When Books Take Place Where You Live

I originally drafted this post a few months ago, so the references aren’t as immediate as they were at the time of drafting, but are still relevant. 

One of the most popular new YA reads this spring/summer was Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. I haven’t read it, but I am mildly curious about it, about 90% of the reason being the Nashville aspect of it.

The Hundred Oaks series by Miranda Kenneally takes place in Franklin, TN, not too far from where I live. When I discovered this, I read up on Miranda Kenneally. Apparently she’s from Manchester, TN, which is also not too far away. So I would think she knows the area. I haven’t read this series either, but I wasn’t impressed when I opened up to the first page of Things I Can’t Forget while in Barnes and Noble one Day and the MC mentions (in the first paragraph, mind you) going to “the next town over” Green Hills to buy a pregnancy test. Well, Green Hills is an area of Nashville (an extremely nice area, I might add), not actually a town; it has terrible traffic because everyone wants to be there (plus Vanderbilt University and Lipscomb University are both in the vicinity); and basically, it’s the last place I would go to to buy a pregnancy test as a teen.

I also saw Paper Riot describe Franklin, TN in The Hundred Oaks Series as a “sports-oriented place,” akin to Dillon, Texas in Friday Night Lights. I’ve watched some Friday Night Lights, and that town is nothing like Franklin, TN. I’m sure there is some love for their local football teams (I’m pretty sure Franklin High School’s football has been to State at least once, maybe more than once, since I moved to Tennessee), but if the impression it gives to the reader is that it’s like Dillon, I would have to beg to differ.

All that to say, I think we love seeking out things about where we live. But what if they get it all wrong?

nashville-area-booksHere’s my more educated rant. While reading Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson there was a character named Cody who stuck out to me. You see, he was a cop in Nashville. That was awesome to me! What was not awesome though? The fact that he said “y’all” when speaking to a singular person. Who does that? Not me, and not my other Nashville area friends. At least, not frequently and consistently (it’s possible it might happen if one is not thinking it through). But it really took me out of the story the first time Cody addresses David, and David alone, as “y’all.” I thought maybe he was talking to someone else too, but I couldn’t figure out who. But then he kept doing it! That’s not how it works, Brandon Sanderson! Of course, he also has some weird Scottish dialect thrown in that is unique to him so who knows.

Still, I want to read books that take place in my area, but I just don’t want them to be wrong. And then I have to think of all the settings for stories I have written that I have had zero exposure to. But they’re not published. For instance, I have a story I’ve started that is set in the Seattle area. I’ve never been to Seattle. I hope to go, especially before this story gets published (if it does, it’s not one of my top priority stories though). I would ask people from the area to read it. I would want to make sure it felt right.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the show Nashville. Actually, I’ve only seen one episode. And I do appreciate the show bringing exposure to the city, but not everyone here likes country music or has so much drama in their lives, HA.

How do you feel about books set in your area? Have you run across any that felt “off” to you? Have you read any that felt right?