Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Shadows Between Us - Tricia Levenseller

This is an example of a book where I should have known better, but I didn't, and it disappointed me. I've been intrigued by Trica Levenseller's books for a couple of months - Daughter of the Pirate King and Daughter of the Siran Queen sounded fun, I trust Pushkin press, and there's a lot of positive buzz about these books online. In truth I didn't really finish this one, I read the first 50 pages in growing irritation and then skimmed through the rest of the book, felt it was going even further downhill, and then gave it up as a bad job.

There was a discussion and radio 4's Women's hour earlier this week around a lot of Young Adult fiction being too dark for its intended audience - the postman rang my doorbell halfway through it so I may have missed something crucial, but to me the bigger issue is quality and I don't think that was touched on. 

I'm 30 years past warning to spend a lot of time reading about teenage protagonists, but a good book is a good book and there's some great YA writing out there - none of which is inherently darker than Wuthering Heights, anything by Dostoevsky, or The Picture of Dorian Gray all of which are popular with the youth. There's also the obvious point that being a teen is fairly grim a lot of the time, so you'd want a good choice of books that reflect that and help you work through some of it.

Quality is key though. The Shadows Between Us looks like a fairly typical dark/fantasy romance - a genre where I expect to find more smut than I'm interested in, and where a lot of our customers find exactly the amount of smut they're in the mood for, so that's money well spent. Young adult authors can't rely on smut so I expect decent plots and characters but that's perhaps before the book took started driving sales the way it has. 

The Shadows Between Us starts with a cracking first line; "They never found the body of the first and only boy who broke my heart." but for me at least it falls off from there. I didn't find any of the characters particularly well drawn, their interactions too often seemed off, the world-building was shoddy, and a cynical woman would end up thinking that this book was snapped up first and foremost to appeal to a trend.

I'll be watching sales with interest, it's quite possible the teens will agree with me. It's just as possible that they'll be oblivious to the things I see as glaring faults or horribly toxic - perhaps these are characters a 14-year-old could love. I mostly hope not because you need this stuff to be done well to better build an understanding of what is and isn't acceptable behavior, not the kind of lazy writing that normalizes the unacceptable.  

1 comment:

  1. It seems that nearly all YA aimed at girls that doesn't fit the BIPOC genre these days is dark fantasy written to a formula and derivative. Thank goodness I gave up reading it a good few years ago now. I used to read a bit as I thought my daughter might be interested, but she's not a reader for pleasure (at the moment - fingers crossed).