Pinterest Is Great for Blog Traffic–But Also for Negative Comments

Introduction

In January 2019, I declared that learning how to use Pinterest to actually get blog traffic would be one of my goals. In 2018, Pages Unbound had only received about 500 page views from Pinterest clicks, and I thought I could do better. I posted about my journey and various tricks and tips I learned throughout 2019, and by the end of the year, I concluded my experiment was a success: I had increased our page views from Pinterest by 1600% to over 8000. 2020 looks on track to be an even better year for us in terms of Pinterest (perhaps partially because lockdown measures mean people are spending more time at home online). In the middle of May, we already have roughly 7,000 page views from Pinterest.

Suffice to say, I am (finally) a believer that book blogs can get a significant amount of traffic from Pinterest, and I’ve been extolling the platform’s virtues for over a year because of it. In mid-May, our page views from Pinterest are, in fact, almost equal to our page views from the WordPress reader, which has always been our second-largest source of traffic after search engines. Pinterest can be powerful.

As I increase my reach on Pinterest, however, I’ve begun to notice the site can also be negative. While the bookish community–on blogs, Twitter, Bookstagram, etc.–tends to be overwhelmingly supportive and positive, Pinterest users outside of the community seem to feel more anonymous and empowered to post rude comments.

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Receiving Negative Comments

In about the 10 days before I started drafting this post, I’ve received two explicitly rude comments on Pinterest. That’s not a lot–but it’s basically equal to the number of rude comments Krysta and I have received on our blog posts in NINE YEARS of blogging.

First, boomer jay decided that Krysta’s post talking about the women in Shakespeare’s work was a waste of time:

Then, Callie decided my pin about how all (ok, half) of the mothers in YA books are dead was “a piece of crap:”

I say she decided the pin was garbage, not the blog post, because it’s clear that neither boomer jay nor Callie clicked on the pin to read the actual post/content; they were being snarky purely based on the title of the pin. When I replied explaining the content of the posts, boomer jay of course did not answer because he simply does not care about women in literature. Callie sort of apologized.

I’ve also received snarky comments on other pins in the past. For example, one person was upset that one of my Lord of the Rings name generators asked readers to use the “first letter of their middle name” because “not everyone has a middle name.” Fair enough. Not everyone has a middle name, but it’s a silly fan-made name generator. One could just use their first name and move on, rather than leaving an aggrieved comment about it.

So why do people leave rude comments on Pinterest and not (usually) on my blog?

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Why People Leave Negative Comments–Or Not

Callie’s original comment and her subsequent apology highlight one of the reasons commenters might be more negative on Pinterest: they don’t feel any particular connection to the person posting the content. “Who made this piece of crap?” is a bizarre question to ask when Callie could have easily seen that I (the Pages Unbound account) posted the pin AND the pin is linked to content on…the Pages Unbound web site. Perhaps she meant to address her comment to the world at large, but the actual recipient was me, the creator of the “piece of crap.” Either she didn’t realize this, or she simply didn’t care.

This may because Pinterest feels large and anonymous in the way the book blogosphere (or book Twitter or Bookstagram) does not. Pinterest seems to think of itself as a social media site, but most people don’t use it that way. Most people don’t “know” or routinely interact with other Pinterest users, so they may not seem fully human. This is in contract to the book blogging community, which can be tight-knit and which provides more opportunity for people to repeatedly interact and develop some sort of relationship. I know who the most active commenters on my blog are, and I assume they believe they know something about me and think of me as an actual person, not some faceless entity. (Though, to be fair, Krysta and I seem to be in the minority of book bloggers in that we literally do not post pictures of our faces!)

People might also feel more anonymous themselves on Pinterest than in the blogging community, and research suggests that anonymity is a key factor in cyberbullying. People who are fully anonymous are more likely to be mean online than people who have even just a username (something like PinkCupcakes12). People who use their actual names online and the least anonymous are the least likely to be mean online.

Pinterest users might use their actual name or a username, but either way there is still more anonymity there than on a blog since, as I mentioned, the site doesn’t really function as social media even when it wants to. I, frankly, have no idea who most Pinterest users are, and the web site doesn’t really make me want to know. This is in contrast to the blogosphere, where people know me and I know them. If I started going around commenting on other book blogs with things like, “Wow, this is a really stupid post” or “Your review is terrible,” word would get around. People would not like me and probably would stop following my blog. There’s some accountability to be civil in the blogosphere that doesn’t really exist on Pinterest.

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Does the Negativity Matter?

Frankly, I laughed a bit when I saw the most recent negative comments I have received on Pinterest. I don’t know these people, and I don’t really care what they think–especially when they never actually read the posts they were being snarky about. I did reply them in hopes they might think harder in the future before leaving dismissive comments for other people. Who made this piece of crap? I made a point of replying that “I did,” so it would be clear that real people were seeing the comments, and they are NOT just directed to the world in general.

So I’m not particularly offended by the comments, but I do want to draw attention to this one possible downside of using Pinterest. Receiving these comments, particularly just a few days apart, reminded me of how positive the book blogging community really is, and I’m grateful for that now more than ever. This was just a stark reminder that not every corner of the Internet is positive, uplifting, or even just neutral. (I’m sure there are people who dislike my blog posts, but they very nicely close the page and don’t tell me about it!)

I’m still a big advocate for using Pinterest if you want to find ways to draw more traffic to your blog posts and expand your readership–but it comes with the caveat that not everyone in that potential new readership will be polite. I mostly try not to read comments on Pinterest, and I recommend that approach if you like to keep your days positive.

Briana

The Trouble with Amy Pond: Reflections on Series 5 of Doctor Who

Major spoilers for Series Five ahead!

Christopher Eccleston was my first Doctor. And David Tennant became my favorite. I was sorry when Russell T. Davies left Doctor Who as showrunner because he had introduced me to a TV series that celebrated the best in humanity and encouraged them to look to the stars–for adventure, for wonder, for hope. Still, I was excited to see what Steven Moffat would do with the show. His episodes “Blink,” “Silence in the Library,” and “Forest of the Dead” were some of my favorites. I appreciated the tight storytelling, the suspense, the drama. What could he do with an entire season?

Series 5 of Doctor Who is undeniably more dramatic than previous seasons. It moves away from the campy and feels more like a big-budget production. Even the CGI looks better. But it’s not all show. The storytelling is tight and the characters have real, emotional moments. There’s just one glaring issue I have with the season: Amy Pond.

Amy Pond never feels like real character to me. Even though she has issues and insecurities, even though she can be brave and clever, she always feels like some sort of cardboard character who runs around following the Doctor mainly because someone writing the show thinks she’s sexy. I can never really understand what she is thinking or why she is acting certain ways because she weirdly toggles between acting childlike and being overly sexualized, as if that’s some sort of turn-on for someone: “innocence” combined with repeated references to her sexual appetites.

I’m not opposed to having sexy characters onscreen or woman who admit they like sex. However, Amy’s choices do not really feel like Amy’s. They feel like a male writer’s. Adult Amy is introduced to viewers in a “sexy police officer” outfit and she spends the rest of the season wearing short shorts and mini skirts, even when it is supposed to be cold. She says her job is a “kiss-o-gram”–that is, she goes to parties and kisses people–which basically sounds like it’s supposed to be a family-friendly version of a prostitute (Doctor Who is a family show). Then, weirdly, she spends the next few seasons acting childlike, being friends with the Doctor, saving planets and worlds with her good heart. All until the out-of-left-field moment where she sexually assaults the Doctor.

Let’s be clear. If Amy were male and the Doctor were female, the scene in which Amy repeatedly throws the Doctor against the TARDIS and tries to rip off his clothing while he protests and tries to run away would be read as an attempted rape. However, the show plays it off for laughs. Or maybe it’s supposed to be a turn-on. I’m not really sure. I just know that Amy’s sexuality was basically non-existent since her kiss-o-gram debut, until it’s revealed here in a very tasteless and uncomfortable scene. Amy and the Doctor had, until this point, seemed like the very best of friends, with Amy consistently relying on him in a childlike manner–all in keeping with the “fairy tale” vibes the season wants to give. Suddenly, she’s got the hots for the Doctor.

Her feelings for the Doctor will come up sporadically after this scene. For example, in the episode “Amy’s Choice,” the Dream Lord presents Amy, Rory (her fiance), and the Doctor with two realities and asks them to identify the dream one or be killed. He mentions Amy’s naughty dreams. Then he repeatedly asks her to choose: Rory or the Doctor. This is particularly weird because one reality has Amy and Rory married, with Amy expecting a child. (The repeated references to her size are, by the way, incredibly sexist.) In another episode, the beginning of the season finale, the Doctor makes a reference to how much trouble they can get in with Amy surrounded by a bunch of hot Roman soldiers. Her sexuality is constantly discussed (and mocked), even though it sort of seems at odds with how Karen Gillan typically chooses to play the character.

The two sides of Amy’s character–innocence and sexuality–never fully seem integrated or resolved. This, of course, raises the issue of whether sex should really be read as the opposite of innocence. In creating a disjunction between the two sides of Amy, the show (perhaps inadvertently) casts sex as potentially something bad. Yet it simultaneously is clearly trying to use Amy’s sexuality as a way to hook viewers. The result is not a character, but a mess.

Amy Pond just doesn’t resonate as a companion the way Rose, Martha, and Donna did. She has Rory, yes, but otherwise she seems to have no family, no background, no life. We do not even know how she and Rory started dating or engaged–which I would like to know, since I am consistently baffled by Rory’s obvious devotion to Amy when she treats him like dirt and runs after other men, even trying to snog the Doctor in the bushes on her wedding day! Amy has nothing grounding her and this makes it difficult to figure out who she really is or what she wants. (Well, even Amy doesn’t know what she wants.) Her main dilemma throughout the series is her impending marriage, which, once again, focuses everything around her love life. But Amy Pond could be so much more.

Whom does Amy care about? What does she want to do in life? Who does she want to be? These are questions the show never clearly asks. Instead, Amy’s character is all over the place, allowing her to be whoever and whatever the plot demands. And a lot of the time what the plot demands seems to be little more than a young woman in short shorts.

I love Doctor Who. It’s one of my favorite shows. And I want to love Amy. But I can’t help but feel that her character deserved so much more than what she was given.

What do you think? Do you like Amy in series five?

Why I Still Want to Read “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The initial reactions to the news that Suzanne Collins would be releasing a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy were enthusiastic, even 12 years after The Hunger Games first came out. Then came the summary. Suddenly, fans who had been excited to get their hands on a new Hunger Games book were disappointed to learn that that book would focus on Coriolanus Snow–the infamous president of Panem–as a teenager. No would really wants to read about the teenage years of a villain, do they?

After reading the summary, I experienced my own sense of disappointment and shock. President Snow works very well as an antagonist for Katniss. He’s as well-polished as he is contemptible, and you cannot help but feel some admiration for his craftiness even as you despise what he is doing. He is, in short, just the kind of villain readers love to hate. Did the world really need a look at his formative years? Are we going to be asked to feel sorry for him? Should we feel sorry for him? And, if we do, how could that affect our reading of The Hunger Games? Despite having initial doubts myself, I ultimately concluded that I trust Suzanne Collins’ storytelling ability and I am willing to give The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes a chance.

Stories that seek to rehabilitate or simply make villains human are not totally unheard of in YA literature. Marissa Meyer’s Heartless, a look at the Queen of Hearts as a teenager, is perhaps one of the most well-known attempts. Still, I think the news that Snow would feature as a protagonist in a prequel has some fans worried that we may be asked to sympathize with a character we have come to hate–and, thus, in some sense, we will be asked to jeopardize our values or rewrite our understanding of what was happening in The Hunger Games. Being asked to rewrite your worldview can feel a little threatening–and it may seem unnecessary in this case, when no one seemed to be asking for a prequel 12 years after the fact. But I don’t think Collins is going to give us a simplistic story arc that says, “Hey, look, Snow used to be good. You should really like him now.”

Collins’ storytelling in the original Hunger Games trilogy is quite sophisticated and nuanced. The whole point of the series is that there seems to be no black-and-white in this world gone mad. Katniss, a teenager who routinely breaks the law to survive, is now being asked to kill other children and teens if she wants to see her family again. Collins tries to make Katniss as likeable as possible by making many of her kills indirect or accidental–yet the fact remains that Katniss has blood on her hands. She is transformed by the Games into something dark, something people who were not in the Games can never fully understand. Katniss, our hero, is far from being the typical savior of a dystopian world. She’s not the “good guy” fighting the “bad guys.” She’s a girl trying to survive.

I have no reason to believe that this moral complexity will be lost in a Hunger Games prequel, or even any reason to believe that we are supposed to like or cheer on teenage Snow. The summary indicates that Snow is concerned in this book with reviving the reputation of his family name by “outwitting” and “outmaneuvering” others to become a successful mentor in the Games. Snow is invested in the Games and he is invested because his personal interests are at stake. He hardly sounds like some innocent angel readers are supposed to love. Indeed, I rather suspect the real “hero,” if there can be one, will be the unnamed female tribute from District 12 whom Snow must mentor to victory–not for her sake, but for his.

I think the complexity of this book may well indeed be a result of how it resonates with the original Hunger Games trilogy. Snow, once again, is being matched with a female tribute from District 12 and being asked to use his wits to win a game that will determine his own fate. However, while the original trilogy showed us a survivor whom we could root for, a survivor who tried to hold on to whatever humanity she had left, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes seems likely to show us the reverse image: a teenager who sacrifices his soul to win the Games. I don’t think we are supposed to like Snow or even feel sorry for him. I think we are supposed to compare him to Katniss, and see how badly he loses the game, in the end.

What is the cost of survival? And are you willing to pay the price? These are the questions I think The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will continue to ask. I trust Suzanne Collins to deliver another sophisticated and nuanced novel. And so, I will be reading the prequel.

Why The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Is My Favorite Work by the Brontë Sisters

Classic Remarks

What Is Classic Remarks?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

How Can I Participate?

Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)

This Week’s Prompt:

Which of the Brontë sisters’ works is your favorite?

In 1848, the publication of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall shocked Victorian society. The plot follows young Helen Grahan as she marries Arthur Huntingdon, a rake she imagines she can reform through her love. As Arthur descends into increased debauchery, however, publicly cheating on his wife and teaching their young son to drink, Helen realizes she has to make a bid for independence in order to save her son from following in his father’s footsteps.

Anne’s depictions of alcoholism and adultery were more than critics could stomach. After Anne’s early death, Charlotte prevented The Tenant of Wildfell Hall from being republished, saying that the themes did not reflect her gentle sister’s true nature–though Anne surely knew the dark side of human nature well, as Arthur Huntingdon’s arc is probably based upon Branwell Brontë’s own struggle with addiction. Charlotte’s suppression of her sister’s work is a move some now see as a major reason Anne’s literary reputation fell even as Emily and Charlotte’s rose.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is arguably, however, more radical and more visionary than either of Emily or Charlotte’s work. Both Emily and Charlotte have a tendency to make “bad boys” attractive. Anne, however, shows what a marriage to a bad man could really look like. But she also argues that, when one’s life or soul is in danger, a woman has the right to leave. In this sense, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall can be read as a feminist work that was truly ahead of its time.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, however, has some ambiguity about it that makes the story more fascinating than even an outright manifest of female independence. For example, Helen’s story of her life, told through her diary entries, is framed by the letters of Gilbert Markham, a would-be suitor. Why did Anne chose to Helen’s voice by a man’s? And is the ending really a happily-ever-after, or is Helen still constrained by social mores and the patriarchy? These questions do not have clear-cut answers.

I love The Tenant of Wildfell Hall because it is a more daring work than anything her sisters wrote. Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Villette all make controlling, domineering, and even violent men look attractive. They are romances tinged with a hint of the fantastical–the idea that men who are good at hurting women might be good lovers. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall has the courage to shout that women deserve better, and that they have the right to control their own destinies. It dares to question society, and the laws that keep women trapped in unhealthy or even dangerous marriages. Anne has been depicted by history as a meek, spiritual lamb, but her book shows her to be a lion.

My Journey with Doctor Who Begins–Again: A Reflection

I first fell in love with Doctor Who when I saw reruns of series one with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. I was drawn to the adventure and to wonder, as well as to the emotional depth I found in the Doctor. Eccleston played him as bitter and angry, but slowly changing as a nineteen-year-old human taught him to see the good in people once again. David Tennant continued that emotional journey, adding even more complexity as audiences watched him struggle with the reality of making friends, only to lose them repeatedly. Was their loss all his fault? Was he a truly a hero or had he been the monster all along?

David Tennant is my favorite Doctor precisely because of the emotion intensity he brings to the role. Even though Doctor Who is a space and time travel adventure, at its heart, it has always been about the relationships. The Doctor finds travelling companions because he is lonely, but also because he is constantly surprised and impressed by how resilient, brave, and kind humanity can be at its best. His belief in humans is arguably what often brings out their best. They want to live up to the vision he has of them.

I am drawn to the hope inherent in the show by virtue of the Doctor’s belief in the best of the humanity. But I also am moved by how that hope is so often tempered by the Doctor’s self-doubt. He exults in the danger and the adventure of saving worlds, but he has to recognize, at the end of the day, that that same danger hurts people he cares about. People who would have never been in danger if he had not brought them there. The riddle of the Doctor is that he loves life-threatening situations and that he somehow makes other people love it, too. He delights in things that scare the average person.

Characters in Doctor Who often express anger and disgust that he seems to be enjoying their peril. But the Doctor never loves that people are in danger. He loves being in situations where he can discover new things–meet new life forms, witness an event never before seen. And he manages to share that joy and wonder not only with his companions, but also with audiences. Many sci-fi shows present aliens as the enemy. And there are plenty of dangerous, violent aliens in Doctor Who. But Doctor Who also suggests that there can be a world where humans and aliens live side-by-side learning from each other and sharing the stars.

When David Tennant left the show along with executive produce Russell T. Davies, I was sad. They had created a TV series that repeatedly urged viewers to think of life as a grand adventure, with something wonderful always to be discovered. I had hopes for Steven Moffat’s takeover, though. I had enjoyed his writing on episodes like “Blink” and “Silence in the Library” and thought he would make an excellent showrunner.

As time went on, however, Moffat’s writing made me lose interest in Doctor Who. The way he seemed to try to make the bulk of his female characters “sexy” bothered me, as did the fact that his Doctors seemed to chose his companions, not because they were ordinary individuals who could prove themselves extraordinary–think Donna the temp using her secretarial skills to solve mysteries and type at speed to save the world–but because they were “special.” The girl with a crack in her bedroom and the universe in her head. The Impossible Girl. You couldn’t be anyone travelling with the Doctor anymore. You had to be a girl with a mysterious past who was going to prove to be a major plot point.

Additionally, the female characters under Moffat’s reign so often seemed more like cardboard cut-outs written to suit the plot, more than they seemed like actual people with lives, families, and backgrounds. It was difficult for me to understand who they were as characters because that would change from episode to episode. And their sexuality was repeatedly emphasized in ways that were uncomfortable, like that was one of their main selling points as a character, rather than their bravery or their cleverness or their kindness.

I stopped watching Doctor Who sometime during series seven. I tried again when Peter Capaldi took over as the Doctor, but was disappointed by his apparent hatred of humanity, which seemed antithetical to everything the Doctor stands for. I haven’t really watched Doctor Who since, except for two episodes with Jodie Whittaker. Now I’m beginning the show again. But, as I finish watching David Tennant’s final episodes, I cannot help but wonder if I will still be disappointed with the same aspects of Moffat’s writing.

How Harshly Can I Judge Book-to-Film Adaptations When I Have No Background in Film?

“The book is so much better than the movie!”

It’s a common frustration for readers that film adaptations never live up to the magic of the novel, whether it’s because the movie cut content or changed content or added content. Or maybe things just aren’t the way readers imagined. The setting doesn’t look right or the characters aren’t cast right. Or, worse, maybe the movie is just bad with poor quality CGI or cheesy dialogue or poor acting. Any number of things can make a book’s fans think the movie is disappointing and they would never have done it that way.

I’ve been critical of any number of book-to-movie adaptations myself, but as I was recently reading yet another post online from a reader about “how they would have made the movie,” I found myself asking myself some surprising questions: Am I actually capable of adapting a film “correctly?” Why do I think I would do it “better than the professionals?

The reality is: I don’t actually know much about film. I have never taken a film studies course. I have never written a screenplay, much less one specifically based on a book. I have never acted or been in so much as a high school play. When I took a Spanish course in college that involved writing papers about Spanish films, I was somewhat at a loss and relied heavily on the list of “film terms” the professor provided. If the list included “mise en scène,” I figured I should probably look that up and say something about it. I probably passed mainly because I had some skill at “interpreting things” from being an English major. In short, I have close to zero expertise in the art of film.

And expertise is something I generally value. If I can trust a scientist knows more about, say, how climate change is progressing and why than I do, than I think it’s worth acknowledging that the professionals who work on book-to-movie adaptations have skills and experience I don’t. And it’s easy for me to say I would make a better adaptation–but maybe I wouldn’t. I’ve never tried.

That said, I don’t think one has to be an expert in any type of art to have an opinion on it. I can watch American Idol and know whether someone’s a good singer or not–and I am certainly not a good singer myself. I can tell whether a book is badly paced or has illogical world building even if I’ve never written a book. So of course I can watch a movie and have valid thoughts about how well (or not!) it was adapted from the novel.

The key to a good adaptation, for me, is keeping the spirit of the novel. I don’t think it’s possible to include every scene or character or witty piece of dialogue. Some things have to be cut or changed or added to move from a textual medium to a visual one. So the number one “qualification” for adapting a book might actually be understanding the book–having an expertise in literature more so than in film-making.

That said, I still don’t think I could actually adapt a novel and do it “better.” Watching something that’s already been made and analyzing it or criticizing it is one skill. Starting completely from scratch, with just the book in front of you, and then writing a film script and casting actors and creating a whole movie involves different skills entirely, and half of those skills are ones I don’t have. I do think I can judge movies; I don’t think I can claim I would be able to make a good movie.

Briana

Where Are All the Mothers in YA Literature? (Analysis of My 2020 Reads)

How Many Mothers in YA Books Are Dead?

Introduction

In May 2019, I wrote a most titled “Where Are the Mothers in YA Literature? (Hint: They’re All Dead)” in which I noted that I typically struggle to create a list of “Top Mothers from Literature” because there often aren’t any mothers in the books I read, either because they’re dead or they’re technically alive but present in anywhere from 0 pages of the book to maybe 10 pages.

In 2019, I analyzed the books I had read from January through May and concluded 44% of the YA books had protagonists with dead mothers. Five of the 16 books I had read had mothers that were living but essentially not in the book anyway. I ultimately found two examples of books that had mothers that were alive and could be categorized as positively involved with the main character.

I decided to do the same analysis this year. This is, of course, a small sample size of books and biased towards whatever books I personally choose to read, but overall, it looks as if the trend of dead mothers in YA has continued for another year.

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YA Books and Their Mothers

1. The Night Country by Melissa Albert

Mother is alive and supportive of protagonist.

2. Harbor for the Nightingale by Kathleen Baldwin

Mother is dead.

3. Honor Lost by Rachel Caine and Ann Agguire

Mother is alive but on a different planet and never speaks to protagonist during the course of the book.

4. Spellhacker by M. K. England

Mother is dead.

5. Break the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli

Mother is alive and supportive but largely absent from the book, as the protagonist is an elite gymnast and lives apart from her parents.

6. A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

Grey’s mother who raised him is alive but not in the book.

7. Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Mother is alive but has a contentious relationship with protagonist.

8. The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Mother is dead.

9. Supernova by Marissa Meyer

Mother is dead.

10. Rogue Princess by B.R. Myers

MINOR SPOILER WARNING!

Mother dies.

11. Zero Repeat Forever by Gabrielle S. Prendergast

Mother is presumed dead.

12. Arc of a Scythe Series by Neal Shusterman

Both protagonists’ mothers are alive, but characters are allowed no or limited contact with family.

13. The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Mother is dead.

14. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Both protagonists’ mothers are alive, but not very involved in the plot.

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Analysis

  • Out of the 14 YA books I’ve read so far in 2020, 7 have dead mothers. That’s 50%.
  • Five books have protagonists whose mothers are living but essentially absent from the book.
  • One book has an “active” mother who has a terrible relationship with her daugher.
  • Only one book has a mother who is alive and actively supportive during the plot.
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Non-YA Books I’ve Read This Year

1. The Memory Keeper by Jennifer Camiccia (MG)

Mother is alive but emotionally absent; protagonist is essentially raised by her grandmother.

2. The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Adult)

No mention of parents of adult protagonist.

3. The Trial by Franz Kafka (Adult)

Mother is dead.

4. The Mystwick School of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury (MG)

Mother is dead.

5. From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks (MG)

Mother is alive and generally has a good relationship with the protagonist.

6. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (Adult)

Mother is alive and has a good relationship with the protagonist.

7. Sisterland by Salla Simukka, Owen F. Witesman (Translator) (MG)

Mother is alive but essentially absent from the book.

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Conclusion

In 2019, I wrote:

At this rate, writing a book with two living parents who actually talk to their children looks like a selling point for originality, if nothing else!

It looks as if that’s still true, whether the book is young adult, middle grade, or even adult!

What is your experience reading? Do you think all the mothers in YA books are dead?

Briana