Hello and welcome to my blog. The name BridgeMoney was an alias I found when playing Cards Against Humanity. I liked it so much that I decided to use it for the name of the site. As the title suggests, I want to write things. The topics can be about anything that interests me: video games, books, TV shows, YouTube. I have a YouTube channel where I uploaded two videos, but they’re both horrible and nobody should watch them. Lately I’ve been thinking about reviving the channel with new content, but I’m still in the process of learning how to film and edit, so it probably won’t be soon.
Another reason I started this is because I’m somewhat of a writer myself. I’ve written three short stories and since graduating high school last year I’ve been working on a full-fledged novel. I don’t know if it’s any good yet, but I’m just trying to complete the first draft. I just need a place where I can put all my ideas, however dumb or random they may be.
If anyone is reading this, please tell me if you have anything you’d like me to talk about. I’m currently in school so updates to this blog might be infrequent. Anyways, that’s all I have to say for now.
I’ll be honest, fantasy and sci-fi are the hardest genres for me to get into. Not because I don’t like cool spaceships with lasers or fire breathing dragons, but because a lot of stories in these genres don’t have…well, actual stories beyond their world. If you write in these genres, good world building is a must. You need to make the audience believe at least a little bit that the world you’ve created is real. But what is good world building? Is it pages upon pages of town descriptions, sketches of races, and cool looking maps of your world’s geography? I say no. World building is such a misused term, and so many people, me included, don’t know a thing we’re talking about when we say we want deep, complex world building. So then what is a good example of building a world without an encyclopedia to navigate it. Well, it of course goes back to one of the greatest shows of all time, Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Everything you need to know about the world of Avatar is told to you in its minute long intro. In it, you learn:
There are four elements: water, earth, fire, and air
There are four nations of these elements who once lived in harmony
The Fire Nation is evil and changed everything when they attacked
The Avatar was supposed to bring balance to the world, but mysteriously vanished
A war has been happening for a hundred years
The new Avatar is an airbender named Aang
Aang needs to learn all four elements in order to save the world
That’s like 20 pages of exposition all condensed into one minute of animation and voice over. And the best part? It plays at the beginning of every episode, so you don’t forget what the stakes are or why the story even matters. You are told before the first episode starts the fundamentals of the world, and every little piece of world building beyond that is just extra flavor. In other words: The focus is the story, not the world.
I hold a very strong opinion that world building alone is not and should not be a replacement for a story. The best thing good world building can do is make a story more interesting and unique, but it can never fix a bad one at its core. This is where I think I differ from so many fantasy and sci fi fans who will go crazy for anything that vaguely adds to the lore or canon of their favorite world. There’s a Game of Thrones book that literally the history of a single family, and there’s a Harry Potter book that’s literally just a history and guide to quidditch. I mean, I’m sure some people really want that, but I would never read something that’s just 100% lore.
People obsess over the lore of their favorite franchises, and I just plain don’t get it. I could care less on the detailed history of the bricks used to build the walls of a certain city or the biography of the meals most commonly eaten by foot soldiers of the empire’s third battalion in the pre civil-war era (this is why I never read any of the in-game books in skyrim). Lore bores me to all hell, and unless there’s a plot with stakes and characters to get attached to over time with a fulfilling climax and resolution, I’m not gonna care for it. Give me a story please.
Another great example of world building is, dare I say it, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (I’m not a brony I swear). I’m not talking about the later seasons, which got bogged down by too much lore that strayed away too far from the show’s original premise. I’m talking about the first two episodes, where just like in Avatar, the entire purpose of the show is perfectly laid out for you within the first few minutes.
So in the world of Friendship is Magic, there is Equestria. And beyond that, we are told:
There are two sisters who rule Equestria, Celestia and Luna
Celestia controlled the sun, Luna controlled the moon
Luna turned evil and became Nightmare Moon, which made Celestia banish her to, well, the moon
Equestria is currently in a state of harmony, unlike in Avatar.
Do you want to know the best part of this mini info dump? It doesn’t matter to the show at all. The real start of the story is when Twilight Sparkle (the purple one) moves to Ponyville and starts making friends with the other ponies. It’s about the characters first and foremost, not an ancient prophecy that will determine the fate of the universe.
My point with this is that deep world building doesn’t require you to write a mountain of expository information. Explain the bare minimum amount so the audience can follow along and add bits and pieces that are relevant and important to the story from there. What was so amazing about Avatar is that all 61 episodes did something to advance its story and characters. Even the ones that seem like filler such as “Tales Of Ba Sing Se” or “Ember Island Players” have so many subtle details that make you learn more about the world in unconventional ways, its mind blowing that this was a children’s show on Nickelodeon at one point in time.
I really should open up my tastes more and consume more fantasy or sci fi, but none of them seem to line up with what I really want in a good story, which are strong characters with personal stakes that aren’t on a grand scale. I’d love to hear some more thoughts on this, so tell me what you think in the comments. Is world building as overrated as I make it out to be? Or am I just a rambling mess? Probably both, but share your thoughts anyway.
Disclaimer: This post is written by a straight malewho knows very littleabout the LGBT community
So, I’ve been consuming media for a decent amount of time now, and I’ve noticed this trend throughout the decade of the 2010’s, the one that’s guaranteed to start a discussion in one form or another. I’m of course talking about representation, and the increasing desire people have nowadays to make media more diverse. This can of worms that I just opened can go in so many different directions, but what I want to talk about is how certain pieces of media portrays their representation, specifically concerning the LGBT community. I guess this topic came up because I watch and read a lot of romances, and they’ve gotten a lot more, how you say, “colorful” in recent years. Please note: I’m not going to make any judgments on whether a piece of media’s representation is objectively good or bad. All I’m doing is giving my personal thoughts and opinions.
Keep in mind that I have no true agenda with this post. I just like talking about media I find interesting, and people are free to agree or disagree with my opinions. Now that the warning signs are out of the way, let’s get to the media, shall we?
I’m going to split these up into two main categories, alternating with each one: the rep. I like and the rep. I didn’t quite like or have problems with. Get ready, because some of these are ones I absolutely need to get off my chest.
Rep. I Like: Bloom Into You (2018)
Starting off on a high note, this is an anime that you must see if you’re into girl-girl romance (or yuri as us weebs like to call it). It’s so gentle, and sweet, and charming, and doesn’t hide the fact that the main characters are lesbians, it just hits you from the first episode and pulls you along for the ride. What I like most about this show is that both of the main characters are romantic equals to each other. That is to say, neither of them has an advantage in terms of confidence or popularity. Both of them have their own insecurities that prevent their relationship from progressing and they work towards fixing those internal issues side by side. Even outside the cute romance, Bloom Into You explores the concept of identity extremely well, and the struggles of figuring out who you are in adolescence. More romances should be written like this, and I’m glad anime has at least one shining example of a healthy yuri show.
Rep. I (don’t) like: Life Is Strange (2015)
Now this one might be a little controversial. Let me just say that I love Life Is Strange, and it’s one of my favorite games of all time, but my problem lies specifically in how they handled Max and Chloe’s relationship. Max and Chloe are great together in the game. They bounce jokes off each other constantly, they have a history that makes you care about them, and many of your choices in the game depend on how much you value Chloe as a…friend? girlfriend? I don’t know because the game doesn’t make it clear, even when the final decision you make in the game involves literal life and death. I guess I struggle with how the game wants you to define your relationship with Chloe in whichever way you want, but also make you care about her enough that you’ll be swayed to choose one ending over another. The story would’ve been better if they just decided that Max and Chloe were romantically interested in each other from the start, and not give little nods in-game to the people who ship them online. This marks a bigger issue for me in that I don’t think dropping “hints” is a good technique to tell the audience a character is gay. Thankfully this trend seems to be fading away, but I found it to be common in stories from the early to mid 2010s. Character’s sexualities had to be defined in the most foreshadow-y, roundabout way possible without actually just outright telling you, because they can’t be too direct, that would be “forcing an agenda” If you feel that you have to tiptoe around your subject matter out of fear of upsetting people, maybe it’s best to avoid the subject altogether. If only someone could go back in time and make the game more clear…oh wait.
Rep. I Like: Life Is Strange: Before The Storm (2017)
Ready for my hottest take yet? I think Chloe and Rachel are a better couple than Chloe and Max. There, I said it. Life is Strange’s three episode prequel game, Before The Storm, fixes my main criticism of relationships not being fully defined. Before The Storm has gay characters that are explicitly stated in the game, and this time, there’s much more power behind Chloe’s choices with Rachel than Max’s choices with Chloe. I feel this way because there’s much more of a romantic tone present from the beginning of the story when Chloe meets Rachel, all the way to the final choice, which in my opinion was more difficult to decide on than in the previous game. And while you could actively make choices around Chloe and Rachel being just friends, the opportunities are there to become more romantically involved, and those scenes are brilliantly done from an emotional standpoint. The main difference between Life Is Strange and Before The Storm is that Before The Storm had clear intentions with the characters. The developers wanted to show Chloe’s relationship with Rachel, and how she helped Chloe deal with her loneliness and depression before Max moved back to Arcadia Bay, and they executed that perfectly. Even if the entire game’s choices are meaningless considering the events of Life Is Strange, it still features one of the best same-sex romances I’ve seen in a video game, and the soundtrack, like the first game, is great, so I’d absolutely recommend you play both games if they seem up your alley.
Rep. I like: Pretty Much Anything Becky Albertali Writes
As a reader of YA, I’d say that Becky Albertali is one of the best contemporary authors currently working. No, her books aren’t as “intellectual” as John Green’s or as emotionally poignant as Adam Silvera’s,(though he’s definitely part of the LGBT rep. I like as well) but they’re just downright fun to read. I remember picking up The Upside Of Unrequited for the first time and being utterly astounded at the level of profanity she packs into every page. Becky Albertali is one of the rare YA authors that actually gets how teenagers speak, and can write hilarious dialogue that doesn’t come off as corny. (It also helps that she was a clinical psychologist who worked with teens) Narrative-wise, her books might be a little dumb and formulaic, but what stands out is that they’re normal stories about gay teens having fun, which is all they need to be. I could talk more about the larger themes of Simon Vs. or how much I love Leah in Leah On The Offbeat, but those are posts for another day. Side Note: What is up with Becky Albertali’s obsession with Waffle House? Is it really that good?
Rep. I (don’t) Like: Everything Sucks! (2018)
There’s this phenomenon I’ve discovered through watching this series that I aptly coined as “Rachel Amber Syndrome”. This is when, a girl, usually a loner or an outcast, has a crush on another girl, this other girl being this mysterious, starry-eyed popular chick that is into quirky hobbies like theater and is overly eccentric. It’s basically the manic pixie dream girl trope, but with 50% more lesbians. Most lesbian relationships I’ve seen in T.V are a form of Rachel Amber Syndrome, but Everything Sucks follows this formula so closely, and even though I enjoy Life Is Strange, the romance in this series, well, kinda sucks. The show takes place in this alternate reality 90’s high school where the drama geeks actually rule the social hierarchy, and the A.V club are the real nerds. The two girls who end up together, Kate and Emaline, both fall under the “Rachel Amber” type, but I seriously don’t know what the show was going for in portraying their relationship. Is it supposed to be cute that Emaline constantly bullies Kate in the beginning of the show, making her more uncomfortable in her sexuality? Is it supposed to be charming when Emaline reveals the motivations behind her behavior, which is the same cliched drama geek thing of “I can’t be my true self around others” and “I always feel like I have to put on a mask to the world” that I’ve heard a thousand times before? This is not a healthy portrayal of a relationship, whichever way you put it. I’ve seen much worse gay romances before, (see 90% of yuri anime) but this show didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth, and I hope it can be a lesson in what not to do in the future.
Rep. I Like: The Loud House
It’s pretty clear that The Loud House is the most popular Nickelodeon cartoon in a long time. And for good reason. Controversy aside, this show is a great lesson in writing good female characters that go beyond their stereotypes. The show first proved it was willing to include gay characters in an episode when they revealed Clyde’s parents, who are two men and also in an interracial relationship. The next time the show wowed me was the final few seconds of “L Is For Love”, when Luna writes a love letter to a female classmate. Unlike other supposed examples of good representation, The Loud House is actually what happens when subtlety is done right. It doesn’t need you to rely on “hints” or “foreshadowing” in order for you to get that they’re woke, it tells you simply by showing it. A more recent episode, “Racing Hearts”, is about Luna and that same classmate she likes going on a date, and it’s treated every bit as the same as if she went with a boy. Watching this makes me grow more confident in my stance that there’s no excuse for creators to not write more gay characters and gay relationships into stories. A kid’s show on a major network proved that it’s possible, and that it can be done well without “feeling forced”, so what else is holding people back? There’s this YouTuber called Lily Orchard that goes into this more in-depth, and calls what The Loud House did as “bare minimum flexing”, and I couldn’t agree more. We need to get out of this mindset that pushing boundaries an inch is considered groundbreaking, and stop praising baby steps if we want to see significant change. The Loud House is well-deserving of praise, but it’s not where the bar for representation begins or ends. And as you can see if you’ve looked ahead, people are willing to praise a pretty low bar.
Rep. I (don’t) Like: The Legend Of Korra(specifically the ending)
Yep, this is the big one. I’ve been thinking about this ever since I first watched it back in 2014, and I can honestly say now that my opinion hasn’t changed that much in those five years. It’s just not well done, and the creators shouldn’t be getting overwhelming praise for shoehorning in a gay couple in the last thirty seconds of the series. Ship Korrasami all you want, but there’s no way you can convince me that this was foreshadowed or hinted at well at all. (No, the end of book three doesn’t count.) Korra and Asami are close friends, and they’ve been close friends for most of the series, until Mike and Bryan decided they weren’t. It’s like they realized that their cartoon with a badass female lead protagonist that had been going on for three seasons wasn’t progressive enough, so they panicked and slipped in some last-second representation to make up for it. Lily Orchard also talks about this in her “Legend Of Korra Is Garbage And Here’s Why” video, which you should definitely check out even if you’re a fan of the show. This should not be the standard for gay couples in media. We can do better, and we have done better, and I’m glad this trend is changing.
I’m definitely not an expert in how exactly LGBT representation should work in media, nor am I really qualified to speak knowledgeably on these issues, but I just wanted to provide my perspective to add in the discourse. If you have your own opinions on what I’ve talked about, leave me a comment down below.
When I first heard that John Green’s emotionally profound award-winning debut novel Looking For Alaska was going to become a miniseries on Hulu, I wasn’t that optimistic about it. I thought it might be interesting to see 2005 YA put to 2019 television, but didn’t expect much beyond that. Well, after watching all eight hour-long episodes, I can definitely say that Looking For Alaska is…Look, I don’t like it, okay? I didn’t like the book when I first read it, and the series does a fantastic job of reminding me of the book, and how much I don’t like it, and how I think John Green is one of the most overrated YA authors ever, and…yeah, I have a lot of thoughts about this.
Here’s all you need to know about the story of looking for Alaska: Boy reads books. Boy goes to boarding school because of book. Boy meets cool group of friends. Boy meets quirky cute girl, who is also into books(though not the same kind as boy) Boy falls in love with quirky cute girl. Pranks, smoking and drinking, hatred of snitches, quirky cute girl [REDACTED} two-thirds through, wow deep philosophical questions about life and death bro, the end. I think that pretty much sums it up.
I watched the first two episodes of the show thinking that the story might actually become better in my eyes, that the adaptation to screen might actually make me get why so many people love it and made them cry when they were in middle school, but that just didn’t happen. I still thought Miles was the most generic, milquetoast character ever written, and I still thought Alaska was made out to be this mysterious, brooding layer-cake of a teenage girl when in reality she’s just a kiddie pool that’s barely a foot deep. Why am I supposed to feel sad for her again? Why am I supposed to care about Miles finding his stupid “Great Perhaps”, or that the dean of the school is newly divorced, or the whole conflict between the weekday-warriors and the scholarship kids, or that Lara is Romanian and has an accent. Why am I supposed to care about any of it?
I guess there are some positives, but they only come from scenes exclusive to the series. The philosophy professor having a backstory is cool, but it so obviously feels like a way to make the story less dated than it already is. The colonel’s character is a bit more fleshed out, and there’s actually a decent message about race and class during the scene with his girlfriend Sara’s Debutante ball. There’s a really cool indie soundtrack that is way better than the show deserves, filled with early aught bands like The Killers and Bloc Party. It became apparent to me about midway through that I have a problem with Looking For Alaska as a story, and nothing short of a fundamental rewrite will ever make me enjoy it more than a light 6.
The second half of the series is where I completely lost any interest I had in it being good. So much of it felt like petty teen drama to me, and as I’ve said in previous posts, I love teen drama (when it’s done well) The pranks between Miles’ group of outcasts and the weekday-warriors were so stupid and boring, and there’s this whole thing about Alaska being a rat, which is the absolute worst thing to be at Culver Creek, and how Miles and the colonel don’t wan’t to be friends with her, and I’m sitting here like, what did the weekday warriors do that was so horrible in the first place? I mean, they insult the kids on scholarship sometimes, and they got some of Alaska’s precious books wet (which she even says were mostly from garage sales), and that’s enough to warrant illegally tampering with their college transcripts? I was so confused when the colonel was trying to defend the prank to the eagle, calling it a harmless crime. He literally wanted to ruin their chance at attending college, and the eagle kindly informed him that it was illegal, yet he still wanted to fight the charge. Then there’s Alaska’s super urgent reason behind why she needs to stay at Culver Creek: her dad is mean to her and blames her for her mom dying. Okay, couldn’t the book or the series at least show me an example of her dad being abusive, so that it’s literally not a one-line explanation?
The supporting characters in the group, Takumi and Lara, don’t really do anything. Takumi’s just there to show off 2000’s fashion, and Lara gives Miles a face to suck on before he realizes that, gasp, he does indeed love Alaska. And forgive me if I’m being a little over-dramatic here, but HOW does Miles, a sixteen year old boy in 2005 with access to the internet, not know what a damn blowjob is? I seriously can’t wrap my head around it. He watched porn with Alaska, presumably knows about sex, and you’re telling me he just hasn’t seen the act before? Please, I need to know if John Green also didn’t know what a blowjob was when he was sixteen, because that scene was physically painful to watch.
Alaska’s death in the series was even more overblown and dramatic than in the book, and it didn’t make me feel anything for her, even with the added context surrounding her last moments. People are mad, people are sad, questions remain unanswered, and it ends in the same way the book did: with a pointless philosophical monologue about the afterlife and the beauty of ambiguity, and here’s John Green to pick up his literary achievement award.
I’d like to think of the “Great Perhaps” as the chance the story could’ve actually been good, which is very slim under John Green’s hand. I don’t want to rag on him too much, because he’s a pretty cool YouTube personality, and he has improved as a writer (Turtles All The Way Down is legit a good book.) But watching Looking For Alaska reminded me of how much YA has changed since 2005. It’s gotten so much better, and we don’t need to settle for sub-par stories that pretend to be deep and complex when there are actual stories a thousand times deeper than a girl smoking cigarettes because she wants to “die quicker”. We have authors like Angie Thomas, Becky Albertali, and Adam Silvera that make fun and interesting books about real-world issues that don’t make you want to reel your head back and cringe from reading. I’m sure Looking for Alaska was groundbreaking for 2005, but it came out at a time when one of the most popular YA books was The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (for real, the movie adaption is miles better than this series.) It may have been a story people needed then, but it’s not the story people need now. There are people who enjoy Looking For Alaska way more than me, and that’s perfectly fine, but I just can’t vibe with it.
I tried looking up some famous last words as a kind of ironic way to end the post, so here’s the best one I found. The last words of convicted murderer Thomas J. Grasso were used to complain about his last meal. he said, “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s; I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.” Likewise with this series, I did not get what I was looking for. But at least I know where Alaska is, because she’s dead.
When people think of the term “Young Adult” in books, I’m sure you think of the same old popular ones that are widely praised but heavily criticized. The Hunger Games, Twilight, John Green’s (mostly) underwhelming body of work. These all make up the face of what modern YA is to people not familiar to the genre. This fact disappoints me greatly because that’s not the YA I know and fell in love with in high school. I started reading YA books my junior year back in 2017, and at that time, the landscape had already changed greatly. I don’t think most people realize that the genres that Twilight and Hunger Games belong to, dystopian and paranormal romance, have been dead for most of the decade. I want to make the case that YA, as a genre, should be respected more than it is now, and that more people should pay attention to it in the larger scene of literature.
There’s a good chance you’ve seen the book in the featured image before. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was a smash hit when it released in 2017, and is probably one of the most successful books this generation. It’s even being taught in place of To Kill A Mockingbird in some schools as required reading for it’s themes of racism and police brutality. There’s this idea some people have of YA books being only for teenagers, and that stories can’t have complex themes or deal with mature issues in the same way adult fiction can. Angie Thomas, and a lot of other great YA authors feel that a good book is one that anyone can read and relate to, no matter their age, race, religion, sexual orientation, or whatever. The Hate U Give Doesn’t compromise it’s themes because “teens might not get it”. It hits you with intense, graphic details about what black people struggle with in regards to the police, gang violence, and dealing with casual racism in their everyday lives. And it still manages to be a fun, lighthearted story about the importance of family and dealing with toxic friendships. What separates The Hate U Give from bad YA books is that it was written for everyone, because Angie Thomas believed it was a story everyone needed to hear.
Now, I do love The Hate U Give and Angie Thomas’s follow up, On The Come Up, even more, but the real YA books that I think deserve defending are the non-culturally defining ones. The ones I see get ignored by adult fiction readers as just “angsty teen drama”.
First off, I love angsty teen drama, and I don’t think its just because I’m still a teen myself. I feel like people have a much higher chance to take a story less seriously if it’s set in high school, or it stars teenagers in any way, and I get it. Most people don’t want to relive their high school days, or they just see teenagers and teenage issues as whiny little brats who don’t know what the “real world” is yet. But YA books, especially today, are becoming more inventive and fresh, and are tackling subjects that I haven’t seen any other medium do as frequently.
It’s everyone’s favorite word these days: Diversity. YA is becoming an incredibly a diverse genre, ethnically, sexually, culturally, and its all thanks to the #OwnVoices movement being proliferated in the past few years. The full impact of this movement is a topic for another day, but my opinion is I’m for anything that gives us more new and interesting stories, whether it be through a hashtag or not.
Rather than ramble on about what makes YA so great, here are five books that I think showcase the genre’s strengths, in no particular order.
1. Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
This was the book that made me fall in love with YA. It’s one of those rare instances I talked about in my previous posts where you expect something be be just okay but end up getting something you’re obsessed with for months on end. I expected this to be a cute, quirky rom-com about a girl who secretly draws comics. What I got was a deep dive into what it actually means to be an online creator, and its repercussions on mental health. There’s so much more that I love about this book that can fit into a post on its own, but to name a few: it’s portrayal of introversion and social anxiety, the feeling of family not being able to understand you and your interests, online friendships having just as much an impact on your life than real life friendships, and the comic story occasionally interrupting the novel and being a story on its own that I’d want to read. Eliza And Her Monsters should be one of the faces of contemporary YA, and it deserves every bit of praise it gets.
2. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
If you haven’t noticed by now, I kind of like stories about teenage girls, especially ones about loneliness. This book reads like a cold winter night. The prose is the most literary out of all the ones here, and it drew me in from the first page. Nina LaCour writes in a way that gives you just enough detail in a scene to come to a conclusion yourself, and also not reveal enough to make you keep reading. It’s about this girl in her freshman year of college whose friend visits her when she’s alone on winter break, and the story behind how she ended up there. The story is entirely focused on one character, and their struggle to simply be “okay”. Read this if you’ve ever felt truly alone, or if you want a bittersweet LGBT romance.
3. The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody
Hand’s down one of the best YA books I’ve read that deals with grief. Again, it’s technically a rom-com about a girl who gets stuck in an airport and meets a guy, but it’s how she gets to the point of even being ready for someone new to enter her life that’s the interesting part. The main character lost her best friend in a car crash, and has been struggling to get over it since, to the point where she incessantly types questions on her phone and keeps one unread message from said dead best friend locked away for safekeeping. The larger theme of this book is that standing still doesn’t help you get over grief. It might be comforting in the moment, but you’ll eventually have to start moving. And even though moving can be chaotic, it still beats how chaotic your life would be if you hadn’t moved at all. It also makes the very bold claim that airports do indeed suck balls.
4. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Have you also noticed that YA books tend to have really beautiful covers? Whoever designed this seriously needs a raise. Unlike the other books on this list, this one’s story is made up entirely(well, mostly) of poetry. And not the whole Rupi Kaur insta-poet kind of poetry either. The novel is told in a wide variety of poetic styles, following a hotheaded Brooklyn Latina who learns to find her inner voice in poetry. It gave me some serious House On Mango Street vibes when reading, and the author clearly takes inspiration from her Dominican heritage while also making something fresh for a new generation. If you can, listen to the audio book from Audible, which is narrated by Acevedo herself. I’m sure this book can get you at least a little more interested in poetry, as it did for me.
5. The Six Of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo
I don’t really read much fantasy or Sci-Fi in YA, mostly due to the fact that Avatar: The Last Airbender exists, but I really enjoyed the Six Of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. It’s plot is a standard heist story. Six characters who don’t necessarily trust each other band together to rob some evil rich guy for money. But what’s really special about it is the character dynamics. They bounce off each other like ping pong balls whenever two or more of them are in a room together, and it makes for some entertaining and tension filled moments. Also, a fantasy setting that isn’t just medieval Europe. That alone deserves points for originality. The city of Ketterdam felt a lot like the game Dishonored for me, with its steampunky atmosphere and rampant rodent problems. Add in an elemental magic system that reminds me of Avatar, and you’ve got quite the fun read.
So those are just some of the YA books in recent years that make the genre shine. I’m not saying that YA is perfect or anything, there are plenty of duds and/or generic slop that comes out every year, as with every other medium. But if you’ve neglected to read these kind of books in the past because they’re “just for teens”, please consider giving at least one of the books I mentioned a shot. Maybe you’ll discover a side of yourself you didn’t know existed, all with the help of an angsty teenage girl.
Warning: This post contains minor spoilers for seasons 1 and 2
I started watching this show the past couple of weeks and, my God was I surprised. It’s not like I expected it to be bad or anything. The description on Netflix made it seem like it was going to be a standard family sitcom except there’s a girl trying to pull wacky schemes on them. Funny, right? What I got was so much more, and I absolutely love it.
Let me back up for a second and explain the show’s premise. Nick Patterson is a foster child that one day moves in with the Thompson family. She shows up claiming that she’s their second cousin twice-removed (totally believable) and cries about having nowhere else to stay. The Thompsons take her in, and it’s then Nick’s true purpose is revealed: She’s a con artist, brought on by her foster home(the Harbaughs) to rob the family and get revenge for a past debt, the details of which make for an interesting ride.
When I watched episode one, I thought it would turn out like one of those live-action Nickelodeon shows, the 2010’s ones, not Zoey 101 or Drake and Josh. Nick would try to pull off a wacky scheme each episode, and family hi-jinks ensue. But the rest of the first season, and the second season, blew me away, to the point where I can’t think about anything else other than how amazing this show is.
So what makes this show so awesome? I think for me it’s for two main reasons: The show is a sitcom and it’s not a sitcom. If it was only one and not the other, I would still like it quite a bit, but I think the fact that it’s both elevates the show to a whole other level. I’m going to try to break down the aspects of each, and why they manage to work so well with each other.
All the traditional qualities of a sitcom are apparent in No Good Nick: The three camera setup, the laugh track, the cheesy one liners characters say to look witty. This show wouldn’t feel too out of place at a traditional network like ABC or CBS. What makes these qualities work is that at it’s core, No Good Nick is supposed to be fun and lighthearted. Watching Nick hatch out these elaborate plans to rip people off is played off as comedic, even in scenes with her father in prison or the Harbaughs. And watching Nick scheme and play people is a joy to watch. Siena Agudong, the actress who plays her, is brimming with charm and personality in her delivery, and she’s one of the best things about the show for me.
While all these schemes are being pulled behind the Thompson’s backs, a family show is running in the background. Characters go through their normal lives, learning lessons about family and friendship just like other sitcoms, with Nick providing an element of chaos to make things more exciting. There’s a constant tightrope Nick walks throughout the series between growing a genuine bond with the Thompsons and being ruthless in her methods, which only gets harder to do the longer she stays with them. Multiple plans of hers aren’t successful because she starts to like being part of the family a little too much, and her reputation with the Harbaughs suffers for it.
II. The Non-Sitcom
I’ll be the first to admit, I love dramatic, emotional stories way more than comedies. Most of my favorite pieces of media can be classified as “teen melodrama”. The part of No Good Nick that surprised me the most was its willingness to not only be a family sitcom, but a family sitcom that goes beyond its premise and offers well written, dramatic and emotional story lines all while being a show suitable for all ages. The first great example of this is in episode eight of season one, when an old friend of Nick’s visits and makes her ditch school.
This is the first major point in the series where Nick has to confront the double-life she’s been leading in order to fool the Thompsons. Her old life with her dad and her new life with the Thompsons makes her feel trapped, like she can’t open up to anyone without exposing her secret. Her breakdown at the end of the episode was what turned me from just being interested to being fully invested in the show’s plot and characters.
I was constantly thinking throughout watching the show. Thinking about the logistics of Nick’s cons, if they would really work, how they could be improved. I know this is a really out there comparison, but this show literally gave me Breaking Bad vibes when I found myself rooting for Nick to succeed. The way she views what she’s doing as helping out her family, and the morally gray decisions she’s faced with especially in the second season, I felt like I was watching a teenage Walter White, seeing herself turn into someone she’s proud of and not proud of at the same time. I won’t get too much into season two for spoiler’s sake, but man, some of the stuff she does made me question if I was still watching a sitcom. There’s another brilliant episode that serves as a flashback explaining how Nick got to be in her situation, and it does its job so well in providing context for the characters and connecting the story’s continuity, I’ll just stop before I spend my whole night gushing over this show.
Another thing I want to touch on, which I don’t think can be left out without doing the show a disservice, is the LGBT representation. Again, it’s a little bit of a spoiler, but the show does have a gay character who does eventually comes out. And it’s not one of those subtle “we’re here to collect our social justice brownie points” type of things either. They actually say the words gay and boyfriend and coming out, and its prominently featured in the story. I can’t think of any other family show that so casually does this like No Good Nick, and it’s a little crazy to think that it took this long to happen, but this fact alone should be a reason why the show deserves to be talked about and watched, and partly why I wanted to write this post to begin with.
Yeah, I freaking love this show to pieces, and I hope to God there’s more coming and the Netflix cancellation train will steer clear, because I need more Nick in my life. The last time I became this obsessed with a show was Legend of Korra when I was 13, and now I’m a 19 year old boy and obsessed with watching a teenage girl commit felonies for laughs. What a world we live in. It’s these types of things that are so special to me. The show’s, movies, books, and games that you just think are going to be alright, but end up exceeding way past your expectations and end up becoming one of your favorites. Please, give No Good Nick a watch and prevent Netflix from doing anything funny with it. It’s so damn good. Also, here’s another Nick shot to convince you.
In my humble opinion, MTV’s Daria (1997-2002) is one of the best high school shows ever created, animated or not. I could write for hours over why I feel this way, from it’s incredibly clever writing, to accurately portraying high school stereotypes that still exist to this day, but for now I want to focus on one of my favorite episodes, the season 4 finale “Dye! Dye! My Darling” and why it’s a masterpiece.
I wasn’t around when the show aired, so I don’t know whether this is an unpopular opinion or not, but this episode to me demonstrated perfectly how you execute the dreaded “love triangle” trope that plagues romance stories. I don’t viscerally hate love triangles myself, but I can see why people are so sick of them. A guy or girl is torn between two romantic interests, and they agonize over who to choose, often resulting in unnecessary drama and stupidity by otherwise likable characters.
The episode is centered around three characters: Daria, Jane, and Tom, whom Jane has been dating all season. There have been hints in previous episodes that Daria might have a crush in Tom, such as in “I Loathe A Parade” and most notably the ending of “Fire!”, to which Jane has picked up on and develops a sense of paranoia. All of this beautifully sets up the events in the episode and frames the character’s actions, especially Jane, as reasonable given the circumstances.
It starts with Jane getting Daria to dye her hair after being inspired by a painting she made, referring to “the lady or the tiger”, an image she wants Daria to recreate. Daria reluctantly agrees, leading to the first of many times in the episode where things come to a head.
The first argument between Daria and Jane puts Jane’s jealousy and paranoia on full display. She makes comments insinuating Daria intentionally spending time alone with Tom and accuses her of wanting to steal Tom away from Jane. It only escalates when Jane reveals her hair, which does not resemble a tiger at all, and yells at Daria to leave her house.
It takes a whole day for Jane to cool down and talk to Daria again, and the two resolve their issues for the time being, with Jane recognizing that her paranoid feelings were extreme and unwarranted. It seems like everything has gone back to normal now. That is, until Daria speaks to Tom.
This is the point where the episode’s tone shifts heavily to the dramatic side. For a show mostly known for it’s comedy and witty humor, Daria has some great dramatic moments that don’t often get talked about. The scene with Tom and Daria highlights just how much she values Jane as her friend. She blames Tom for getting involved and messing things up between the two of them, and in a moment of beautiful romantic tension, they kiss. And kiss again.
I think what I enjoy so much about this part of the episode is that everything is immediate. Daria immediately feels horrible for kissing Jane’s boyfriend and then she immediately tells her the next time they meet at school, causing Jane to run away. A small detail that I love is the way Daria talks to Jane. She simply says, “I kissed your boyfriend” so blunt and direct, and when Jane runs away, she simply says “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Anyone who’s watched the show knows that Daria has this one note, monotone voice that oozes sarcasm with every word. But you can really feel that she’s genuinely heartbroken in this moment, even with as little emotion there is in how she says it.
Jane confronts Tom at his house, fuming with anger. They talk in his backyard, reflecting on their relationship and what went wrong. Tom admits that dating Jane and all the feelings he had for her were real, and not just a way to get closer to Daria. The way they break up is so honestly done. Jane’s confused emotions of wanting Tom to be happy dating Daria while also being mad at her gives much more complexity than a love triangle in any other story, where the focus is mainly on characters being angsty. (cough Legend of Korra Book 1 cough.)
Another subtle emotional moment comes when Daria visits her mother’s office, whom she couldn’t reach previously due to her working on a massive court case. Upon seeing her daughter, she drops everything to hear about her problems. This is one of the rare scenes in the entire series where Daria turns to her family for emotional support. We also get to see that her mom, a workaholic that never has enough time for her family, still sees them as her number one priority and is willing to make sacrifices in her career for their betterment. She waves off Daria’s comment about the case being important, knowing that what her daughter needs most is her love and attention.
We then get a scene with Daria and Jane, trying to pick up the pieces and see where they stand after their falling out. One thing I really don’t like in teen stories is how quickly conflicts get resolved. Something bad happens between two people, they fight about it for two minutes, and then they make up and the status quo is restored. Jane leaves Daria’s house without knowing when their friendship will ever go back to normal, and the conflict that in most other sitcoms would’ve been resolved by now still continues not 100% fixed. The real moment they make up is in the TV movie following the season, “Is It Fall Yet?”, which is also filled with emotionally brilliant moments. The last scene is mainly a cliffhanger to set up that Daria and Tom will start dating, which is explored more in “Is It Fall yet?”
Overall, this is one of my favorite episodes of television. I mostly wanted to cover this because Daria is a show I don’t see many people talk about, let alone it’s deeper, more serious episodes. Check the show out if you want a teen show that’s smart, funny, and painfully accurate to almost anybody’s high school experience. There’s plenty more from this show that I want to talk about, so expect to see some more in-depth analyses in the future. If you’ve managed to read all of this, tell me if my writing style works, or how I can improve. I’m always open to criticism.
Hey look, it’s only been about a month since I’ve last posted. In all seriousness, I actually have been working on some posts for the past few weeks, but I got sick for a little bit at the end of September and stopped. Another reason for the lack of posts is that I started writing my novel again, which I had been in a massive slump over for the majority of the month. I think I might be able to reach that goal I set for myself of finishing it before my birthday.
As for the future posts, I have two currently in the works. One is an analytical piece that breaks down an episode from one of my favorite shows, Daria’s “Dye! Dye! My Darling”, and examines why it is the best example of how to write a love triangle I’ve seen in any medium. The other one I’m tentatively titling “YA As A Genre”, in which I thoroughly explain why young adult books are better than most people make them out to be, with examples of some of my favorites. If I’m lucky, these will most likely come out within the next couple of weeks, but nothings set in stone. I want this blog to contain somewhat quality content, so expect to see more types of analytic/critical type posts in the future.