Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Devil is in the Details

I admit it. I love big, complicated, detailed plots. Sure, I have certainly been known to love some books with very straight-forward, simple plots, too. But for the most part, the more detailed and complicated, the better!

(This is assuming, of course, that the author has the skill to dangle multiple plot threads at once and to tie everything up by the end of the book, or at least by the end of the series.)

It seems that many of the "big" YA books -- you know the ones I mean...that hit all the bestseller lists, get lots and lots of attention, and have a large crossover audience of adults as well as teens -- have detailed plots and multiple subplots. Not all of them, of course. There are plenty of excellent books out there that are incredibly straight-forward.

Yet, there are some people who believe that YA should not have detailed, complicated plots, because teenagers have shorter attention spans than adults. Frankly, I think that's a little patronizing, and fails to take account of some of the "biggest" books out there.

Which brings me to cross-over novels, those YA books that appeal to both teens and adults. Most of these books have large, detailed plots with multiple subplots and often a large cast of characters, all of whom get their own thread. Are "big books" with detailed plots more likely to be cross-overs than straight-forward books?

What are some of your favorite YA books? Are they super complex or more straight-forward? Dish!

BONUS: I'll throw in an additional $10 to Rhonda's Amazon prize, but you need to comment on today's thread!


  1. I loooove complications. LOL. Don't get me wrong--I do like to settle down and read an "easy"/straightforward book too, but I heartily admire authors who can write beautiful, complicated plots.

    I think Libba Bray's Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy exemplifies this. There are so many threads going on in those stories, with each character having his/her own life and struggles, and I'm totally hooked (I'm reading book 2).

  2. Amanda Brice2:02 PM

    That trilogy was great, Rhonda!

    I'm also loving Anna Godbersen's THE LUXE trilogy. At least 5 (maybe 6?) points of view, with many threads and subplots.

  3. One of the big complaints about YA fiction years ago (before it got so hot) was that American publishers "talk down" to kids and "dumb down" books.

    I think there is a reversal happening and I'm really glad.

    Right now I'm a fangirl of the Cast team (PC and Kristin). I like a lot of stuff, actually. Not a Twilight fan, and I think maybe Meyer might have created a glut of sub-par fiction that have problematic messages.

    Honestly, with regard to plot, I don't favor either plotiness or simplicity. A good book can fall into either category.

    One thing is for sure... YA is growing in leaps and bounds... STILL!

  4. I actually haven't had the opportunity to read much YA. I'll have to give some of your recommendations a try sometime!

    But, as far as plots go...I love the big complicated ones. You know, the ones where there are all these threads that seem unrelated, and then at the end the author does something brilliant to tie them all together.

  5. Anonymous2:16 PM

    omgosh...mee too. I ONLY love these. I love it when an author pulls it all together at the end in an M Night Shyamalan twist. THAT is the sign of a master IMHO>

    R R smythe

  6. Gotta admit, I'm a Harry Potter in recovery since the series is finished *sigh* I've also enjoyed Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, and Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series. Love YA books!!

  7. Hmmm... truthfully, until I read the blurbs and synopsis of yours, Amanda, I never thought of checking out YA. Since then, I've tried Ally Carter and liked them, although the voice is VERY teenage, which took a little bit of getting used to. I'd like to try some more, but I need more recommendations. Oh... I yours is on my list to read, definitely, whenever it's sold and released... or if you ever want another beta reader. :-)

  8. Well, I love Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy, and there's plenty going on there. I also love Jennifer Donnelly's A NORTHERN LIGHT.

    Oh there are so many more...but I can't think! Brain clog...

  9. I love convoluted plots.

    Faves. Oi. I have too many to name, but a recent fave was Before, After and Somebody in Between by Jeannine Garsee

  10. Personally I have no idea which books I read are classed as YA as I never go by that but by the storyline. The more detailed the story the better I like it but I also like straight forward stories too if they have been well written.

    Just checked out YAs and found out that two of my favourtie dragon series' are classed in that catagory!!! Both Paolini's Inheritance Cycle and Anne McCaffrey's Pern books - who'd of thunk it?!

  11. I think Twilight is a pretty basic plot, whereas a story like Ender's Game (yes, I'm going old school YA) is deliciously twisty.

  12. I'm also a Harry Potter junkie and I truly love THE LUXE trilogy. To me the more complicated (but well written) the plot, the more I like it.

  13. The next Luxe book comes out later this month. Can't wait!

  14. First,to the point about teenagers having shorter attention spans, I have to agree that this isn't a totally just statement. I think it's more that they are pressed for time with all of the responsibilities they have regarding school, part time jobs, learning to drive, preparing for college and trying to have a social life. But look at the things they have to read in school. If they can make it through Shakespeare or Lord of the Flies or some of the other classics, it is insulting to say that they have shorter attention spans. (Can you guess that I've got a couple of teenagers at home?)

    Okay, on to the question. I don't think it's necessarily a straight forward plot or a complicated plot that lends itself crossover appeal. I think either one, handled well, will do. I think it's more the content of the book that holds the appeal. And I think another thing that appeals is how well we identify with characters. I identified with Bella from Twilight because I felt that awkward in school even though I'd taken years of dance lessons. The fact that she is flawed and makes mistakes was appealing to me.

  15. The cool thing about YA these days is that both twisty/complicated and straightforward stories are available. It's part of what's fun about writing YA: there are no "rules"!

  16. I love the Princess Diaries series...I'm saving them for when the baby gets older...does that make me a geek? LOL

  17. I'm one of those who will pick a nice thick, meaty book over a thin one most of the time. Posters have already mentioned some of my fave authors - Paolini, McCaffrey, Bray. I'm also a fan of Harry Potter the Luxe, as well as several of the fantasy series by Tamora Pierce.

  18. Anonymous5:05 PM

    I love a good, complicated plot as much as the next person, but only up to a point.
    I'm one of those people with a bad attention span, and I loathe, loathe LOATHE too much head-hopping. Too many POVs get me lost and disinterested.

    I'd rather have one person's big, twisty, complicated plot than adding layers by adding more people with only smallish plots.
    Guess I'm not a tapestry-of-people kind of reader...

  19. Amanda Brice5:20 PM

    Great comments, everyone! Keep 'em coming!

  20. Anonymous5:38 PM

    I loved Kristin Cashore's new/first book Graceling. Has anyone read it? Growing up, I always found time to re-read my favorite books and had not done so in many, many years until I came across Graceling. I finished it and immediately turned back to page 1. As a YA book it seems to be a simple love/adventure tale, but it raises some interesting questions about how one defines relationships discovers oneself, pursues passions and develops talents. Food for thought for anyone, not just the YA crowd. I guess one could say there are some complex ideas handled with a delicate touch. Whether it is/will be an adult cross-over book, I couldn't say, although the adults I know who have read it have enjoyed it.

  21. Anonymous6:14 PM

    Hm, I do think that complex plots are the more interesting of the bunch. They're the ones that pull me into multiple characters and leave me wanting more at the end. Not that I don't adore some simple books... just saying!!

  22. Amanda,

    First time in your corner of the blogosphere. Great sight, and great question! I'm a sucker for multiple POVs and story lines, which is probably why I loved Jodi Lynn Anderson's Peaches books and Brashares' Traveling Pants. And there's the wonderfully meaty Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, but part of the appeal there is the spot-on pacing.

  23. Anonymous9:22 PM

    I don't know if you could say it has a complex plot...but I recently read King Dork and loved it! The characterizations are so dead on, I think it makes a great cross-over book.

  24. I nominate Graceling, Amanda.

  25. I LIVE for those books with the complicated plots and sub-plots. I just love the parts where everything comes together and all the little clues dropped earlier in the book make sense!

  26. I can go complicated or simple with plots. Some of my favorite YA fantasies, for instance, have complicated plots -- Vivian Vande Velde's HEIR APPARENT being a great example, plus several by Diana Wynne Jones and Megan Whalen Turner (maybe have three names makes an author plot complicatedly!) ;-)

    But I'm also happy with simpler plots, or just less plot. The Princes Diaries, for example, isn't terribly plot heavy, but I love it.