But I think “reviewers” are just sad souls in search of true love.
–Brooding YA Hero by Carrie Ann DiRisio
Title: Brooding YA Hero
Subtitle: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me
Author: Carrie Ann DiRisio
Illustrator: Linnea Gear
Publisher: Skypony Press
Rating: 4/5 ★★★★☆
Have you ever wished you could receive a little guidance from your favorite book boyfriend? Ever dreamed of being the Chosen One in a YA novel? Want to know all the secrets of surviving the dreaded plot twist?
Or maybe you’re just really confused about what “opal-tinted, luminous cerulean orbs” actually are?
Well, popular Twitter personality @broodingYAhero is here to help as he tackles the final frontier in his media dominance: writing a book. Join Broody McHottiepants as he attempts to pen Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, a “self-help” guide (with activities–you always need activities) that lovingly pokes fun at the YA tropes that we roll our eyes at, but secretly love.
As his nefarious ex, Blondie DeMeani, attempts to thwart him at every turn, Broody overcomes to detail, among other topics, how to choose your genre, how to keep your love interest engaged (while maintaining lead character status), his secret formula for guaranteed love triangle success, and how to make sure you secure that sequel, all while keeping his hair perfectly coiffed and never breaking a sweat.
This book gives a perfect analysis of the current YA literary landscape, with all the highs and lows of the real world. We are in a setting made of all the YA genres and ideas a book could possibly use and accompanied by the most famous archetypes as characters.
I went into this book without knowing what to expect. I’ve been following @BroodingYAHero on twitter for a while so I knew I liked that brand of humor. The way the author deconstructs tropes and characters and plot devices is genius, you can see where all those things help an author and where we may fall into generic stories. The thing I want to focus on, though, is how Carrie also proposes alternatives. The whole point of the book is that anyone can become a main character, even if they weren’t thought as such in the beginning. We see diversity upheld as the goal we should all strive to get to and the future of writing is innovative and inclusive.
Get ready for a full review full of quotes
Broody is your classic YA main guy. With too many adjective and a shitty attitude but still gets the girl. Along the story he becomes an author, dissecting the YA genre and character in order to get to what makes a main character
Favorite character (considering there’s only two…)
She rebels against her archetype, she pushed Broody to write this book so that she can read it and get out of her limited role. However she doesn’t just accept whatever Broody writes, she makes quite a few amendments to the text claiming for more representation, better roles for women and all the things we, as readers, ask for in new stories.
They were so adorable. I’ve been following the artist Linneart for a while now (check out their web comic) and already liked the style, in this book it’s even better, all the character are absolutely beautiful and the sheer number of skin tones is so refreshing! Every time there was an illustration I’d stop and admire it.
The writing style was super fun. We are supposedly seeing a beginner writer and it kinds of gives off that vibe because the characters are just like that (TM) so we get a lot of descriptive phrases, and also a lot of alliteration and metaphors.
Blondie’s notes were the best part, the different ways to call out Broody’s bullshit and the new ideas to improve YA. This format allows the author to show her own perspective while keeping the main idea of a thorough look through current YA.
Calling out sexism
Yes, the book goes there. There are a few comments and sarcastic notes on Broody’s part but it’s mainly Blondie who does the call out since she has been victim of the sexism that plagues not only the literary but also real life.
It’s almost like we demean women who enjoy activities typically coded as feminine. Weird.
Calling out toxic masculinity
Especially since it’s mostly targeted at teenagers, the fact that most LIs on YA are in some way abusive or toxic is a big issue. This is addressed multiple times by Broody himself saying how he can’t actually communicate or be kind because it goes against his archetype. There’s even a point where the character mansplains and it’s shown as ridiculous and condescending as it is
That’s because one of my magical traits is my inability to exhibit any common human decency.
Calling out racism
On the racism thing, although there are characters (like the authors on the illustration above, and many others, we still have two white MCs, this however doesn’t mean that the race issue is avoided
Uh, look. No. Just don’t do that. Don’t describe people like food, got it?
Including how some authors pretend to write “diverse” stories and end up fetichising the love interest or falling into a white-saviour trope
Calling out heteronormativity
We are talking typical YA and so there’s quite a few pages dedicated to love interest, however the author takes care in pointing out that no matter what gender you LI is, it’s still valid
I’d like to take a moment to remind you that every last one of you is worthy of having whatever love interest you want.
AND you can even not want a love interest and that’s valid too!
I haven’t seen much aromantic support on the YA community but this made me so happy, like YES, SOME OF US DON’T WANNA FALL IN LOVE, AND THAT’S FINE
Everyone should be a protagonist, not just people with love stories.
Calling out fatshaming
Yes, that’s also in there, seriously, this books tries to touch everything that may make you uncomfortable in a YA novel and discusses just how bad it actually is.
all main female characters are a “normal size,” which actually means a conventionally thin size, because body diversity doesn’t exist in YA fiction
Calling out people who diss YA and have never read YA
Or just kind of read Twilight and think we haven’t evolved since then….
Seriously, it’s like these “adults” read one YA book ten years ago and based all their opinions on that.
All the criticism is made from a place of love, too. Sure, there are over-used tropes and they are pointed out but in a way that shows how much the author (and us, readers) also enjoy them as long as they are not offensive. There isn’t a wrong way to write a story and this book teaches that.
We also have a part where we discus fanfiction and I’d like to share this wonderful take on the why of fan-works::
Maybe your Author didn’t include enough kissing or made your world about as diverse as a loaf of white bread.
There’s one point where he’s describing different relationships as if they were perfumes and I just have to tell you: I’d totally buy Rivalry:.
Rivalry, the new Fragrance from Bestselling Author Scent: The warring aromas of coffee and hot chocolate, twining sensuously in a dance of competitive and romantic bliss.
THE BROODING YA HERO CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE
I feel like the main story dragged a bit, sure, the analysis was great but then we’d get some of the story and I was like: go back to what eye color means. The world was interesting but wasn’t developed enough to catch my attention and we had too few characters for me to actually get invested.
Although the whole book we are told that main characters can be diverse and that you shouldn’t tie yourself to stereotypes at the end we get the pretty white girl and the conventionally attractive white guy. It’d have been nice having a character of color being a main character.
Anyway, dearest wannabe main character reading this, please, please, fight to have agency in your story.
There’s nothing wrong with flaws, though. They shape us and aid us with plot.
You’re always a main character, remember? Ignore anyone, and any story, that doesn’t make you feel like one.
Dearest reader: focus on telling your own story. It’s going to be incredible, no matter what.
Should you listen to these “rational” people? Absolutely not.
You can take a little rest. You know what? We’ve spent a lot of quality time together already, and I am absolutely sure you have what it takes to be a main character. Even on days when it doesn’t feel like you do.
Young adult fiction is potential captured and frozen—a bright bolt of lightning caught on the page for everyone to read. It is both universal and incredibly personal, changeable and yet constant.