I reckon it's meant to be another dark and gritty fantasy epic, but it clearly doesn't fall into GRRM's "school of hard knocks" category. Although The Way of Shadows explores some very mature themes such as child and sexual abuse, the overall tone of the narrative is definitely YA. The resulting work makes for an uneven read, as the author tackles themes you'll never see in a YA work, yet the narrative appears to be aimed at a more adolescent readership. I have a feeling that Weeks might have been too ambitious to a certain extent, and thus he failed to deliver the emotional impact that would have made some scenes truly powerful.Raise of hands for any others here reading this who might be confused by what Pat says there? Further raise of hands of any who immediately thought of Margo Lanagan's work, namely "The Goosle" and the upcoming Tender Morsels (fortutious timing on the latter). I'm going to guess that he is thinking that YA lit isn't supposed to deal thoughtfully and with a high quality of prose with certain troubling issues, but let's quote one more passage from what might be one of the more discombobulated reviews I have read in months:
Azoth and Durzo Blint will no doubt remind you of Salvatore's Artemis Entreri, Jarlaxe, and Drizzt. Entertaining characters, no doubt, but relatively clichéd. Some of the supporting cast seemed to possess more depth at first, yet as the story progresses you realize that it wasn't meant to be. And, though there are plenty of mature themes and graphic violence throughout this novel, the dialogues are a bit juvenile at times and not up to par in terms of grittiness. Again, the more YA tone of it all I mentioned -- not unlike R. A. Salvatore's works.While all I know about Salvatore's work is that a large percentage of his readership was made up of those in his late teens, I don't think I've ever really heard of anyone else trying to make the case (regardless of how shallow and unsupported this case might be) for D&D-type novels of the sort Salvatore writes as being "YA." I'm just baffled at how Pat comes to such a conclusion with nothing cited as evidence, outside of an apparent lack of grace in the prose, a failing of a great many authors writing in a plethora of styles for a diverse range of intended audiences.
As I thought about this before going to bed last night, I couldn't help but wonder at the apparent vagueness of this "Young Adult Literature" label. I receive dozens of books each year that are labeled as "YA" somewhere in the press kit, from Cory Doctorow's Little Brother to teen writer Isamu Fukui's debut novel Truancy to D.M. Cornish's Lamplighter, not to exclude the aforementioned new Lanagan novel. I enjoyed each of these novels for very different reasons; each has their own style and storytelling mode. However, if pressed to define a common trait among these and other novels (from the Harry Potter novels to the ones just now hitting the market), it would be that there is a centering of the principal character focus around the needs and desires of an adolescent who is trying to comprehend a world that shifts much, much faster for the 12-20 year-olds with each passing year than it does for those older than that cohort group.
The language can be chaste or peppered with all sorts of choice profanities. Such a story could deal with vaguely sexualized "crushes" without there being graphic portrayals of sex; another such story could deal with the confusion that revolves around the unfolding of one's sexuality. There is nothing inherently "fluffy" or "light" in such stories, even if the emotions expressed might seem puerile to those of us who are older and more cynical about matters of the heart and loins. I have found that the best-written YA lit (defined here as being stories that focus on common adolescent themes and worries, often with a teen protagonist) is very frank and honest with its audience, even if the said audience is as disparate and divided as the stereotypical school lunchroom seating arrangement.
Perhaps others have a better, more concise definition than my own. I'm curious to hear some feedback on this issue, even if I'm supposed to be working on my presentation tomorrow. Thoughts, comments?