When Established Writers Venture A Little Too Far…

Okay, it’s been a little while since we’ve hung out together. I’ve been a bit busy trying to keep life from getting the best of me. Right now I’ve got too many irons in the fire as they say, but that’s a story for a different time.

Here’s what’s currently on my mind: I finished a YA (young adult, in case you’ve forgotten) book earlier this evening, and I just have to write about it. And, no, I’m not fired up in a good way, in case you’re wondering. The book I’m referring to is a fairly recent work by James Patterson of Alex Cross fame. You know: Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider, Women’s Murder Club, and most recently Kill Alex Cross. I mean, surely that last title rings a bell; you’ve probably seen his commercials for it a few hundred times by now.

I’ve not read these books, but I did see the movies made from the first two titles, and I thought they were pretty good. My husband recently read Kill Alex Cross and LOVED it. My husband doesn’t read for fun very often, so for him to say he LOVED a book, well, that’s saying something. Even as an adult he’s a reluctant reader, so this is a BIG DEAL!!

Oh my, how I’ve digressed. Thanks for sticking with me. The book I’m talking about is Witch and Wizard. While I’m not  wild about the inside of the book, I think the cover art is AMAZING!

EVERYTHING. CHANGES. NOW.

You are holding an urgent and vital narrative that reveals the forbidden truth about our perilous times….

This is the astonishing testimonial of Wisty and Whit Allgood, a sister and brother who were torn from their family in the middle of the night, slammed into prison, and accused of being a witch and a wizard. Thousands of young people have been kidnapped; some have been accused; many others remain missing. Their fate is unknown, and the worst is feared—for the ruling regime will stop at nothing to suppress life and liberty, music and books, art and magic…and the pursuit of being a normal teenager

http://www.jamespatterson.com/books_witchAndWizard.php

When I first read the synopsis for this book, I thought it sounded pretty good. I like a good dystopian novel and thought this one had great potential based on this synopis and the reputation of James Patterson. I was disappointed.

I think for a middle school student who hasn’t quite figured out what really good writing looks like, this would be a good little book to read. Don’t get me wrong, the book was okay, and I would recommend it to my middle school students. I’ll probably even read the other books in the series (maybe) so I can answer questions or talk about these books with students who show any interest.

BUT, it seems to me that Patterson has chosen to stick his fingers in the YA pot without having fully developed his YA chops. As a writer of YA fiction, and as an adult who really enjoys reading a well written YA book, this is both disappointing and, well, not acceptable for a writer of Patterson’s caliber. I don’t think he realizes that teens expect to read well written books and can spot a stinker when they see one. I think Patterson has severely underestimated his audience here and should maybe stick to writing for adults. Or, if he is going to continue writing for a young adult audience, he may want to do  some research and read some of the outstanding YA lit that is currently already out there. (Hint, hint)

To be fair, the book is co-authored by Gabrielle Charbonnet (who writes for younger readers), so Patterson only bears part of the responsibility here.

Here’s what I didn’t like about the book: while the plot was fast paced, it was only because the chapters are short and Patterson used that neat little trick of ending a short chapter in the middle of the action, creating mini-cliffhangers. I don’t really like this trick, as it tries to hide mediocre writing. I also found the book to be full of cliches and cookie-cutter characters who weren’t very well developed and who were just too predictable. I really hope the subsequent books improve.

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