It's everywhere. Maybe YOU've seen it?
I sure have.
2nd person makes a devious appearance in the first chapter of Living Dead Girl; You by Charles Benoit, the upcoming sure-to-be-a-hit novel is narrated entirely in 2nd person; Printz-winning How I Live Now is stock-full of those buggers; and the last book I finished--Stolen--had a unique combination of 1st and 2nd person.
YOU is everywhere.*
This sudden--at least from my viewpoint--plague of You is a bit unsettling. Weird. Strange. A little scary, even. Maybe YOU've always been aware of it, but I haven't. And to me--as it seems that I come into more contact with the 2nd person as I pour over recently released books and unpublished snippets of writing--it's growing. Surging, even.
It's been hammered into my head over and over by numerous English teachers that no one but fools asking to be mocked and deprived of any literary standing use 2nd person; that if they do it's only a few sentences; that it jolts/jars/irritates/angers the reader and that 3rd person limited and first person are much better narrative forms. Also, that I'd never see 2nd person--maybe once if I was unlucky. Or twice.
I've seen it alright. And now, I can't avoid it.
I pretty much believed my teachers up until now. Second person = bad or fleeting. Whenever we went over POV, there would be lengthy definitions of the different variations of 1st and 3rd. 2nd would sometimes be mentioned in a vague afterthought--it's just basically "You" they'd say, but don't worry, it won't turn up. **
YA has become a place of unsettling tense/POV combinations that would make many readers of adult fiction cringe at the impropriety, the uppityness, the departure from established literary standards . It's 2010, the era of YA (it's long tendrils have reached and entrapped many adult readers by now) and I still see writers and readers arguing that first person present, permeating many of the books I read today is terrible, unusable, and mark of the incompetence of an author. Which is silly. I kind of want to shove The Hunger Games and Cracked Up to Be and half the YA section at them.
They say: first person MUST ALWAYS be past. Third person limited (past) is the best POV. They upturn their noses at the mention of awkward & self-conscious 3rd person present (an assessment I for the most part agree with***). I fear what they'll say about 2nd person. They'd probably scream or have a cow if they knew what I've been reading lately.
But maybe it's not that bad. I, for the most part, write this blog in 2nd person. (IT HAS INFILTRATED EVEN HERE! RUN! EVACUATE!). I write poetry in 2nd person.(whoah, how'd that happen? I really don't know). I kinda like 2nd person, and I'm starting to realize that just right now.
The 2nd person I've read--stubborn as I am--has been pretty darn good. Amazing, even. It's got this very haunting quality to it, as the main character or author speaks directly to you. The most striking part of Just in Case (by Meg Rosoff, the same author as How I Live Now) is a harrowing vignette of a plane crash, narrated in 2nd person. A character who jumps out of the page to the audience and says knowingly, "My friend always pretends like she's dumber than she really is. Don't you just hate when someone does that?" can be refreshing, voice-filled. Books narrated entirely in 2nd person can be done, and done well.
So no having cows needed. None. No conniptions either.
Maybe from now on I can have my 2nd person and enjoy it and not feel misgivings at the mention of it.
And I'm thinking--this is just my speculation--we'll be seeing more of 2nd person soon. At least on the YA side of things--whether it be short sections in the middle of a text or the POV of choice of the author.
So this is where you tell me what you think of 2nd person. Have you noticed more of it lately or is it just me? Any really good books in 2nd person?
* I'll ignore the terrible grammar of that sentence. *twitches*
**Here's something I've learned: Don't trust your English teachers solely because they're adults with a red pen.
*** 3rd person present does, for the most part, read awkwardly to me. Atwood has got it down in The Blind Assassin, though and I'm sure lots of others do too.
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