My Young Adult Kryptonite(s): Part One

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cover traps, historical contexts and the insistence of witty banter and glorious one-liners. 

Last week, one conversation dictated our weekly brunch, reducing my friend and I to ridiculous giggles. As aforementioned, we discussed what is most aptly termed Our Kryptonite(s) in YA fiction

Or in plain english, the traits of YA fiction that cripple me, every damn time. 

If you still fail to grasp the idea, allow me enlighten you with a lovely scenario. I mentioned to her that there would be a spinoff title to The Program by Suzanne Young, called The Remedy, scheduled for a 2015 release. Now she was no stranger to my newly arisen distaste for the YA dystopia, and was highly aware of my tragic disappointment to the sequel entitled The Treatment. So it was no surprise when she gave me a disapproving look, sighed and remarked that maybe I was a masochistic reader after all. I feigned offence, naturally, but I knew it was most probably true. At the rate I’ve been going, it most certainly seems to be that way. But I reassured her that it was anything but the storyline that drew me in. Dystopias and I are over, at least for the time being, I said*. 

The thing is, I had caught the common cold of the YA world, that one that you try so hard to evade but always succumb to: the “look-at-me-I’m-damingly-mesmerising” cover. And by no means is this an award winning cover. But just let me explain. 

Above you will find the aforementioned culprit. It’s simplistic. Clean cut and structured. Its alluring power, however, is emitted from two things: red and black

That’s right. I bet you thought I was going to say something lovesick like that beautiful jawline side profile, or that intense, soul-searching glare. Nope, just two simple block colours—one primary, one a shade. 

Over the course of my life, I’ve come to realise a certain reading pattern that I’ve developed. If it falls into one of my culprit categories then there's no rhyme or reason; I'm reading it.

1. The Red and Black Cover 
If a cover has black and red then I’m game. I get so enamoured by such colours and I have no idea why. I’ve deduced that perhaps the black heightens the mystery, emphasising how enticing the book will be, while the stark red just screams “I’m going to be different”. But of course, 9 times out of 10, this formula has failed me. I may be drawn to such books but when they’re read, not a drop of empathy is stirred within me (Case in point: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke).  I’m weary of The Remedy but the part that hates myself is telling me that I want that cover and I want it as room decor (I kid—I’m also curious).

2. Thou shall have history! 
I’m a history buff. My favourite period? The one that lingers between what is categorised loosely as ancient and modern—so think the fall of the Plantagenets, the emergence of the Rennaisance, the Tudors and many different Henrys'. You could most probably sell me anything historically fictional because suddenly I’ll become a historian. That's where I get my knowledge (totally unreliable, I know.)

I like to think of myself as a chameleon; I adapt sufficiently to my surroundings. It’s a terrible habit, but one I can’t seem to shake. In this scenario I do one of two things: 

Case One (i) World Wide Web and I unite as one.

Hit the net. I’m impartial to a good tangent. If I’m reading a book that makes reference to Marie Antoinette’s favourite dog then the world has to pause because before I know it, I’m on google and clicking away, opening a trillion tabs (a horrendous tendency) and dousing myself with the knowledge of Antoinette’s canine preferences. And the sad thing is, for the next two weeks I’m a bloody expert in canines. I can’t shake knowledge until it begins to fall out of a two week leeway.

Case (ii) "Back when I was showing Aristotle a few of my tricks..."*

I spew what seems to be knowledge, but is, in actual fact, minimal in the knowledge department, rich in the nonsense jabber. In this case it would seem that I have the general gist of things. It makes me sound relatively credible. 

But honestly, who knows the veracity of my comments. I’m most probably spinning things around based on a crux of truth. And unfortunately for others, more often than not, it makes sense, in an odd way. They question themselves (and I hope they never care enough to prove me wrong haha!) 

Lets get tangential for a moment: 

*Case (ii) is certainly not exclusive to history. A friend and I made the rounds at an art exhibition the other day. We’re both complete and utter novices with barely any knowledge of technique. But heck, that wasn’t going to stop us. Here we were, lips pursed, fingers tapping chin in that quintessential scholarly manner. We became well-renown critics of art. I distinctly remember phrases such as: 

“I’m not sure I like the way the light hits her face. It’s too artificial. I want to feel.” 

“I love the crisp criss-cross action. What an art form. But I’m not too keen on the three dimensional application.” 

“I think I’m getting the essence of this. The chin juts in and the eyes are soulless; a perfect encapsulation.” 

Don’t judge me. As we walked out, I was caught by the hilarity of the situation. I turned to her and uttered, “You do realise what a bunch of phoneys we sounded like. We’re critiquing art as though we mentored Picasso and curated the MET”. 

Granted we weren’t alone, she reassured me. The room was jittering with a populace that had, up until that moment, an undiscovered knack for critiquing art works. It was contagious. 

3. Witty Banter and those One Lines 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If a book has realistically funny lines and a good flow of banter then it has merit (in my books, at the very least). Humour really does a book miracles (and conversations too!). Books that are dense, going nowhere, or have lost/or forgotten their plot could do well to know this. Hilarity is universal; we all enjoy laughter (or at least I hope we do). 

It doesn’t take much. True one liners may be an art form, but flowing banter can be taught or at the very least, mirrored. Take inspiration from daily life, from conversations that saturate us, from our very own human interactions. Laughter doesn’t come in explicit “laugh, I’m funny” lines. You could shake it up with some sarcasm, naivety or pure dramatisation. 

So to those who skimp on the funny, I’m onto you. Don’t excuse yourself. Laughter is medicine. 

After my tangental spew of thoughts, I want to know what you think. I’m not a sucker for a premise alone—covers will be the death of me and history will condemn me to tragically long and dense reads. But I enjoy them either way, no matter how many traps I fall into.

*In which I mean that after a tragic year of labouring away at a major work involving dystopias, I'd grown to expect a bitter taste in my mouth at the mention.

Care to share your kryptonite(s)? I want to know what your book weaknesses are. 


  1. This post was hysterical and SO on point!

    I'm a major sucker when it comes to covers. I just like the look of them, and it's often what draws me in completely. Unfortunately, the outside beauty does not always filter onto the pages. :/ I'm also a huge sucker for red and black covers, or covers that make a statement. I'm particularly prone to darker Gothic covers, or covers with beautiful dresses or amazing typography. IT'S DANGEROUS I TELL YOU.

    Ah, historical fiction is what I love, but unfortunately there isn't much out there that I REALLY love. It's hard for me to find good historical fiction because a lot of times there are heavy paranormal influences, or the writer didn't do any research, or the storyline itself I really prefer historical fiction that screams I AM A PIECE OF HISTORY DAMN IT. Does that make sense? (Yikes, this comment is everywhere lol)

    I. Love. Banter. I love when the characters in a book have witty one liners, no matter how cheesy they may be. I'm just a sucker for something that makes me smile or just outright laugh. I don't understand writers who don't bother to throw in a character with funny tendencies. Don't they understand that that is the BEST character in the book most of the time?! Ugh. C'mon.

    I suppose my kryptonite would have to be bad ass heroines. If she's kicking ass and taking names, I want in. Also: slow burn romance. Sometimes I even like love triangles, but those I'm picky about. The bad boy trope gets me too sometimes, ashamed as I am to admit it.

    1. OMG THOSE DRESSES. I ALWAYS LOOSE MY SENSE OF GOOD STORY/ DUD STORY WHEN I SEE A FLOWY/VIBRANT DRESS D: And then the cover turns out to be the only thing the story has going and I just end up seeing read =_=

      I love laughing. If I can crack just a teeny weeny smile or let loose a chuckle then the book has done something right. I feel as though we've had a moment LOL

      Oh ma gah, YES. I love a badass heroine and totally appreciate how they seem to be popping up everywhere now :D It definitely means a happy Jess.

      Don't worry. I fall for the bad boy trope too. Every. Single. Time. (Someone hold me back.)

  2. Hahaha. I can't even type right now as I'm laughing at how accurate and amazing this post is!

    I share with you the kryptonite of history and witty banter...and I'll also have to "bad boys," though I'm ashamed to admit triangles are a guilty pleasure of mine too, though I'm picky about them...I also love sassy and awkward heroines.

    1. Huzzzaah! Thank youuuu.

      Sass. I love sass. I could read an entire novel based on sass (I may eat my words later LOL)

      But I feel you on the bad boys. I loose a little bit of rationality when the bad boy enters the frame. It's terrible. I've got to do something about that hahaha.

      My preference in love triangles is just downright confusing. I know I don't like them, in most cases, but there are those exceptions. And even then, I've got a criteria (I'm saving that one for a future post where I'll just pour out the rest weaknesses :D)

  3. I just love this post. :)

    I have a huge weakness for book covers...and that may seem cliché but, really, whatever the rating, if the book has a drop dead gorgeous cover, I will read it. Also, I rarely buy books that don't have a pretty cover. It's an obssession...or maybe I just like pretty things.

    And fantasy. I have a big weakness for fantasy...I could read it all day. =) Like some people could read only contemporary during their whole life, I can do that with fantasy.

    I don't really like bad boys...but it depends I guess.

    Nice answers!!

    1. *high five* I feel as though covers will end me. I always fall for them. Pretty things just have this magnetic force surrounding them.

      Omg, I love fantasy. Girl, you're right. We're book soul mates. I could read fantasy forever.

  4. Hahaha, this post was so well-written and so hilarious! I completely understand your points. My biggest - and maybe weirdest? - book kryptonite is a book that has a textured cover. I just love feeling it. I don't care what the content is, if the book feels nice in my hands, I'm buying it, lol.

    As for genres... fantasy. But not just any fantasy - those big, epic tomes of fantasy where one book takes about 3,000 pages to get through... ahhhh, I just love that, lol.

    Jules @ The Book of Jules

    1. Aw thank you!

      Oooh textured covers? I love myself a matte cover. I have no idea why. They get dirty extremely easily but...they just feel so good, if that makes any sense LOL

      Oooh, I haven't read an epic fantasy like that since...well forever. But I do plan on getting to some Sanderson in my near future so I'm super excited about that!

  5. Witty banter is my favourite thing. IF A BOOK HAS NO BANTER IT GETS THROWN IN THE BIN. Well, okay, maybe not. But it gets a stern glare from me

  6. Everything with a fairytale mention/vibe makes me excited. I also love words as 'magic, princess, castle' and I want to read all the fantasy books in the world. When it comes to covers, I adore illustrations/artwork, pretty dresses (yup.. can't ignore those) and simplistic ones with pretty colors.

    1. Ooooh yes, the word castle always hooks me. I love stories with royalty!

      I get sucked into pretty dresses, all the time. The amount of dud things I've read because of those fab dresses...

  7. I love light pastel colors on my covers. Like Fangirl, Let the Sky Fall, or Hallowed. It's my krypton item for sure. I also like historical fiction with either Ancient Roman and Greek timelines or Regency era ones, oh and I can't forget Middle Grade magic fantasy novels, ahhh no matter how similar they are I have to indulge periodically :)

    1. Oh yes! I have such a soft spot for pastel covers. I've seen people with red cover editions of Fangirl but I think, whyyyy? You know? I mean, the mint is just so pretty!

      I love Regency historical fiction. (& I always cave and read those "P&P" spinoffs/continuations/what ifs)

  8. Bwahahahaha. I am inlove with this post. We all have our bookish kryptonites. I got to admit that it's really rare for a book cover to sway me into picking up a book. Perhaps, the saying "Don't judge the book by its cover" has been ingrained into me deeply. And hala, unlike you, history would certainly make me hesitate to read a book. I know... I know... But I can't help it. I never liked history classes so when it comes to reading, I also avoid books that are about or related to historical events.

    Here are my bookish weaknesses:

    1. Retellings- If I know that the book is a fairy tale retelling, then expect me to buy it immediately.
    2. Dragons- LOL!
    3. Witches/Wizards/Warlocks- My fascination with magic will never end.
    4. Books that are written by fav authors- If an author is a favorite, I don't care whether the book belongs to my preferred genre, I will immediately get it. And even if I already have this gut feeling that the book will not work for me, I will still get it. J.K Rowling's The Casual Vacancy does not belong to my preferred genre but I still bought and read it. It was meh. Lauren Oliver's Panic was pure crap and it also didn't belong to my preferred genre but still picked it up because I do love Lauren. But I might have to change that in the future. :D

    Lovely discussion, Jess!

    1. Thanks Charlotte! <33

      I'm caught with the same addiction to all things magical. If something new pops up, I'm on it like donkey kong (sorry, that sounds better irl LOL). But I just can't resist it. Sometimes I read them out of pure hope that they'll inspire the same sensation that I got from HP xD

      Favourite authors will doom me. I just feel like we expect so much but...well not everything works :( I was planning on reading Panic sometime before the end of the year, but perhaps I should put that off...

  9. The fall of the Plantagenets?! OHMYGAH! That's one of my favorite periods too :D I've bought so many books about the War of the Roses and the Plantagenets and the Lancasters. I've only read a handful of them though. I just kind of buy them all and eventually I'll get around to reading them...

    1. *high five* HORRAARYY SOMEONE WHO UNDERSTANDS ME! I collect them as well. I'm telling myself that by the time I grow old, I'm bound to make a dent xD

  10. I love how you are totally honest about the red and black covers - I love covers with beautiful typography as well and of course there is no rhyme or reason to it. I also have a thing for books with girls in dresses. Why? I have no clue. Witty banter is definitely entertaining, so you have a great reason there.

    1. Beautiful typography can really sell me...a lot of things xD I've got to condition myself out of that LOL

      Don't worry. I'm caught by those beautiful dresses too. And when those dress covers are different textures, I'm just sold.

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  12. Haha, great post!

    Like you, I'm a huge cover junkie when I come across a cover that has like silvery grey with a person on it (take for example, Cassandra Clare's books). The silvery grey just gives off that LOOK like "come on, you want to open me, I know." They're just so beautiful!! Also because they kind of makes me think of fantasy and dystopian for some reason and I'd give anything for a good dystopian + romance + fantasy book :)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog Jess!

    Olivia @ Fictionally Obsessed

    1. That's the same sensation I get when I chance upon those red and black covers xD

      Oooh that just seems like the perfect combination! Sadly, I'm still on the lookout for a book that ticks all three boxes.

  13. One liners-YES, I have an incurable weakness for a witty hero/heroine. Humor can totally make or break for me.
    Also yes, covers can be misleading too. *sign*

    Love the post!

    1. Thank you! :D

      Wittiness speaks to my soul. I want more protagonists' who practice the art!

  14. Oh man, I am the worst with covers. My grabby hands tend to click 'buy' on a book before I even realise what I'm doing because I become so absorbed by a book's cover. But other than that, a witty synopsis and a kickass heroine/hero will also do the trick for me as well. But too often I've been let down when they blurb portrays them as strong-willed but they get distracted easily by a hot romantic interest. Ergh. I notice I tend to avoid books that focus heavily on the romance unless they're specific fluff pieces. Wonderful post Jess x

    1. Thanks Joy!

      Oh I know the disappointment of a supposedly strong-willed character all too well. At this rate, I'm getting tricked at least twice a month xD

      Book covers will just doom us all. They're so mesmerising *_______* I'm still waiting on the day where I get tricked into a book with a beautiful cover, only to find out that the book in itself is beautiful. One day, one day...

  15. Red and Black IS a nice color combination! I think my cover kryptonite involves swirling scripts and I DIE for romances that are "Hate you, oh wait, I LOVE YOU." Seriously.

    Amber Elise @Du Livre

    1. I adore typography as well :D

      And I definitely second your sentiments on that type of romance. I always, always fall for the initial dislike turn "I understand you" thing. I just can't help it. Most of my favourite romances begin with initial hate LOL

  16. I know EXACTLY what you mean about wanting to read a new book even if you were disappointed by a previous one! Especially when the cover is so awesome! That happened to me with The Selection. I wanted it when I heard the Publishers Weekly write-up about the deal and had super-high expectations that the book couldn't meet. So I want to try again now that all three are out. And those COVERS! Ahh, and it happened with MATCHED, too. First book was good, second was BLARGH, and yet I continued on for the conclusion, and you know what? REACHED was the best of the three! So it could happen. I hope it's like that with THE REMEDY for you! I also like how you notice you gravitate toward black and red covers. That intrigues me! Have you ever seen the hardcover of THROAT by R.A. Nelson? It's a thing of beauty. And I groan when I hear vampires, but I read that one because they were evil, not sexy, and the girl suffered from epilepsy. But the cover is what really got me!

    1. I'm with you on The Selection. That one and I just didn't work out :/ But I hope that your second time round proves to be a better one!

      I loved your Matched story! It's always the best when you finally make it to the end and all your expectations are fulfilled. And it just makes everything all the more worth it because you trudged through a dud one and end up with something great!

      Ps. You're dangerous for me :b I just checked out that cover....and I'm a little reeled in xD

      Thank you for stopping by ^_^ ~

  17. Hahahah, you're post is so funny. I'm with you with the history thing. I don't know why, but I'm really hooked on anything involving monarchy. Covers aren't something I'm truly careful about. But of course, a nice cover will always attract me more than a dull one.

    My kryptonites, the thing I can't resist are:

    -Political intrigues, (I'm a sucker for that one) I'm here for ambitious lords who want to snatch the throne away from the rightful (or not so rightful) heir. That's why A Clash Of Kings by George R. R. Martin is one of my favorite books.

    -Realism. Life isn't a walk in the park. Your problems don't magically solve themselves. I like it authors who aren't afraid to build a story in a "darker" world when we usually see in books. Again that's the reason why I enjoy George R. R. Martin.

    - Magic. That's an obvious one. At heart, I'm still that little who wished she would turn into a Sailor and save the world just like Sailor Moon (I said it and I'm not ashamed, lol)

    - Steamy romance. You know these scenes between a guy and a girl that makes you be like "Awww" or "Kyaaaaa" because the alchemy between the two of them is flagrant. Well, I want these type of scene like crazy, lol. But in order to win me over, the Relationship must realistic.

    By the way could you tell me where you found the gif in your post. I would lke to incorporate gifs in some of mine, but I'm not sure where I could download some legally.

    1. There's just something about monarchal stories, right?

      I am with you on the realism, girl! It aches at me when things are just solved so easily with a plot device because I think, "Really? Is that how you really think it's going to end in real life?!" I'm glad I have a comrade :D

      I LOVE SAILOR MOON AS WELL! *high five* Are you watching the new remake?

      Mine are found through tumblr! Thanks for popping by, Carla!! <33

    2. Thanks for telling me! I'll check out tumblr then.

      I don't know why, but there's something truly fascinating about monarchy.

      "Really? Is that how you really think it's going to end in real life?!" That's exactly what I think! And most often than not I add some eye rollling and some sights, lol.

      I haven't actually watched the remake because I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the original. Did you watch it?

    3. I watched all 200 episodes of the original Jap version and absolutely adored that. And well, I grew up on the dubbed version so I felt this nostalgic pull towards the new version. For old time's sake, I told myself. It's actually very good. I mean, the drawing is a bit off at times (but what should I know because I draw heinous pictures) but overall, it's fantastic. I haven't read the manga but everyone says that it's much more true to the original story. You should check it out though!

  18. I finished reading the manga in a day a couple of years ago and I loved it. I think it's even better than the anime. I'll try to catch up with the new version.

    1. Do catch up! The new anime is quite enjoyable :)

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