Controversy

I’ve been emailing with different authors about the “controversy” of Caridad Ferrer’s book Adiós to my Old Life winning the RITA® for Best Contemporary Romance, and I have to say, I’m befuddled.

I honestly do not get it. I was frankly disgusted by the anonymous commenters calling it bullshit on this blog and others, but not because they disagreed with the decision. Hey, if you are bummed because your favorite book didn’t win? Ok. Whatever. Plenty of people are pissed when Oscars® are announced, so you’re in good company.

What blows my mind is the anonymity – I guess the nicey-nice culture of romance novel readers & fans & authors is alive, well, and reducing any valid criticism into ultimatums issued by people with no balls. I’d have a lot more respect for all those anonymous opinions if, say, the person writing them had the stone ovaries to say WHO THEY WERE for God’s sake. One on our site called it bullshit; another anonymous ball-less commenter says it’s a “‘fucking’ disgrace.”

“Controversy” not withstanding, the nicey-nice seems to be rearing it’s perfectly coiffed head again. If you can’t say you’re happy for a winner, then you hide behind a fake name and announce that a YA novel winning Best Contemporary is the end of the world and a sign that the RITAs mean nothing? Why the hell is there no room to say publicly that you disagree and are bummed out that your favorite book didn’t win? The nicey-nice culture makes no room for disagreement unless it’s gutter-trash style hidden in the safety of anonymous driveby comment? Yeesh.

I totally disagree that there’s something inherently wrong with any YA novel winning the RITA® Best Contemporary, but I’d be interested in hearing from someone who thinks it’s wrong – but I’d prefer that someone be a person with the basic sense of cluecake to identify him- or herself and say why they’re disappointed with the decision.

Ironically, I had a few people in publishing, including authors, say to my face that the RITA feels great as an acknowledgement but means little to nothing in terms of sales and future contracts. It’s not like people in acquisitions see “RITA-winner” and up the advance by 10k.

Now, controversy, on the other hand, that’ll up your sales by 10k easy, so I’m sure there’s plenty of folks in Ferrer’s publishing house who are saying, ‘Oh yes, please! Keep talking! Disgrace? Oh, tell me more!”

I’m not pissed off because people disagree. I’m disappointed because people can’t disagree without being anonymous sniping buttmonkeys. Have some stones people. If you’re disappointed, say so and be a grown up. Big girl panties are in aisle 4. Head on over and get yourself a pair.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Julie Leto says:

    Amen!

    I also think that people who think this is a “disgrace” have simply not read the book.

    ADIOS TO MY OLD LIFE, honestly, was one of the best written books I read all year.  So the heroine was a teenager…so what?  She was still a woman (albeit a young one) who was experiencing first love.  Yes, the romance was somewhat secondary to the overall exploration of self that was the focus of the book, but it was still a romance with the requisite happy ending and the romance was intricately tied into the plot of the book.  In fact, I found the romance even more compelling because the heroine wasn’t experienced, wasn’t jaded and needed the trust between her and her guy even more than an older woman would have in the same circumstances, making the ending even sweeter.

    As for the anonymous posters…who cares what they think?  I think the blog world discounts them out of hand. I know I never put any stock in a post that is anonymous, even if the post agrees with my sentiments.  If you have no name (or a fake name…I do click on links for people who post) then their words mean nothing.  Big fat waste of time to post anonymously, I think.

  2. 2
    SB Sarah says:

    Yes, the romance was somewhat secondary to the overall exploration of self that was the focus of the book, but it was still a romance with the requisite happy ending and the romance was intricately tied into the plot of the book.

    I totally agree Julie. I said as much in my review, that the romance is not the primary storyline and if you’re looking for straight up YA romance where ALL that the characters talk about is their growing feelings, this ain’t it. BUT considering that most contemporary romances deal with a sense of self actualization or fulfillment on the part of the heroine AND the hero, in addition to the romance between them, Adiós isn’t that different in my opinion, aside from the heroine’s age and the manner in which self-fulfillment arrives for the characters.

    However, I am still curious to hear from those that disagree with the decision, and why. I am bewildered by the idea that disagreement, especially in the “romance community,” can only be done in whispers or private email or anonymous comments. Time and again we have knockdown discussions here, and there’s plenty of room for disagreement. So bring it.

  3. 3
    Eva Gale says:

    Anytime somebody wins something, there will always be those that discount the winner. Sour graes? Who the hell knows or cares.

    Bring on the controversy, though. ‘Cause I thought it was a great book and if she sells a gazillion, more power to her.

  4. 4
    Eva Gale says:

    I meant grapes, but graes sound pretty juicy too.

  5. 5
    Teddy Pig says:

    Well being I hate nicey nice borg like thought…

    I just wish the people saying it was a disgrace would say why. I am not opposed to bitching. I just wish it was clear on what grounds people felt upset about it.

    Is it because YA gets tons more support in mainstream critical circles than Romance ever will? I know I see them reviewed constantly in the papers.

    Is it because people feel the RITAs categories are not well defined?

    It would be great to know what the issue was.

  6. 6

    I think it’s AWESOME that a YA won the RITA.  AWESOME!!  YAYYYYY!!!

  7. 7
    Stephanie Doyle says:

    I’ll bite. I disagree.

    I didn’t post before anonymously or otherwise but I will say on the record that I’m disappointed a YA book won for best single-title romance.

    Not because of the book. I haven’t read it. But knowing that it had to get through 5 judges and then another 5 judges – I don’t think there can be any doubt that this must be a freakin A good book.

    My disappointment comes from the idea if that if the BEST that single title romance had to offer all year was a YA -then I think that reflects poorly on single-title romance.

    I don’t think anyone is to blame. I’m sure the judges based their scores on the book and not the controversy. And I’m glad that YA as a category survived and I hope Caridad’s win encourages others to submit their books.

    It’s not sour grapes on my part. I actually didn’t read any of the other books nominated. I read Caridiad’s blog and totally understood her frustration because she wanted a chance to compete for best first book, but I just wish she’d had the opportunity to compete in the category she intended.

    Maybe I have to re-adjust my idea of romance – but when I think of teenagers – I don’t think of a HEA. Too much growing to do.

  8. 8
    SB Sarah says:

    Well being I hate nicey nice borg like thought…

    Is it because YA gets tons more support in mainstream critical circles than Romance ever will? I know I see them reviewed constantly in the papers.

    Is it because people feel the RITAs categories are not well defined?

    I suspect, Mr. Teddy Pig, that you are more like your first name than your last, and are in real life very cuddly and frequently wear fuzzy sweaters so people will be compelled to rub their cheeks on you. Both sets.

    That said, I think it’s one of the two issues you defined. Either it’s underlying jealousy that YA is treated as a more legitimate genre by mainstream newspapers (though they lose their worth as book reviewing entities a bit each year, thanks to us evil bloggers types, mwahahahaha) and is reviewed and discussed as reading material with value and importance whereas romance, which is equally popular, is not. Or it’s that the RITAs are now flooded with a lot of genres that this person or the other person doesn’t like, be that YA or erotica or whatever.

    But either way, I’m not sure what the issue is myself.

  9. 9
    SB Sarah says:

    if that if the BEST that single title romance had to offer all year was a YA -then I think that reflects poorly on single-title romance.

    ….but when I think of teenagers – I don’t think of a HEA. Too much growing to do.

    Stephanie: Thank you thank you for articulating the disappointment. Now, prepare for questions!

    Are the above two statements related? That a YA romance – which has an implied not-entirely-happy-ending within the HEA because of the youth of the protagonists – is not *really* a romance and ergo shouldn’t have won Best Contemporary Romance?

    I admit to having the same reservations with HEAs in YA romances, but then, I met my husband in high school so I have to tell myself that it could happen that their HEA is permanent.

    Or is there some specific difference between YA romance and adult romance that makes the two insufficiently able to compete against one another accurately?

  10. 10
    bookworm says:

    I seem to find some excellent reading in that place where genres blur and overlap, so “Adios To My Old Life” was the only RITA winner that went straight onto my must read list. Criticism of having a very young heroine is patently absurd considering the long history of very young heroines in romance novels.
    I do not agree, however, that posting anonymously or with a fake name instantly invalidates an opinion. Posting a very harsh opinion without giving good reasons does invalidate it, IMO. I spent years claiming my identity back from the bastards who stole it, and have become somewhat phobic about the precious commodity that is my real name. Does the fact that I’m not willing to use it invalidate all my opinions? I hope not. And I certainly don’t appreciate being lumped in with that small group of people who think that being anonymous is a good opportunity to be vicious.

  11. 11

    I haven’t read the book (though I am partial to YA in general – more so than traditional romance) but I suspect this type of thing was bound to happen simply because the RITAs and RWA as an organization has resisted changing even though publishing has.  I was at Nationals last year and sat there in disbelief as the categories were read – Regency?  Really??  A whole category for Regency?  Coming from a fantastic local chapter that *has* kept up with the industry, it was a rude awakening about the national organization. 

    If RWA is to continue being a resource for writers and for publishers, they need to realize that they can’t run the industry, and they can’t ignore the changing market.  I give them credit for allowing a YA into the running, but the category structure of the RITAs and GHs are as frozen in time as my grandma’s white leather living room set.

  12. 12
    Julie Leto says:

    Again, I have to return to the book being discussed specifically and not in generalizations of YA as a whole. ADIOS was not so much about teenagers, but about young adults.  This isn’t HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and I seriously doubt that any other book could have topped this category.  The heroine had a maturity about her that trascended the YA genre…and the subject matter and setting also lent to a more mature feel to the book.  ADIOS was more about reality television and the music industry than it was about high school crushes or prom.  I’m not knocking YA.  I love YA.  I’m just saying that this particular book wasn’t a typical YA.  It, IMO, crossed the line between young adult and adult fiction.  Had the heroine been 19-21, the book could have still worked…though not quite as effectively…particularly within the hispanic, namely Cuban-American culture where this book is set.

    Most romance readers want to read about a vulnerable heroine.  What made her vulnerable was her lack of worldliness in a cut-throat industry.  This was made more believable because of her tender age, but might have been able to work had she been older as well.

  13. 13
    SB Sarah says:

    I certainly don’t appreciate being lumped in with that small group of people who think that being anonymous is a good opportunity to be vicious.

    Good point, bookworm. My apologies. My frustration is certainly directed at people who post anonymously and toss a nasty comment down, then don’t back it up with anything, or a way to reach them to ask, “What do you mean?”

    I have no problem with the number of people who use screen names here and don’t use their real names at all – or those who want to remain unlinked and somewhat protected. I get cranky at “anonymous at me @ me.com” comments that are vicious and pointless but you’re right it’s not the same thing.

    And my sympathies on the identity theft. That freaking sucks.

  14. 14
    Janice says:

    Controversy.. hmm.. *goes to look up book*.

    :P :P

    I actually looked this up already because it won the RITA and was a YA. And that’s sans the controversy. Now its even more interesting.. why would people call BS? *Wants to read it more*. Therefore I agree with this post.

  15. 15
    Julie Leto says:

    Melanie, the thing you have to realize about RWA is that change in the national organization is slow.  Boards who try to change things quickly and without a lot of investigation and thought and documentation are villified—and rightfully so.  I think the changes to the RITA and GH for next year were worth the wait.

    And you can’t blame RWA for there being no YA category.  They offered it—enough people didn’t enter, something Barb/Caridad lamented in her acceptance speech.  All the categories have a minimum number that have to be entered before the category is viable.  I think that’s fair.

  16. 16
    Julie Leto says:

    Bookworm is right.  I’m sorry I said it, too.  I didn’t mean people who take screennames that are valid and recognizable and who offer complete opinions, but more the drive-by type of anon posting that says, ultimately, nothing of value.

  17. 17
    SB Sarah says:

    Further, to retread something that’s been mentioned countless times, the rules of the RITA stipulate that in order to enter “Best First Book,” you have to enter another category as well. So since there was no YA, Ferrer entered Best Contemporary as her entrance requirement for Best First Book. Thus her win is more significant in that regard.

  18. 18
    Stephanie Doyle says:

    “…is not *really* a romance and ergo shouldn’t have won Best Contemporary Romance?”

    That’s it. Option A. Again I didn’t read the book but just going on what Julie said about it being more about an exploration of self… also in reading the back blurb… it didn’t come off to me as a straight romance.

    When I think YA I think growth, learning and exploration. Just like when I hear Paranormal – I think vampires, ghosts and psychics.

    That’s why we have categories. It’s not the BEST BOOK category. It’s the best single-title contemp romance – where the focus of the story should be on the couple falling in love, and living happily ever after.

    However the next question can a romance story about teens compete straight on with a romance story about adults… as I said I might have a harder time buying it, but yeah. I think it can.

    Of course now that I think about it I KNOW it can because I’m desperately waiting for my Harry Potter copy to find out what happens with Ron and Hermione. (Who MUST have an HEA – Right? Right? JK wouldn’t be so cruel to me.)

    Look – I could be dead wrong. ADIOS could be a straight romance about teens in which case it absolutely found the right category. I’m basing my comments on knowing that it was intended for YA and all the expectations that for *me* comes with a YA book.

  19. 19
    Stephanie Doyle says:

    See… and I just read Julie’s comment that the book goes beyond a “YA”. And has a very different feel.

    Enough said.

    That’s all the explanation I needed for why it was able to hold it’s own in this category. (Also I know from another loop that Julie is really smart – and I don’t like to disagree with her :))

    My reaction was just a gut reaction based on what I know about YA – which don’t get me wrong – is a great category with great books. But YA is not Single-Title Contemporary.

    My hope is that YA writers submit their work next year. I’m not sure why they didn’t this year.

  20. 20

    They did sub—just not enough…and I know some subbed and got disqualified.  :(  So it was unfortunate this year, but I hope people try again next year!!

  21. 21
    Ann Aguirre says:

    I am curious whether those griping about the book have read all of the books in the category, including AtmOL.

    If they have, then it might behoove the critics to offer more substantial commentary regarding why they disagree with the win. Blanket statements and annoyed mumblings don’t do much to support their stance.

  22. 22
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Regency?  Really??  A whole category for Regency?

    Regency-set historicals make up roughly 50% of the historicals published over the past few years according to the board survey of back issues of Romantic Times. The category is not limited to Traditional Regencies, which have essentially ceased to be published by NY.

    While MANY of us disagree with board’s decision to create two overlapping historical categories (the other one is any romance set before 1945, which clearly includes the Regency era), I think most of us did think that Regency-set historicals should be separated out from the others. We just thought the separation should be actual, no merely a suggestion.

  23. 23
    Chicklet says:

    My disappointment comes from the idea if that if the BEST that single title romance had to offer all year was a YA -then I think that reflects poorly on single-title romance.

    Then maybe single-title romance needs to bring its game next year, huh?

    Okay, that was really snarky, and probably unnecessarily so. But I hate the anti-YA bias that seems to be driving the complaints about ADIOS winning the single-title contemporary award. People seem to think a YA novel just can’t be written as well as an adult novel, and are peeved that someone’s pointing out that just because a novel is about a young person, that doesn’t mean it’s not as valid as one written about an adult.

    To which I say, have you heard of this book called To Kill a Mockingbird?

  24. 24
    Michelle Butler says:

    I’m definitely going to look up this book.

    This may be controversial, but I think a YA winning a Rita for best single-title contemporary romance may beg the question what is “wrong” with single-title contemporaries these days.  I used to read so many more of them than I do now.  Beyond Susan Elizabeth Phillips, I can’t think of a single-title contemporary author I get that much excited about one of her upcoming releases.  I sometimes feel like I get my contemporary romance fix out of the Superromance line.

    I do really enjoy Susan Wiggs’ novels, and I belive her books have won single-title contemporary romance Ritas in the past. But, I would argue that in the majority of her books, the romance is more of a secondary plot behind the greater, more women’s fiction, self-actualization of heroine plot that feels more important to the advancement of the story in this reader’s eyes. It may not be that different from the YA that just one the Rita based on previous comments.

    So, where are all the great, single-title contemporary romance novels?  Am I just missing them?

    -Michelle

  25. 25
    Jane says:

    I don’t know that I am all upset about the award, although my initial feeling is that a YA book shouldn’t have won the contemporary romance award.  I need to think about it more but my sense is that YA is a different animal than contemporary romance and therefore you aren’t judging apples against apples. 

    I.e., did the Adios book win because it was a fresh story different than all the other contemporaries put in that category? 

    What I do find is ironic, though, it seems that the same people who are in support of Ferrer’s win are also the same people who were outspoken against the way RITAs are judged/won.  I don’t know if I have the time to wade through 300+ comments on the subject, but I remember very vocal critics of the subject here on this blog.  As if because a commenter now agrees with the result, the process is validated.

    I think, too, that a criticism of Adios winning isn’t the same as criticizing the book itself.

  26. 26

    Sorry, but if you did not read the book how can you say it didn’t deserve to win? Romance = HEA (for the most part) right?

    Adios was a romance. It happened to have a heroine who was young.

    Um, read any historicals lately? Where the heroine is 16 and marries a 28 year old?

    I am delighted that Barb won the Rita and not just because she is a cool chick. I think she deserved to win. The book is well-written and the story well told.

    It was judged by other published authors and it was judged on its own merits not whether or not the RWA members at large would be happy.

    Really twists my knickers to see people whining about a book that deserved to win.

    On a personal note, I didn’t even KNOW I talked to a SmartBitch! LOL! That polka-dot dress was to DIE for! And where is that picture of the shoe?

  27. 27
    Stephanie Doyle says:

    “…But I hate the anti-YA bias that seems to be driving the complaints about ADIOS winning the single-title contemporary award….”

    Chicklit – I just want to be VERY clear. I do NOT in anyway think that that YA books are better/worse than a single-title stories.

    I’m PRO-YA. Hell, I’m pro good books. Period.

    I just think that the two categories are different.

  28. 28
    Jane says:

    I admit to not having read the book, but I thought we were discussing the theoretical idea of whether a YA book should be winning a non YA category RITA.  This is not dissimilar to the discussion that took place on the blog a few months ago as to whether the RITAs were relevant.  It would be virtually impossible to limit a discussion of who should/should not win to those who have read all the entrant books.

  29. 29
    Jo says:

    When I read that a YA title had won a catagory, my only thought it was another example of the blurring of the line between adult and YA. It seems to happen quite often in fantasy/sf that books marketed originally for adults are re-marketed for teens,ie David Eddings Belariad series and Trudy Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy and vice versa ie MaryJanice Davidson’s Jennifer Scales’ books now being printed for adults.
    I have tended to be a bit warier about letting my 15 year old read my romance books, as opposed to other genres, purely due to the sexual content but after discussing some of her recent teen ‘romances’ one of which involved drugs, rape, homosexuality – both male and female and a HEA and another dealing with child sex abuse, abortion, promiscuity and a HEA, I’m beginning to think that adult romances will be a bit tame compared to YA!

  30. 30
    Molly says:

    In cases of awards shows where nothing I’ve read/watched/etc. and enjoyed is a serious contender (and something I enjoyed greatly was overlooked entirely), I pretend to myself that the award is one of those cursed ones, where the winner will never produce anything of worth again.

    But then, I’m a vengeful little minx.

    So no matter what, I hold nothing against the winner.

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