Sunday, August 16, 2020

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me by Carrie Ann DiRisio

I bought this a while ago because I used to see RTs from the Brooding YA Hero account on Twitter and they would always make me laugh or smile, so I figured I might as well take my chances on the book, because book adaptations of internet phenomena and memes are always better than the source material. To quote Julia Roberts, "Big mistake. Big. Huge."

Making fun of YA is kind of the low-hanging fruit when it comes to literary parody.  Once something becomes popular, it feels like everyone falls over themselves trying to copy, until, like a Xerox (remember those??), there are so many copies that the trend is completely burnt out to exhaustion and has literally and figuratively become unreadable. BROODING YA HERO seems specifically to be targeting what I call the "Byronic Revival Movement" of the late 2000s/early 2010s, which started with the popularity of Twilight and persisted with love interests from things like Six of Crows or Empire of Storms, with brooding, ridiculous love interests whose sole claim to fame was being a hot bad boy.

BROODING YA HERO is an exhaustive criticism of young adult books, tackling a number of elements that result from frenetic copying of popular trends, lazy writing, and reliance on tropes. Some of the things that are mentioned in here are the fetishization and stereotyping of people of color, the chosen one stereotype in fantasy novels, and the treat-em-mean-to-keep-em-keen style of "wooing" where the love interest often acts in ways that are quite abusive to the heroine and it is accepted that his lack of emotional intimacy is a weakness that should be tacitly understood and accepted and overcome by others because he is worth get to knowing and making the effort for. The author also points out that YA books have a tendency to punish female characters who exhibit agency and confidence (especially sexual confidence), and that most popular heroines typically are either unaware of their appeal, or act as blank slates that exist only to further the hero's narrative arc.

I think all of the criticisms in this book are fair and part of the fun is trying to guess which books in particular that she is making fun of. Sometimes the references are fairly obvious (Twilight, Meg Cabot's Mediator series, etc.), but others are fill-in-the-blanks that you can populate with your fave-to-hates. Where the book really fails in my opinion is the repetitiveness and narrative structure of the book. It's written from Broody McHottiepants's POV, which quickly starts to grate. I had been hoping, when I bought this, that it would be written and constructed in the vein of Sarah Wendell's BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS, which was a fun criticism of bodice-rippers and romance novels, while also essentially providing a reading list of some of the author's faves, even as it talked about cliches and popular trends that could be a bit ridiculous. This was definitely not that.

I ended up DNF-ing this around the 27% mark during my first read of this book and I can see why.

2 out of 5 stars

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