I just got back from an awesome Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) retreat on the fabulous Rottnest Island near Perth. And amid the writing and learning, I had a peer group critique session that came with a side-serve of…
The start of a book is key.
Cassandra Clare writes addictive and sexy YA full of plot twists and fab dialogue. ‘City of Bones’ was her debut, published in 2007. I just conducted a rough count, fragrant jasmine tea in one hand and 70% cocoa dark chocolate (four squares a night, please) in the other, and I think I can count 14 more books since then.
And a chocolate smear on my keyboard.
Clare is a writing machine, and I love her work.
So, what does she do to make her writing so clever? To make her into the mega-success she is? Today I focus on ‘City of Bones’, Book One of The Mortal Instruments series, as well as the first in The Infernal Devices prequel series: ‘Clockwork Angel‘. I found some recurring themes of awesomeness:
- Strong female leads and tortured love interests
- Easily accessible world
- Subtlety in voice.
The first point is so big in itself, I’m going to devote this entire post to it. And a Super-Supreme Spoiler warning on this one… seriously, if you want to read these series, don’t have me ruin the twists for you. Turn back now.
The hype is everywhere. There’s not a YA bestseller list that doesn’t seem to have at least two books with the name Sarah J. Maas next to them. I had to investigate.
And I like to start at the beginning, look at the book that began the phenomenon.
So. Then. ‘Throne of Glass’ it was.
I picked it up with two parts excitement, one part expectation, and a dusting of cynic.
Hoping for a great read.
And, phew, I got it. This is a fab book. So fab, I didn’t want to just attribute its awesomeness to world-building or characters or clever writing. Because there was something else. Something more.
Ever increasing levels of evil and excitement. Heavy-eyelids, can’t-stop-reading, catch-up-on-sleep-some-other-day kind of something more.
So after I’d read it once, I didn’t just reread it – I plotted out the entire book. What did I find?
- Exponential increase in gruesome deaths
- Story and character arcs
- Kick-ass third act.
If you don’t like spoilers, stop now… otherwise…
The latest, and last, of this super-successful series is topping the hot charts at the moment. Past time for me to read the first, ‘The Selection’ by Kiera Cass, and try to deduce the pattern that made the drop-dead-gorgeous gown what it is.
One look at the sumptuous cover and you know what to expect. Romance. And there’s a lot of that sort of thing in YA. Why is this series so deliciously popular? My guess?
- Fairy-tale meets reality tv – two very successful enterprises
- Two Love Interests up the stakes
- Enough sub-plot so you can kid yourself you’re not just reading a romance.