Rant: Honesty or diplomacy? That is the question:

November 9, 2012

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to band with fellow YA writers

To deflect the slings and arrows of adult criticism

Or to take arms against shitty writing and wooden people (and glitter)

And by opposing it (or them) end them.


Sorry, Shakes.

If there’s one question I hate to be asked, it’s this: What do you think of Twilight?

I’m asked this a lot, most often by people I suspect haven’t read much YA fiction, as if Twilight is the litmus test for all YA books.

The beautiful thing about reading is that it gets better. Even as you get older and your eyesight fails and your hands cramp and you get a crick in your neck, the reading gets better. The more life you experience, the more colourful and nuanced are the worlds you create with only an author’s words and your own imagination. The more we read the more we expect from our authors—we raise our own bar with every brilliant book and often a book we have loved will slide down the favourites scale depending on what comes after.

Some books I’ve re-read since young-adulthood not only stand up, they’ve grown even more legs. I see themes and layers that weren’t visible to me as a teenager, and I’m achingly aware of just how much of the author’s soul has been bared. I can still read Jack London and be amazed by his ability to describe teeth and snow and blood on snow, in a hundred different ways. Robert Cormier’s novels are classics, deservedly; so too, Colin Thiele.



But often when I re-read a beloved book from childhood, I’m disappointed. The magic has gone.

I read Enid Blyton books to my daughter and struggled to keep a straight face when I got to ‘Dick’ and ‘Fanny’. Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series seemed a little ridiculous. Go Ask Alice wasn’t subversive to me any more—it was boring. Meg Rosoff has been criticised for portraying an incestuous relationship in How I Live Now, so I was prepared to be shocked all over again by Virginia Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic. I snort-laughed most of the way through it. And let’s not get started with My Sweet Audrina—the most gripping, page-turning book from my teenage years, it was passed beneath desks and talked about in whispers. On re-reading, I only felt sad and disgusted. Poor Billie.

Okay, I thought, maybe I should try some adult books that I read and loved as a teenager. Hot, lusty, bodice-tearing historical romance, the kind I read over and over, picturing myself rattling along in a wagon-train and being ravished by a wild colonial boy. Enter: June Lund Shiplett’s Journey to Yesterday and Return to Yesterday. I pinched these books from my mum when I was about fourteen, read them under the covers by torchlight, and got me an education.

My gorgeous mum tracked these down for my birthday (complete with authentic mouse chew-marks):



I honestly believed they’d be as compulsively readable all over again, even if only for nostalgic value.

I cried.

Oh, Stacey. You simpering wretch of a woman, bonking two men in two different centuries. And Ben—no means no.

Now if I discover an adored book from childhood or young adulthood, I pick it up. I stroke its cover. I might even buy it—but I won’t read it. Some reading memories are gold dust—try to recapture them and they slip through your fingers. Trixie Belden, you shall remain perky, feisty and unblemished in my fuddled memory; I swear to protect you from my jaded, cynical, grown-up self. Because it’s not you, it’s me.

So how do I answer that horrible question? Honestly? I just say that if I had read Twilight at age 14, I would have loved it.

Categories: Books, Rant, Reading, Vikki Wakefield, YA Fiction, Tags: , ,


  1. Aspiring YA Author
    Noooo.... it's not true. I have books from my childhood and young adulthood that are still wonderful reads. I take your point about Enid Blyton and I have had similar disappointing experiences e.g. re-reading Heidi - where did all the stuff about God and Christianity come from, all of a sudden? I recently began collecting lots of old favourites (including Trixie Belden - she is still awesome, I promise) as well as more books and series I never read. I'm very into Apple Paperbacks at the moment. (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.) I have to say - I probably would have liked Twilight too (Anne Rice was my thing back in the day) and that's such a nice sentiment from you. But to me, there is not doubt those books are just badly written. There are books that I read as a teenager, beautiful works of fiction, to which Twilight can't compare. There are also trashy, genre books that can't compare because - despite the corny dialogue and one dimensional characters - they're tightly written and stick to a neat and satisfying formula. (I'm thinking of Sweet Valley High now, which I have also begun collecting again.) Don't get put off - keep looking back because there are still old treasures to rediscover.
    November 9, 2012 at 11:12 am ·
    • vikki
      Ah, Liz and Jess. I'd forgotten about them. I don't mind formulaic stories (or series) at all - I suppose, for me, it comes down to character. I only have seven Trixie Belden novels left in my collection, but I'm trying to find more. I have a feeling I'll still love Trixie, too. :)
      November 9, 2012 at 11:27 am ·
  2. Text Ali
    Oh, Vikki, how could I have forgotten My Sweet Audrina?! Actually, you don't need to answer that! It's true that Trixie is still goldenish—at least, the spooky mansions are still spooky, and you'll still want to be in their club. XXX
    November 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm ·
    • vikki
      Hi Ali, I know, My Sweet Audrina was unforgettable - if only for the fact that VC Andrews managed to condense a trilogy's worth of vileness and depravity into one book.:) Ok, I'm convinced. I'm going to visit Trixie.
      November 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm ·
  3. Hi Vicki Love your blog/website and nice to have met you last night. I love re-reading books though yes, some books do not pass the test of time, especially childhood faves like the Enchanted Wood. My childhood books were the Un series by Paul Jennings, Sticky Beak and Blubber Mouth by Morris Gleitzman, the Super Fudge series by Judy Blume....I've re-read parts of those books and they're still fresh as ever :-) I hope my books are like that in 50 years time too, lol.
    November 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm ·