I am going to – for the first time ever! – get on board (rimshot) with this whole YA Highway Roadtrip Wednesday business. Finding a community – that's what growing up is about, right?
Well. Today's prompt was broad, about questions relating to writing and publishing, and so I suppose what I have been thinking about most in these last few weeks is, what kind of role is there for unreliable narrators in YA fiction these days?
I don't think it's any secret that I breathe and bleed Russian lit, when I am not writing my YA/MG stuff, and that is a canon replete with unreliable narrators.
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire, one of my favorite examples of unreliable narrator.
The POVs are inconsistent and impossible (to quote one reviewer, they are "less who-dunits as they are who-wrote-its"), and all the more so when the narrator breaks the fourth wall and speaks to his readers: that's when you know that nothing is going to be predictable, that the story is not just fictional but unreal, that you can't jump into it and pretend it is real life, because it just CAN'T be. Russian lit is escapism for a society that has to prove they're not doing any escaping at all.
So what about today's (especially American) YA? I love an unreliable narrator, and I would love to write my Russian farce redux with one – I already have the intro laid out:
Noble’s – ah, Noble’s. I myself have spent no little time there, and can personally vouch for the excellence of the service, the quality of the appointment, and the delicacy of the food: in all respects, Noble’s is, indeed, a fine establishment. But you, my dear readers, will perhaps not believe me – you will perhaps not recognize my opinion as authority. And little you should.But I just don't feel like this kind of unreliable narrator lands in today's market – not even from a publishing standpoint, but just from one of readers' interest: I feel like why YA works is that it offers worlds that ARE just about real enough to escape into. We don't want a narrator that proves to us we can't.
Or do we? I am sure there are examples out there of unreliable YAs that just aren't springing to mind.