Before John Green, his general category of realistic (non-fantasy) YA was rife with teen angst and “issues” fiction that you might have associated with the legendary Judy Blume, or with newer writers like Sarah Dessen or Laurie Halse Anderson. Anderson’s classic 1999 novel Speak, about a high schooler struggling to deal with the aftermath of sexual assault, was so influential that three years later Penguin launched an entire imprint named after it. One of the books launched under the behest of Speak was Green’s Looking for Alaska. But it’s Green whose name you’re more likely to know today, not Anderson’s, although Anderson has won more awards and written more books.
On Twitter, Green has 2 million followers. Compared to the rest of the leaders in Young Adult fiction, that number is staggering. To approach even half the Twitter influence of John Green all by himself, you need an entire army of YA women. Anderson, Blume, Dessen, Veronica Roth, Cassandra Clare, Richelle Mead, Margaret Stohl, Kami Garcia, Rainbow Rowell, Maureen Johnson, Malinda Lo, Holly Black, LJ Smith, Ellen Hopkins, Shannon Hale, Lauren Myracle, Libba Bray, Melissa Marr, and Leigh Bardugo: As a group these women only have about 1.2 million followers on Twitter. That’s the voice of one man outweighing several decades of women who have had major successes, critical acclaim, and cultural influence."
aquietrevolutionary: tags » #ya lit #literature #writing #….should i use the tags to talk about john green? #or to shill billie standish was here even futher? #…the latter #OKAY SO ABOUT SPEAK #SPEAK IS ALRIGHT U KNOW #like yeah it got a lot of praise and awards and shit and who knows what the fuck else idek #BUT BILLIE STANDISH WAS HERE #IS SO MUCH BETTER #AND MORE NUANCED AND COMPLEX AND DOESN’T REDUCE THE MAIN CHARACTER TO PURELY VICTIMHOOD #LIKE SPEAK DOES #WHICH I /HATE WITH THE PASSION OF A THOUSAND BURNING SUNS/ #AND IT’S JUST ALL AROUND AMAZING AND #NO #ONE #UNDERSTANDS #i’m so upset #billie standish was here #needs to be the most popular ya book of all time #and it NEVER WILL BE #and I WILL ALWAYS BE ANGRY
haha ok you just got me to go buy a copy of Billie Standish Was Here but I just want to say that I never read the protagonist of Speak as being purely defined by her victimhood. Melinda was an artist and a writer and a good friend and she also was suffering from PTSD. I think a lot of people see her breakthrough moment as the moment she finally manages to scream for help during the second assault, but that’s not really it. The breakthrough is when she starts writing on the bathroom walls. That’s all her, that’s her using her voice in the only way she feels she can. That’s her gathering the strength to start an anonymous support network for all the other girls in her school. That’s the climax of Speak, not the moment she screams for help. To me, that moment gives Melinda agency and also makes her an important touchstone for women in the age of the Internet, which has provided more and more ways for women to be victimized, but also more and more ways for them to speak up and talk back.
I don’t want to say Speak isn’t dated, and Melinda isn’t a perfectly empowered character, but I also think that’s okay.