Life as a Writer

5 Things that Need to Disappear from YA Forever

I love YA (Young Adult). I read YA. I write YA. I represent YA. You could say I live and breathe YA. But there are some things in YA fiction that just need to die. Forever.

  1. Unhealthy relationships

Exhibit A: Twilight. It seems like every YA relationship somehow ends up with a girl who falls for a “bad boy,” even if the “bad” in said bad boy is evil dictator or assassin or manipulative vampire.

Or let’s talk about the confusing “I’m mean to you and hard on you because I like you” relationships (Divergent).

No, love interests don’t have to be perfect. But the fact that authors often want us to root for the disturbed psychopath or two-hundred-year-old monster thing over a normal boy next door is disturbing. If we are going to root for the “bad boy,” can we at least hold off on the shipping until they’re reformed enough to actually treat our heroine right?

And no, kidnapping is NEVER romantic.

  1. Thirteen-year-olds who act thirty

Sometimes, teenagers have to save the world. That’s all good and fun. But when they act twice their age, it’s weird.

What do I mean? How many teenagers are capable of fully describing their most intimate emotions in poetic language to one another? Yet the monologues are everywhere in YA.

What teenagers are in deep romantic relationships, complementing one another as best friends and partners? This literally DOESN’T HAPPEN. At best, they can hold a decent conversation when they aren’t making out. Teenage relationships are built on a solid foundation of hormones, awkwardness, and lack of communication.

Or what about coffee-drinking habits? I think sleep-deprived authors have more in common with characters than actual teenagers.

Being a teenager is AWKWARD. If all teens are seeing are characters who seem to have direction in life, look like models, are treated like adults, have perfect relationships, and drink like writers, they’re in for a hard shock when they’re confused what college they want to attend, have zits and braces, act like (and are treated like) unruly monkeys, have awkward relationships and sloppy first kisses, and caffeine headaches.

For once, can we have relatable characters who actually act like teenagers?

And by the way… prom is a sweaty MESS in a stinky gym with tacky decorations and cringy dancing. It’s not the ball books always make it seem like. And half of us didn’t even care enough to go.

  1. All parents are awful (or dead)

I think YA authors are physically incapable of writing a parent who is a decent human who isn’t also dying or dead. Teenagers already tend to hate their parents. YA fiction just enforces the idea that parents have no place in a teen’s life, and when they do, it’s only as a negative force. Could we for once have parents who are supportive, intelligent, and have a good relationship with their children? And maybe not completely clueless about literally everything? Or am I the only one in the world who had good parents?

  1. All strong female leads have to be manly

     I love having females in lead roles in something other than romances. However, why do they always have to be “not like other girls,” which seems to mean they’re tomboys, tough, athletic, and basically one of the guys? (Though, of course, they’re also just accidentally gorgeous without trying.) Is there something wrong with being “like other girls,” i.e., a girl? Though I enjoy these hardcore heroines, when they are the only lead females available, instead of empowering, this kind of narrow definition makes being female seem like a weakness, or something wrong. What about a sensitive female lead? A girl who has a tender heart? Maybe one who enjoys clothes and makeup? Or one who is completely hopeless in anything athletic, or even one who only has girl friends and is hopelessly awkward around guys? Is it possible that we can show teen girls that girls who are “girly” can still do big things? That being feminine is okay?

  1. All male-female friendships must end in relationship

“We’re just friends” always leads to smooching at some point. At least, according to YA. But guys and girls actually CAN just be friends. And not because someone friend-zoned the other person. Because two humans can just be friends without being romantically attracted to each other. And especially with the push for gender equality in the publishing world, I think that’s something we should be portraying more often. Guy. Girl. Friends. That’s it. (Not to mention the lack of female friendships that exist for something other than just discussing the love interest guy.)

 

So, those are five things I think should be nixed from YA fiction. What about you? What do you want to see gone? Or, what do you want to see more of? Share in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “5 Things that Need to Disappear from YA Forever”

  1. Taking into consideration points 2 and 4, what are some of the most genuine “show don’t tell” examples that you think you’ve read about girl teenagers who are forced by the plot into such roles?

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    1. Lately I’ve been recommending The Grace Year by Kim Liggett as an example of a book that turns the tropes on their heads while still having a strong female protagonist that acts her age but has to face difficult situations. Love that book.

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