Tuesday, November 29th, 2011...2:21 am

Why YA books are different

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I have read The House of the Scorpion before, so it was interesting to re-read from a more ‘classroom’ perspective. One of the things that stood out most to me, after having read so many other sci-fi novels this semester, is how much differently young adult novels tend to be constructed.

Don’t get me wrong; I adore the book. But everything in it seems to be leading up to the revelation of why Matt was created. It isn’t simply the fact that people treat clones differently. When Rosa treats Matt like a ‘chicken,’ keeping him in sawdust, it seems to be not only because he isn’t a “real human” but also because he is a copy of el patron, who all of the workers hate. When Tom takes Maria and Matt to see MacGregor’s clone, Maria freaks out not only because of how horrifying the brain-altered clone is, but also because she is reminded of what is going to happen to Matt; this is why she refuses to look at him.

In actuality, these are very nuanced things, and Farmer does a fabulous job of working the story together and making it feel real. All the same, the story is far simpler. The characters are not flat, and many of them (like Rosa and Wilum) have their own story lines that Matt observes without understanding. But the world isn’t as complex as the world of a story like Lilith’s Brood. Although Farmer created a world to tell her story, she isn’t so much telling the story of that world as she is just telling Matt’s story. A book for a young adult audience has to be less complicated, and more straightforward. It can have complexities and intrigues, and characters who are far more than black and white, but it starts at A and ends at B. It is carefully picked over and edited. We see Matt’s world through blinders; we are only given the details that we need to build up to the revelation of his life and its purpose.

That’s not to say that more grown-up books cannot be refined or pared down to their most essential details, but most of the other science fiction that we have read this semester seems to have a lot of emphasis and detail built upon the world surrounding the characters. Books like Neuromancer and Blindsight are incredibly complex and worlds of meaning and rest on a single sentence. The House of the Scorpion is written for an audience that could easily miss such levels of intricacy. It is more focused on the plot, where everything builds into itself instead of branching out and out to build an entire world.

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