIALLY THE DIVERSITY THING. OMG. When I saw that line "I'm tired of #diversity" I legit clapped my hands together and screamed "YES. YES. YES!" and scared my dog really bad. :') man I am sooooo SICK OF "DIVERSITY" -- because, just like you said, it's not even true diversity. To me, true diversity means putting aside our physical differences so that we can focus on the bigger and more meaningful things. BUT INSTEAD WE'RE FOCUSING MORE ON OUR DIFFERENCES??? It breeds all kinds of separation and shaming and I am NOT ok with it. *high fives you really hard for addressing this THANK YOU*

    tbh I was thinking about this just the other day...how YA fiction is so lacking in depth. Teenagers and young adults are in such an important place in their lives and it hurts me to see so much of the same old trash *thinks of a better word but can't find one* written into our books. Like??? HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO BE RESPECTED WHEN WE ARE STEREOTYPED AS THE OPPOSITE OF RESPECT?? you said it man. *more high fives*

    GOSH YOUR POSTS ALWAYS GET ME SO FIRED UP. NEVER STOP WRITING. THE WORLD NEEDS YOU AIMEE.

    >><<
    abbiee

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  5. Personally, I don't think I've read a lot of YA books, probably because they tend to run on the more innapropriate side (that's a personal assumption, not a fact of law). However, because of this blog, I have started reading Unwind by Neal Shusterman (started, not finished because The Fever Code has stolen priority, #SorryNotSorry). I actually really like the concept of Unwind because A) it makes one think, and B) it's so freakin' different that it almost makes me think Neal Shusterman is crazy. So I'm not entirely sure what my "favorite" YA book would be, considering I don't know if I've read a lot of it.🙈 But I guess Unwind is a safe bet considering Neal Shusterman writes YA, so we'll go with that.😜

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    1. *jumps back into the comments because i have more to say* If you hate cliché sex-driven boy characters, then you'd actually love my "almost main character but not really" little rebellious boy. His name is Alex and he's a 16 year old "immortal" who's lived for centuries, but has actually lived his entire life in a false reality called the Dreamloop😎 I'm shipping the story as Inception meets The Matrix, but with teenagers and it's going to be amazing.

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  6. OH GOODNESS YES TO ALL OF THIS
    Ali's Neal Shusterman is the best ever
    I actually went to one of his book signings a couple weeks ago and dude he is just so amazing
    But I agree with all this
    Especially the way teens are portrayed

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  7. Thanks for such an inspiring post! I especially like your point about YA encouraging teens to blindly follow their feelings. We do need more authors who encourage teens to step up.

    My favorite teen authors are probably Marissa Meyer (same!), Brandon Sanderson, and Timothy Zahn. Brandon Sanderson is most known for his epic fantasy books, which are geared toward adults but are perfectly readable for teens (Mistborn is a good example, starring a young female character). He does have stuff that is meant specifically for YA, though, like The Rithmatist, which is a fantastic steampunk coming-of-age story.

    Timothy Zahn, on the other hand, is more squarely in the sci-fi spectrum. He has a great series called Dragon and Thief, in which the main character wrestles with moral problems and has a really good arc.

    Anyway, thanks again. This made my morning. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go look up Neal Shusterman. :)

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    1. Oh my goodness, yes! I just had to comment, because you mentioned the Dragonback Chronicles, and those are amazing. Stellar, stellar storytelling, there. I love Zahn, anyway, but those are really great (and, for me, really rare) young adult examples.

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    2. Another Timothy Zahn fan?? *high five* :D

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  8. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU AMEN

    Literally every point that you made on here is so accurate. YA has been frustrating me to no end lately, and you put this perfectly.

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  9. this whole post is one big YES from me.

    it's all the problems I have with the YA genre and you verbalized it perfectly.

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  10. Loving this post!! Agreeing with pretty much 100% of it! :)

    Haven't read any Neil Shusterman but he's been on my list for awhile now. When I have time it'll just be deciding which book to start with. :)

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  11. I enjoyed this post. I recently read and judged three novels for a contest. Two of them were YA dystopia. Of those two, one was okay....yeah, okay. The second, however, was such a dreary slog, that I wrote on the rating sheet that I am done, done, done with YA dystopia.
    Of course I'm not done. But I am taking a deep breather.
    I'm also going to get a copy of Unwind and see what all the cheering is about. And I'm going to recommend N. D. Wilson.

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    1. Replying because of the mention of N.D. Wilson! I love his books! If I remember correctly C.S Lewis was the one who said something like a book wasn't good unless it could be enjoyed by all ages. And this is defiantly the case for N.D. Wilson. Everyone in my family loves his books, from my Dad, to my youngest sister, who is five. His writing is just good! I don't want to rant again, so you just need to read his books!

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  12. BLESS THIS POST. BLESS YOU. JUST SO MUCH YES TO EVERYTHING!!!!

    Something I say all the time is that YA is my favorite and least favorite genre. I love YA! It's all I ever really want to read. Adult books often bore me and I do enjoy MG books but they're usually not as deep and emotional as I'd like. YA is great. But...it's also THE. WORST. I pick up a YA novel and wonder what I'm doing with my life reading this trash. I go through the YA section of bookstores and my eyes nearly fall out because I rolled them so many times over the stupid covers and blurbs that all. sound. the. same. Whyyyy ARE these books glorifying immoral behavior? Making teens think sleeping around and being rebellious and getting drunk are things they're entitled to do because, hey, this protagonist does it all the time! And what really gets me is that these are usually ADULTS writing these books for teens. WHY? HOW? HOW DO THEY THINK THIS IS OKAY??? Very mature, adult writers. *rolls eyes*

    AND THE DIVERSITY THING. I just want to quote your entire paragraph, but I do have to quote at least a sentence: "A collection of varying-skin-toned liberal feminists who all think the same thing shoved into one story isn't diversity." THANK YOU!!! I think this whole #diversity thing is even MORE insulting to people, because it's forming stereotypes, it's turning people into check lists like you said, it's making more important WHAT people are than WHO they are: Deep people with brains. Isn't that all that matters? Shouldn't our characters just be PEOPLE with BRAINS??? I don't care what you are. I care about you because you're a HUMAN BEING. And that's what's important.

    YA in general is just so full of junk and "checklist characters" and utterly lacking in a good, wholesome story. Shouldn't books and characters inspire us to be better? To make us THINK. NOT give us a pass to being "young, wild, and free" like you said.

    I could go on for ages. This exact topic is something I talk (read: rant) about with friends and family a LOT. So when I saw this post I wanted to reach through the screen and give you a giant high-five.

    I will probably always read YA. (Pst, I'm 24, not a teen at all, and still love YA. So chances are I'll be reading it through all my adult life... *cough*) But I do try to be picky about the YA books I pick up.

    Suzanne Collins and Marissa Meyer are some of my favorites toooo!!! Jill Williamson is another favorite author. And would we classify Diana Wynne Jones as a YA author? I don't know WHAT her books are, but Howl's Moving Castle is my favorite book of all time. <3333

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    1. Okay you caught my attention when you said that these are usually adults writing about teens having one night flings and partying. But I think I know why they write about all that crap: they're trying to reach a teen audience who glorifies sin, so by writing about partying and teen sex, they're trying to entice the teen audience into actually picking up the book.

      And THAT is why I've avoided reading so many books (I got Monument 14 by a debuting author, and then didn't read it because it's "complete with violence and sex") because they include sex. And in fact, I'm about to go on a loooong rant on my blog about why books don't need to have sex in them because if the story/characters are good enough, does it really need sexual content to make the reader pick it up?

      Sorry for just bursting in and throwing all my opinions at your face, Christine. It's just that when you said, "And what really gets me is that these are usually ADULTS writing these books for teens,"
      I couldn't help but feel compelled to insert my opinions into the comments feed. So hopefully it gives you some food for thought, if nothing else.

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    2. Oh no, you weren't bursting in on my comment. You actually made my point for me! I entirely agree with everything you said. These authors ARE trying to entice readers, which is what annoys me so much. They're encouraging bad behavior just for the sake of sales. "Sex sells" as they say. What about just writing GOOD, wholesome books instead of putting in trash to up sales? Hmmm? These authors throw in sex and other Content because they think it's the only way to get readership. How about just writing a compelling story? Plot and interesting characters get thrown out the window these days because, hey, it's got sex and violence! What else do you need? *bangs head against wall*

      Ahem. But ANYWAYS. XD I could rant for days. I 100% agree with your comment and am glad you chimed in! "...because if the story/characters are good enough, does it really need sexual content to make the reader pick it up?" THIS. YES. Precisely my thoughts. I'm so happy to find others who share these opinions!

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    3. I'm so happy we agree on this! We really do need better, more well developed characters.

      *chants* better characters better characters better characters better characters better characters

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  13. WOW yes, this is exactly what I don't like about YA. (Most YA, anyway). Especially the disrespecting teens part. >.<

    Okaaay, so I'm still waiting for my TBR to allow me a chance at Unwind or Scythe. But I did read Challenger Deep, and it was really thought-provoking! And I just finished A Time to Die the other day and it's some of the best YA I've read in a while. =D

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  14. THIS. ALL OF THIS. THANK YOU.
    You nailed the diversity thing. There isn't much I can say that others haven't, but dang you're right.
    I don't read a ton of YA, because I usually regret it when I do. I liked The Hunger Games, and the Maze Runner series was cool, though I wish the characters were more developed. I haven't read any Neal Shusterman yet, but I will.

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    1. MAZE RUNNERRRRRR!!!!!!! *flails forever* #Page250 #ThatEndingTho #NEWT

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    2. NEWT THO. *cries forever*

      Hailey
      haileyhudson.wordpress.com

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    3. YASSS I HATE JAMES DASHNER FOR BREAKING ME

      *cries and dies*

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    4. Nope, I'm not over Newt's fate. That was pretty dang horrible.

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    5. *cries the ugly cry* All he ever wanted was to be rid of the Maze....but yes, his fate was bloody horrible.

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  15. Yesss thank you for this awesome post!! Also, yay for recognizing Bella Swan is actually a realistic character.

    I don't read tons of YA- only what's recommended to me by friends or popularity- for the reasons you list. I'm way more likely to read adult or MG books (dark MG fiction is my favorite, like Lemony Snicket). I also love John Flanagan (writer of Ranger's Apprentice). His books are probably the same target age of Lemony Snicket.

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    1. Hi, I just had to jump in and agree that John Flanagan is amazing and underrated. He has great character development.

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  16. You hit the nail right on the head. This is absolutely IT. Ugh. I'm almost grown out of the "teenage" label now but I still feel (and look) like a fifteen-year-old and I hate being looked down on because I'm in a specific age range. You're totally 100% right. If we want to be respected and treated respectfully then maybe we should start with respecting ourselves and holding ourselves to higher standards. Have you ever read 'Do Hard Things' by Alex and Brett Harris? Everything you're saying totally reflects their book and website. Here's a link if you feel like checking out some young people making some big changes to shake teenage stereotypes: http://therebelution.com/about/alex-brett-harris/
    Thanks for a MUCH needed post, Aimee.

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  17. Dude. All the yes. Aaaaaalll the yes.

    Diversity just being some kind of checklist is something that has really been bothering me as well. And I love what you said about teenagers being capablke of MORE and of BETTER than this. We CAN overcome hormones and mood swings and we don't have to look to our "feeeeeeelings" as the highest authority.

    Teenagers are capable of SO. MUCH but I feel like YA isn't challenging us to do that, it's (and I loved your word choice here!!!) justifying whining and laziness and bad behavior because NO ONE UNDERSTANDS USSSSS!!!! *cue pouting*

    Basically, I've had enough.

    Let's write better fiction than this, shall we???

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  18. I really enjoyed this, Aimee. I haven't read much YA lately, and have attributed that to "growing up" and maybe growing out of the YA genre. I think that's true, to a degree, and it's worth noting that a lot of the elements in YA that you mentioned are immature elements...so as we grow up we become smarter and notice those annoying and immature elements more than we used to. Does that make sense?

    Recently I finished reading "Jacob Have I Loved" by Katherine Patterson. It's a very strange book and I disliked it at first. However, as I have had more time to think through it, there's a lot I appreciate about the realness of Patterson's story and characters and their situations.

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  19. The Book Thief is an amazing YA book. My favorite book ever. Can we please talk about how amazingly gorgeous Zusak's writing style is???? OMIGOSH!!! Plus the fact that it's narrated by Death who is "haunted by humans". It's a book that explores the beauty and ugliness of the human race through the eyes of a girl who discovers the power of words. ugh I just love it so much. And I might add, no sex. no romance really. Just "the boy whose hair remained the color of lemons forever". *cries*

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    1. Oh I saw the movie. But I'm struggling to get through the book...😞

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    2. I've seen the movie and read the book, and you're right, Clarissa. It is a deeply affecting story. I wasn't real keen on the language content, but it's a really good story.

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    3. Rachelle, I wasn't either, especially with the ones that took the Lord's name in vain, but other than that, an amazing book

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    4. Wow, with as much as you two love the book I really need to read it lol

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