[DWJ] hexwood, archer's goon, and age

Kyla Mackay-Smith kyla at keyfitz.org
Mon Jun 23 22:35:33 EDT 2008

On Mon, 23 Jun 2008, deborah.dwj at suberic.net wrote:

> I have a bunch of questions I'd like to run by the list, and
> they'll be wicked spoilery for Hexwood and Archer's Goon, so if
> you haven't read those, go away and have a cookie.
> s
> p
> o
> i
> l
> e
> r
> s
> p
> a
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> My questions are about protagonist age and expectation.
> For fifty years, there's been a general assumption in
> (non-picturebook) English-language literature published for
> children and young adults that the protaganists are about 1-3
> years older than the text's implied reader.  Obviously there are
> exceptions, and obviously there's a difference between texts
> marketed to children and YAs and those *read* by the same, but
> still, it's a nice genral guideline.

> But Hexwood and Archer's Goon both exhibit a trait which feels
> unique to me: a text which, along with the protaganist, spends
> most of the book ignorant about the protaganist's true adult
> status.  In AG, this is less startling, because the siblings are
> pretty childish even for Titans, so Howard's true age is less
> disconcerting.
> But I find the age discrepancy in Hexwood to be really odd.
> There's a *huge* difference between Ann's, what is it, twelve?
> and Vierran's youthful adulthood.  *Especially* since there's a
> romance, but not entirely.
> How did other people react to the age fakeout?  If you read all
> of Hexwood exactly as it was, but the character of Ann Stavely
> was older -- say 19 -- would it be the same book?  Is the text's
> implied reader Ann's age?  Vierran's?  Either? Both?

Ooh, interesting. Ann is twelve, but two years older than her 
twelve-year-old brother, I decided. Also, way back when we could ask DWJ a 
question on the web site, I asked something about characters' ages, and 
she said that "It is usually my deliberate policy NOT to give the ages of 
characters in my books. It is so humiliating if you are a mature 
11-year-old and you find that the person you have been eagerly identifying 
with is only nine. But I try to make sure that the age can be deduced by 
those determined to know. I'm glad I got it right in HEXWOOD."

I think that the implied reader in Hexwood is a teenager--yes, older than 
Ann, but Ann's only twelve because Vierran was told she was twelve, if 
that makes sense. I mean, I know I'm 28, and I'm married, and the words 
"woman" and "grown-up" can be accurately applied to me, but I don't *feel* 
as though it's accurate. I feel older and wiser and with cleaner hair than 
I did at twelve, but I do think that if a magical something told me I was 
twelve that I would say, "oh, yes, of course."

These are not the end of my thoughts (and I do also want to have a 
conversation about House of Many Ways--relatedly, I think Charmain is 
about fourteen or fifteen), but I don't think I'm going to be more 
coherent at the moment.

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in
choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.
        --John Kenneth Galbraith

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