Friday, May 20, 2011

Trying too hard to be the successful second

The back of Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls touts it as "her most powerfully moving novel since Speak". Fans of young adult fiction will immediately recognize one of the cornerstones in the genre, a book that I often view as revolutionary in the context of young adult literature and an all-around excellent book.

To say that Anderson did not reach the same level of success with her later books as she did with Speak is an understatement. Not because she's an unsuccessful writer - not at all - but because in a lot of senses, her marketing team insists on attempting to equate her books to that first success. On Goodreads, Wintergirls is the second most popular of her novels, and I have to wonder why. Was it the aggressive marketing or is it true that Wintergirls has something about it that makes it reminiscent of Speak?

Both. Most of Anderson's prior books dealt with similar angst-ridden themes, each book looking at different subject matters and in a different way. Until Wintergirls. There Anderson chose a writing style remarkably similar to that in Speak, as well as a narrator whose struggles echoed in tone those of Speak's Melinda. The two girls tell two painful and, yes, even moving stories but they do so in far too similar ways.

It seems to me that the publishers have "marketed" themselves into a corner. By trying so hard to make Wintergirls into the next Speak, they have given it an almost-impossible challenge - to outdo an excellent book, a classic of its genre. By proposing this comparison, I'm almost expected to note the parallels, to the note the stylistic similarities. These don't make the book as good as Speak, though. It makes the book into a wannabe. It's trying too hard. A shame, too, because it's actually not that bad a book...

1 comment:

  1. I don't know why I bought this one instead of Speak although Speak has been on my wish list for more than a year now. I will try and read it first.
    I have the stupid habit of comparing most YA novels to 13 Reasons Why which stays one of the I've read so far.

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