Rafe's Reviews > Writing Irresistible KidLit:The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers

Writing Irresistible KidLit by Mary Kole
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's review
Jan 12, 13

bookshelves: 2013-books, books-about-writing
Read from January 08 to 12, 2013

I read a lot of books about the art/craft/business of writing, and for the most part, they're replete with overlapping information. Some of them are really useful, and some are sadly redundant. This book, Mary Kole's Writing Irresistible KidLit , is now one of my favorites. As the title suggests, Kole has put together a handbook on writing fiction for YA and MG audiences. I picked it up because I am familiar with her as an agent and on Twitter, and I figured she would have a lot to say. I am super glad that I did.

This book is a fantastic guidebook to the quirky and complicated landscapes that comprise YA and MG reading/writing/publishing. Kole does an excellent job of walking readers through the different types of MG and YA books, explaining genre and category calmly and thoroughly. I read a lot of YA and pay attention to YA publishing as an industry, so most of this was not new to me, but the way she put the information together was extremely helpful. She's not afraid to offer both opinion and expertise, including the point fairly late in the book when she Goes There and addresses the ever-rumbling debate about Is YA Too Dark head-on. Her view is, essentially, that the opportunity for catharsis and connection is necessary for readers, especially teen readers, and it's our responsibility as writers to offer that connection.

Really, though, Kole's commitment to her writers, readers, colleagues, and audiences is clearly conveyed throughout the book. She loves MG and YA books without any filter, and that makes me, as a writer, want to write better. This feeling is bolstered by her extremely wide selection of examples - the book talks about all types of YA and MG books, and Kole has quite skillfully rounded up an enormous blend of titles and editors to illustrate her points. She's also included recommendations from authors and editors about books they consider helpful or exemplary. One of the strengths is that she has not only used, for example, YA paranormal to illustrate points about YA paranormal. Instead, Kole uses whatever books best suit her point - about issue writing, setting, characterization, voice, etc. - regardless of the books' categories. The Hunger Games appears as an example of half a dozen topics, as do Wintergirls, Paper Towns, Graceling, and many others. Then, to cap it off, she includes a list of every book she's excerpted or mentioned in the back of the book, as a helpful reference.

As I said, I've read many, many books about writing. Sometimes I like them, but sometimes... This one is probably the most useful I've seen. There are no exercises, but I think that Kole is working under the assumption that her readers are already writing and practicing. In addition, although the book is very directly oriented to MG and YA writers, a lot of the points she makes about different aspects of the craft would serve writers of any kind of fiction equally well.

Generally, really good writing books are like really good travel books. They give you a solid sense of where you're going and how to get there, and what not to miss on the way. Writing Irresistible KidLit, however, is different. While other good books about writing are like going to a place you love and staying in a wonderful hotel, using this book to guide you in your MG and YA writing is like going to a place you love and staying with a friend. I am extremely pleased to have read it, and recommend it highly.

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