By September 20, 2011 4 Comments Read More →

More Book Crimes

Earlier this year, my esteemed colleague Dan Kraus wrote a manifesto (My 2011 YA Wishlist) outlining the seven things we need to see less of in teen fiction. Well, in the spirit of making this a regular feature around here, here’s another report from what we’ll be calling the Booklist Book Crimes division. Think of it as an informal judicial board made up of frazzled, plot-device-weary Booklisters setting up laws for what should be criminalized in the world of letters. Some of our complaints will be unfair and others will be petty. Some gripes will be knee-jerky, while others will be long-suffered. I make no promises against arbitrariness or contradiction. But these are the things that make us crazy about the books that we love.

I’ll preface today’s list with the admission that I realize some of these things can be helpful to get a story rolling, so a few isolated incidents does not a bad book make. If you break any more than two of these offenses, though, it’s off to book jail you go.


ZOMG it is written that there will be a girl who saves us all from ultimate superevil. It’s totally you but you won’t believe it no matter how screamingly obvious it is to everyone that it’s you. See? There’s even a picture of you next to it. And your name.

Kids not going to adults

They’ll never believe this completely believable thing, so we better do this on our own.” 

Adults not believing kids

 “What, you have a plausible story and mountains of evidence? Riiiiiight, kid. Whatever. We’ll take care of this. Now, anyone have any leads? No? Well, I’m stumped.”

Anything-goes magic

This is the kind of rule-less system of magic where some day-saving spell pops up right at the exact most convenient plot point and is never heard of again. Oh, and that guy who died is totally alive again. Just because!


“I’ll tell you something all cryptic, but then say that you can’t handle the full truth of it. Worse, I’ll probably die before I decide I want to fully explain it. Sorries!”

Dream sequences

Look, if it happens in a dream that means it doesn’t matter. The only thing worse than hearing someone talk about the dream they had last night is having to read about it. As soon as I spot a dream coming on I skip right ahead to daylight hours.

Mysterious pronouns

Simply calling someone “he” or “she” without identifying them for pages on end to ramp up drama as an unnamed character fiddles around in the dark, no doubt up to no good. I’m dumb! Just tell me who we’re talking about already so I don’t have to guess and then be wrong. Or, more likely, I’ll just go ahead and forget the whole scene as soon as it’s over. Might as well be a dream sequence.


You know what people look like? They look normal. Like you, or that guy across the street. If someone is as soul-meltingly gorgeous as you’re making them, there’s a 99% likelihood that they’re not worth writing about.

Time travel

Just no. There’s no way to make it work. Stop trying.


So these are my gripes for today. Of course, I completely love tons of books that flaunt any/most/all of these crimes. I’m unpredictable like that!

Please feel free to alert us in the comments to any book crimes you’d like to see prosecuted.



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4 Comments on "More Book Crimes"

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  1. Daniel Kraus says:

    Please, sweet gods above, no more prophecies!

    I’m not sure I’m with you on time travel (aren’t there too many good exceptions?), but otherwise I’m all aboard the Chipman Express.

  2.' Marcus says:

    Definitely disagree with you on time travel. I agree that anything time travel related needs to have a new twist and I think some recent books have done that (to varying degrees of success). But it’s not something that’s overdone (at this point).

  3. Ian Chipman says:

    Ok ok–with due respect to the many fine examples of time travel, I’m willing to decriminalize it. My problem is that the tortured logic of time travel makes it nearly impossible to stick to the arbitrary set of rules and limitations erected to make it possible in the first place. But when done well, yes–time travel rules.

  4.' Anna Watkins says:

    Anything that remotely smacks of “my love/hate relationship with a gorgeous, tortured magical elvish vampire boy” ought to be locked up in the same cell with all the other books featuring this overused plotline.

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