But by and far the most common voice in teen lit is the snarky one (with minor variations), and it's become my default writing voice, too - which I'm not keen on. So whenever I discover a non-snarky voice I take the time to really break it down and analyze it. For instance, in The Secret Ingredient, Olivia's "all-over-the-place" voice, broken down, means that in one paragraph she's talking about Skid Row, in the next paragraph talking about food, in the next she's musing about learning to read "the maps of people's faces". Some readers might find this jumping from subject to subject confusing, I suppose, but it's such a female thing, finding connections everywhere (or randomly making them).
Recently I went back and re-read my own teen voice in my journals. I had a distinct voice, though WAY too wordy for good fiction, and not entirely original either. Whenever something fascinated me I would go off on these long, detailed, intensely opinionated riffs in my journals. Sometimes I'd go off on a philosophical riff prompted by some required reading at school (The Stranger, by Albert Camus, really fascinated me at the time). Sometimes I'd go off on a detailed description of a beautiful natural setting and my emotional reaction to it (senior year camping trip in the Allegheny hills).
I was heavily influenced by the Lord of the Rings in high school, and in my journals, where I was free to be myself, I would try to (maybe subconsciously) imitate a Tolkienish voice... but much more emotional and opinionated, like a young know-it-all female version of Gandalf before experience taught better wisdom.
Here's the part where I segue my way from musings about voice to a review of The Secret Ingredient. My full review is on Goodreads, but the skinny version here is parts of this book I loved, just loved: the characters and the voice and the perfect pacing.
A big draw for me with this book was a contemporary story with a historical story paralleling it, when Olivia finds a cookbook with personal notes from its original owner in the 1960's. I love these types of stories within stories.
But it turned out the best part of the book was in the little details (and great voice). This is a fun trip through a girl’s life in L.A. with a little bit of what we all crave from this setting: run-ins with actors (Jude Law – nice!) and a few insider peeks into movie biz, as Olivia works at a casting agency and gets to meet some, um, interesting clients. But mostly it’s a frolic through the ups and downs of adoptive, non-traditional family relationships, food (oh my where are the recipes! - my mouth watered the whole time), and quirky romance.
Opening quote: Food is our common ground, a universal experience. - James Beard.
First line: Every day is sunny in Los Angeles, but it’s not exactly paradise.
When I got hooked: on page 1, when Olivia suggests a name for a laundromat: “Not Responsible for Lost Socks". I knew for sure I was hooked a couple pages later with this observation about her dad in the morning: “His hair seems to be living in a different area code than his head.”
The whole book is filled with fun observations like this. And sometimes with writing that crosses over from fun, to really lovely:
I look down at the photo he handed me. It looks a little retouched, but his gaze covers me slowly, like sheets falling from a clothesline.
If you could label a distinctive voice from a favorite book, what would it be?