Tuesday, June 1, 2010

YA Book Review: Daniel X by James Patterson

A few weeks ago, my status update on Facebook was as follows:

"Wonderful. Just wonderful. I'm working hard to get my book published and SHE get's a three-book deal??"

I was reacting (overreacting?) to the news that Tyra Banks has landed a three book deal for her YA series about kids in the modeling biz. Now, I haven't read Trya's book, in part because it hasn't been released yet. However, it annoys me because it's yet another example of celebrities getting into the YA writing game. It's a trend just as thoughtless and annoying as tiny dogs, big glasses, and third-world adoptions. Celebrities are writing because, let's be honest, writing YA is "cool" these days. Thanks Jo Rowling. Yes, you've given us a generation of kids who read and a series that will last for generations, but you've also given us Lauren Conrad, the author.

This isn't to say that these celeb books aren't any good. I've never read them. However, somehow I'm not anticipating a whole lot.

Despite my general annoyance at the celebrity YA trend, I sort of expect that type of thing from Hollywood. However, what really annoys me are the bestselling adult authors who are following the trend as well.

The prime example of this is an adult author whom I actually like very much: James Patterson. I am a big fan of James Patterson. His Alex Cross novels are some of my favorites, especially Roses are Red and Violets are Blue. I'm very influenced by him as a writer, and constantly find myself inspired by his writing style. So, I'm in no way trying to bash James Patterson. I like James Patterson.

But really, he shouldn't be writing young adult fiction.

I recently read The Dangerous Days of Daniel X. Or rather, I should say that I tried to read it. I promise that I did try. I tried several times to suffer through it, but all in all, the whole thing was just ridiculous.

Daniel X is a boy (possibly an alien) who has a wide range of awesome superpowers and goes around the world fighting disgusting alien creatures bent on destroying the world. The premise reads like an 8-year-old boy telling his idea for a short story. It's definitely the sort of thing tween boys would think up.

But it's not the type of thing tween boys should be reading. It's the literary equivalent of a fart joke. It apparently sells well, but when you put it up against something like The Stoneheart Trilogy or The Hunger Games, it pales. The Stoneheart Trilogy is a boy book series for the middle grade/younger YA set, and is just as suspenseful and gripping as any Patterson novel. My whole body would often tense up while reading a Stoneheart book. However, the difference is it doesn't do what Daniel X does from the get-go.

It doesn't insult the reader.

I don't know what Patterson expects from teens. Perhaps he thinks that they lack the ability to appreciate an intricate plot, characters with any depth, or a beautiful and appropriately understated world. Maybe that's why he's written a book that feels, if possible, like a dumbed-down version of Men in Black. Seriously, the fact that kids are buying and reading this book at all is sad, and is a tribute more to the marketing power of the James Patterson brand than to any quality in the book itself.

Please, please, if you're writing YA, remember that teenagers are intelligent, normal people. They aren't five-year-olds looking for books that serve as little more than the flashy light toys my baby girl likes to play with. They want books that relate to what they're going through. That's the difference. If you want to know how to write YA, make your book relatable to teenage life. Don't make it an insult.
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