New poll - Youngsters

Thursday, December 8, 2011

First off, the last poll.  My topic of interest was YA reading (young adult for the non initiated). When I realized that I wasn't reading much of it, I asked myself if I was alone in doing so.  Remember that it's not that I have a distaste for it, it's simply a kind of novel that didn't catch my eye.

The results are in and 75% of the readers/respondents are reading YA Fantasy. It seems that in this reading habit, I won't fit into the average Fantasy reader definition.


What now?

This year, Mark Lawrence released Prince of Thorns, a novel with a main protagonist of roughly 13 years old; last year it was Paul Hoffman with The Left Hand of God with a character of 14-15 years old.  Add to the list well known characters like Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss or Arlen from Peter V. Brett whose's story also starts pretty young and we have a bunch of interesting youngsters.  I know that for both last ones, they eventually grow in the first novel so I think that they don't really qualify in the discussion I want to bring up. Let's also forget about Rand or Jon Snow who are not really that much juvenile (though in aSoIaF's case, Arya and  Bran would qualify).

I think you probably guessed my subject by now.  I, for one, was not distracted by these blossoming teenagers in the reads that I mentioned (age-wise speaking).  I know that for Prince of Thorns, the topic was much discussed on the blogs and forums.  Sarah at Bookworm Blues in her review wasn't too convinced by the young man's act at his age while for Bryce at Only the Best Sci-fi/Fantasy, he felt that it was more natural.

When I questioned myself on the presence of these prodigal youngsters, I realized that my feelings were determined by the skill of the author.  A young man or woman in his early teens can be a believable prodigy if it's done right.  It all comes down to the portrayal of the person and mostly to the context in which he exist.  Usually, there's also good reasons behind their skills at such a young age.  However, I may have a problem when a protagonist is simply way too intelligent for his experience without any help whatsoever. Anyway, isn't it mostly from experience that everything I pointed out comes from?  I'll admit that magic or exceptional circumstances which are often present in Fantasy are also good factors.

Moreover, when you think about it, age isn't the only factor in this.  I think that when I read Fantasy, I want to read about a mix of extraordinary and common people, from all the spectrum of personalities, skills, achievements and potentials.  With that being said, whether the protagonist is a youngster or an old man, I'll find my enjoyment anyway, given that the author do it right.

The other aspect of the question that got my attention is simply: 'Why?'.  No matter if you find that the age of the character is too young or not, can you tell me why do the authors tend to create them so young? They don't really need to, aside from trying to make an impression.  Why not simply add a couple of years to their age or never mention a specific number?  But then, I think they really want to make an impression! :)

So, "Do you think the prodigal youngsters in Fantasy are too young?"

- Yes
- No


Anonymous said...

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Joshua Lowe said...


I think the protagonist of any story is the protagonist for a reason. They are special, they have a story to tell. This tends to lend itself more to characters that are a little more interesting or unusual and in this case can include gifted children.

In the case of Kvothe I think it would not have had nearly as much impact if he were older ... the intriguing combination of vast knowledge and ability combined with youth and inexperience really made his character.

Tom Lloyd said...

For me it depends, but if they're going to be fighting in battle or whatever, the authors have to be realistic. Kvothe was fending for himself on a city's streets by the age of three if memory serves?

That soured the book for me, with the various other things he got to early; I've met precocious three year olds and it didn't ring true - if he was a demi-god or something then fine, but there's still youth and inexperience in a six year old.

As for the fighting side of things, there's muscle mass to think about. Even young teens who're trained in martial arts are going to have a problem swinging a sword when grown men find it exhausting.

But that's my opinion as a 32-year-old. The teenage readers of books may not have such a problem with the idea of someone just a bit younger than them doing all these things. And try to please every reader is a fast road to madness!

Yagiz said...

In general, YES.

For instance, I enjoyed Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns but my mind refused to picture him as a 13 year-old boy. To me, he was 16-17.

Having said that, given a medieval setting, it is normal that things are done at an earlier age compared to today's modern world. Life expectancy in Medieval Britain was only 30 (aristocracy lived longer). Therefore people got married younger, started to work younger etc.

Bryce L. said...

Obviously I'm right. :)

But I think you make a good point, if the author sets it up right, it works, if not, it doesn't.

In Prince of Thorns, I loved the idea of going against the odds and the youth of Jorg really added to that idea.

Yiota said...

"....I realized that my feelings were determined by the skill of the author."....
That said it all. If the author knows how to represent his world right, he will convince you for everything and you won't mind.

The only reason, i think they make the characters so young are so they can have more years in front them to play the story. Young characters tend to experience many things that really help the reader to understand the world better.

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