Series: The Worldwalker Trilogy #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends on September 2, 2014
Pages: 384 pages
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.
Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.
What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.
I love paranormal romances, but it’s rare to find one that hits all the right spots in combining fantastic magic-wielding, fun action scenes, nuanced characters with agency, and swoony romance. Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini arrowed right into the bulls-eye, however, and Lily Proctor’s development from an allergy-ridden, insecure klutz into a young woman who embraces incredible power in an alternate universe is handled with just the right touch. Lily is so painfully awkward in the beginning–and so obviously in love with a guy who doesn’t appreciate her–that I was nervous about whether the transition would feel right, but I loved the way she comes into her own.
This book also hit on two of my GoodReads shelves that don’t see nearly enough action: the hilarious books shelf and the crush-worthy boys shelf! That’s right, a guy you wanna make out with AND a story that keeps you laughing. I was so tickled by the snappy dialogue and humor in this book that I asked whether the author would be interested in talking about why it is that humor seems to be such a rarity in YA, especially in paranormal romances. Why don’t we see more Lish McBrides or Kirsty McKays or Kendare Blakes? Do publishers really “tend to avoid funny YA like the plague,” as Justine Larbalestier once commented?
Today, we’re pleased to be kicking off the official Trial by Fire Blog Tour with a guest post from Josephine Angelini that provides an answer to that question. If you’ve ever yearned for more humor in your YA books, there’s lots of food for thought here.
I was introduced to A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at a young age and I devoured every book in that series, laughing the whole way. As a result, I still have awkward moments when I’m ordering at a steak house. I imagine the cow trotting out and selling me her tasty bits a la The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Needless to say I start to giggle for no apparent reason and usually offend my server and dinner companions.
I also tend to laugh in airports, due to my exposure to another uproarious author. I see people dragging their luggage behind them, and can’t help but imagine The Luggage from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. The Luggage is probably one of my favorite characters ever written, and don’t even get me started on Discworld’s witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat. I could re-read Wyrd Sisters until my gaze rubs all the ink off the page and I’d still probably laugh.
Comedy is well established in both Science Fiction and Fantasy, so why doesn’t supernatural YA have any humor in it? Why is YA in general so serious all the time? Well, in my experience I can tell you that I’ve tried to write funny parts into my books and had nearly all of them edited out.
I’m not a comedian, but occasionally I come up with some clever turns of phrase that can at least inspire a few yucks. Yet every time I write something even moderately funny, it gets edited out in the re-writing process. Oh, they let me put in a witty barb every now and again in my dialogue, but even that usually gets the red pen at some point as we go through rounds of drafts.
At first I kept my head down about it, assuming that I probably wasn’t as funny as I thought I was. It’s embarrassing to see red lines running through something you thought was hilarious—it makes you feel like you told a joke at a party and no one laughed. Yikes. That feeling is enough to make anyone back away from the jokes next time around.
One day I decided to stand up for a joke that I thought was not only hilarious, but that really built on the relationship between two main characters. The answer I got from my editor was straightforward—humor releases the tension in a scene, lowering the stakes. If you want to write something that keeps people on the edge of their seats, it can’t be funny. And in all genres of YA, the stakes have to be life or death.
Sure, editors will allow the occasional bit of clever chitchat between characters, but not much of it. Not so much that it borders on snark, and here’s why.
Snark doesn’t sell wide in supernatural romance because it diffuses the tension between the characters—and what the majority of YA readers want are tense scene, because that’s how love feels when you’re young.
Think about it. When you’re sixteen or seventeen, every second spent with someone you’re crushing on feels like a giddy walk on a tightrope. Later on, when you’re older and dated dozens of people, humor becomes desperately important because that giddy feeling wanes—as it should. People are supposed to grow up, gain confidence, and not blush at everything a cute guy says or how would we ever get anything done?
That’s not to say that some supernatural romance writers don’t buck this trend and write funny or snarky dialogue every now and again, but they are few and far between. And they usually have more adult readers than young adult readers, even if they technically write YA. For those of us who have more teen fans, the mandate is clear. Keep it serious, or it won’t ring true for them. Love and heartbreak still feel like life or death to a teenager, and that’s part of what makes writing about it so beautiful.
Josephine Angelini is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in theater, with a focus on the classics. Originally from Massachusetts, she now lives in Los Angeles with her screenwriter husband and three shelter cats. Her debut series, Starcrossed, Dreamless, and Goddess, are all international bestsellers and have garnered the praise of various major publications, including the LA Times, and have twice won the Reader’s Choice Awards in Germany. Her next series, Trial by Fire, Book One of the WorldWalker Trilogy, will be out in the US on September 2nd.
Thanks to our friends at Macmillan, we have a Trial by Fire hardcover to give away to one of our readers. All you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re specifically excited about reading this book, or your thoughts on humor in YA!
Open to US and Canadian residents aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. Good luck!
Review and giveaway copies were provided by the publisher, and photos are courtesy of the author and publisher. Our thanks to Josephine Angelini for stopping by the blog!
Do be sure to check out Trial by Fire when it hits stores tomorrow, too! I’m a big fan of this one.