Monday, July 10, 2006

A Voice Is Not Enough

I've heard talk of a "YA voice"--as I may have mentioned here before--and one editor I know believes said YA voice needs to be in the first person. Evidently a lot of people feel that way because so many YA books are first-person stories.

A strong voice can make a big difference in a book. Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci was a well-done but somewhat predictable out-sider novel that was elevated by a terrific voice.

A strong voice, though, cannot carry a book by itself. Finding Lubchenko by Michael Simmons is pretty much all hip, too-cool-to-care voice. The thriller/mystery story line is very thin and not supported to any great extent by most of the material in the book. I had to work through 24 pages or so of Evan, the main character, talking about himself and his complaints about his father before finding anything about what the story was supposed to be about. I think I was a third of the way or more into the book before "Lubchenko" was mentioned. I'd forgotten about him.

I eventually started skimming. I was able to blow through entire chapters that were pretty much just filler. I will admit that perhaps teenagers will enjoy the chapter-long party scenes even though they don't advance the story in any way. And I also understand that many people want a pointless love interest in every book they read.

Still, the climax to this story is singularly unexciting. And Evan is an extremely nondynamic character. He is a liar and a thief at the beginning of the story, and he's a liar and a thief at the end. He is totally untouched by anything that's happened to him.

All he's got going for him is his mouth. For this reader, it just wasn't enough.


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