Another topsy-turvy adventure takes place in this last episode in Carman’s hotel trilogy. This is really a trilogy that’s best read from the beginning, as the beguiling nature of the hotels being assembled here—top floors only, all secret chambers except to heroes Leo and Remi—delivered by great airships, needs some explaining. Carman has so many balls in the air that it is good to have background, but nimble readers should be able to pick up where things are and enjoy this exploration through the titular field of wacky inventions and accompanying riddles. It’s all a challenge set forth before the managers of the Merganzer D. Whippet’s hotels to see who will ―run all my hotels. I’m expanding into Europe. And Japan. The Ukraine is very promising.‖ But Whippet is a thoroughly lovely character, not some money-grubber, and the contest to see who will run the grand hotel is both droll and exciting. There is also, happily reported, his cast of queer and delightful players, now including a miniature T. Rex and a girl stowaway, Lucy, who add more to the storyline than any battery of flamethrowers or homicidal roller-coaster rides. As in the two previous volumes, the writing is fluid, with quiet stretches interrupted by rapids and whirlpools. The quirkiness of Carman’s tale could easily become too familiar, but he pulls new rabbits out of his storytelling sleeve pretty much with each turn of the page, keeping them turning. (Adventure. 9-12)
WARNING LABEL: Adult Language Dead Ahead
WARNING II: You were warned.
When I’m on panels with other YA writers one of the common complaints from teenagers in the audience usually goes something like this: they won’t put your book in my school library because my librarian thinks there’s too much adult language in it.
And then, because it’s a great line given the situation, the writer will sometimes say this:
I think that’s bullshit.
I’ve actually used that line. In public.
Writers have a long history of being outraged when school libraries won’t carry our books. The nerve of these prudes! Who do they think they are?
Lately though, my question is….is it really BS?
Isn’t it true that a lot of YA books should come with a warning label? Why should everyone else get called out but not YA?
Violent video games = warning label on the cover
Movies with sex, violence, and adult language = R rating
Music with explicit content = warning label on the cover
YA book with similar content = tiny print of age range on back cover that all to often runs too young.
Why is it deemed okay for a fourteen year old to read the f word, read people violently killing each other, and read people having sex if the movie industry puts an R rating on the same material? It’s not a matter of whether or not 14 year old’s are sneaking into those movies or 12 year old boys are playing Gears of War – at least there’s a very clear, front of package warning that parents and educators can’t miss if it’s a movie, a video game, or music.
So when I sit on these panels and some of us, as writers, want school libraries to carry books for teens with sex, taking drugs, using adult language, and killing each other, by that same logic we should be screaming our heads off in support of abolishing all warning stickers and rating systems in place for other entertainment media. If I write a YA book that I know would get a warning label if it was made – as written – into a video game, a movie, or a song – should I be playing by the same rules as everyone else?
If Thirteen Days to Midnight (my book) was made into a movie and they filmed it exactly as I wrote it, it gets an R rating. No doubt about it. Teens are experimenting with death and dying in that book in ways that teachers, parents, and librarians need to know: this is for a mature teen reader.
How is it that YA has avoided warning labels, and in the current climate we’re living in, is there any space in the creative community that’s less regulated than YA? YA is chalk full of violence. Choose your poison – Hunger Games, Divergent, Gone, many, many more – we’re finding all sorts of violent ways for teens to kill each other in YA these days. And while I’m as enamored of John Green’s gargantuan talent as anyone I know, if you filmed Leaving for Alaska as written, I don’t see a PG-13 movie being even remotely possible.
How come we get a free pass, but no one else does? Where’s our warning label?
I just think it’s bullshit.
Remember when 18 meant something more, like ‘hey, you’re 18. You’re an adult. Act like one.’ And when working past the age of 65 was like, ‘huh?’
I encounter a lot of 20 year old’s treading water, waiting to grow up, putting off independence, crawling towards adulthood. But I also see many 20 year old’s writing novels, starting businesses, producing TV shows, taking college seriously, and working really, really hard. What I don’t see is a lot of in between.
It’s as if the middle ground has been sucked into a worm hole at the center of the achievement universe. And I’m convinced this is not driven by economics, not in America anyway. In so many ways, the new economy favors the one who has always been forced to try harder, never been given a free ride, pushed of the couch and into the real world.
My mom just went to Africa to work for two weeks. She’s 72. Cecily Tyson is 88. She was just nominated for a Tony for a Broadway show she performs in eight times a week. My dad, even though he has fought some very challenging health issues in the past five years, is running two businesses and busier than ever at 68.
Is 90 the new 60? Is 50 the new 30? Is 25 the new 17? I’m starting to think that’s the wrong language here. We used to have boxes for age: 18, adult. 40, middle age. 65, old. 85, lucky to be alive. Maybe it was the economic crash that changed the rules or a combination of events that included a long cycle of prosperity. Either way, the new paradigm is much simpler: you are exactly how old you think you are. It’s on you. You decide at 19 if you’re too young or lazy or broken or immature to get your act together and make something out of yourself right now. And if you’re 68 or 72 or 88 or 101, (very serious health issues aside) you decide how vibrant you are.
I was at the gym not too long ago and I saw a guy working out. Looking at this guy I thought: ‘he has to be in his 70′s, but man, this dude is in very good shape.’ I asked him how old he was and his reply was a good lesson in the new economy: ‘if I tell you how old I am, you’ll put me in a box. So I’m not telling you.’ Maybe he was 90! Smart guy.
We are no longer limited by our age – we’re not too young or too old or stuck in the endless middle – we’re just right if we believe we are.
When I was a kid I imagined a future where I could fly my car over to the mall and fold it up into a backpack. I’d buy a comic book and then I’d watch Star Wars at the one screen theater. For some reason, the fantasy of a fold up flying car didn’t change the fact that I’d be doing everything else the old fashioned way. If I’d imagined Netflix and Amazon I wouldn’t have needed transportation at all! The comic book and the movie would have just showed up on a screen I held in my hand.
I guess I just wanted to get wherever I was going in style.
The future is innately imaginative, and imagination is something that brings out the kid in all of us. I still picture a future with cool stuff the nine year old me wanted – like daily flights to Mars and superpowers – but I have to accept a reality that technology drives human ingenuity and radical social change.
I didn’t imagine the Internet until it was staring me in the face. And I never imagined a device in my pocket that would allow me to watch thousands of movies and TV shows, contact my friends in eight different ways, and show me how to get anywhere in the world with the touch of a button (among many other features). For some reason, when my imagination kicks in, that stuff sounds kind of boring.
And so I made a bargain with the future when I wrote PULSE: I agreed to think like an adult and a kid at the same time, because a future without both is only half as interesting as I’d like it to be. In PULSE I’ve re-imagined the phone in my pocket (it’s even better!) and built super cities. But I’ve also imagined a future where a select few can move things with their minds.
Like buses and buildings!
My version of the near future, in a book near you: www.patrickcarman.com/pulse