This week the focus is things I don’t like about YA books! Let’s do a countdown, shall we?
# 10 Phrase / Word Repetition
I get it. Everyone has catchphrases they use. Everyone has a few favorite words. For example, I really enjoy saying “fiddle sticks”. Get a thesaurus, boo, because when you say the same lines over and over, I’m out.
#9 Quick Fixes
You know when you’re reading a book and the characters are all in deep shit, and you think to yourself, “How will they ever get out of this?” You see no reason why the story should or could end happily ever after. You even make your peace with it. Theeeeennnnnn some magical twist of fate or stupidity comes a long and wraps everything up in a pretty pink bow of awe. Nope. I dislike this. It implies that a) life always works out, and b) readers aren’t sophisticated enough to handle a healthy dose of reality. I’m down happy endings, but let’s keep it plausible. Also, can I see some learning curves?
#8 Weird Visuals
You know what doesn’t put me in the mood? Weird descriptions for things. Like “light shining though membrane wings” or “abs like marble”. There is nothing sexy about membranes or cuddling a rock, even if they do sparkle. How about when “he smelled of sunlight”. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Sunlight has no smell! It’s light! Get it together.
Let’s also take a moment to acknowledge some others gems: “his crooked side smile”, “amber eyes”, and “solitary dimple”. No. He sounds like a lopsided, snaggle-toothed cat with a random face hole. Why can’t you have two dimples? Was it forged in Mount Doom? Just stop.
#7 Insta-Love / Codependent Relationships
For many, reading is a vicarious experience that helps the individual grow. It can expose us to situations we might not have encountered before. I know that I tackled subjects such as love and loss in books long before I experienced these things personally. It allowed me a safe place to explore my feelings without going through them first hand. Almost all young adults touch on romantic relationships of some kind, and many get their literary panties in a twist over teens reading about sex, sexuality, or even the harder hitting topics of rape or abuse. I have zero problems with teens (or adults) reading about these things, because these things happen. What does frost my cookies is the glorification of insta-love and co-dependent relationships.
Love, self-identity, and understanding personal boundaries is challenging enough without having countless books portray obsession as “true love”. Latching onto someone so hard that you can’t function isn’t healthy. Neither is falling for someone because they whipped their hair at you.
I want to see more books with deep, meaningful relationships that are built upon getting to know someone. I want more matches made through friendship and not some divine force or hormone clouds. I want to see more characters who are fine being single, or at least retaining their sense of self once they are in a relationship.
#6 Ultra Flowery Writing
When you use up every synonym for the color blue and twenty pages to explain to me how it felt to gaze into her eyes, we’ve got a problem. Period. Tone down the poetry if you are working with prose. No one wants to hear you rap-battle for the next four hundred pages.
#5 Wonky Worldbuilding
Worldbuilding is extremely important, but unfortunately many authors have trouble hitting the sweet spot. The top three most tragic worldbuilding fails are:
- They explain too little. When a book makes me feel eternally lost, I leave it.
- They explain way too much… like 500 pages of information overload. I need concise and engaging introductions to the realms, not manuals.
- The rules of the world make zero sense or create monumental plot holes. I’m all for new and exciting, but not if it leaves me guessing my IQ or reading comprehension skills. Things need to add up if your want me to commit to being your reader.
#4 Lack of Diversity
Newsflash, we live in a multicultural world, and our books need to represent that. I get tired of seeing straight white chics dominating YA fiction. Let’s mix it up shall we?
#3 Trope Fails
This might be one of the most painful ones yet. There are reoccurring atrocities that I see time and time again, and they always leaving me wanting to call shenanigans. Some of the more egregious ones I see constantly are:
- Love Triangle. Do people really have that many options for relationships? Do they want them? Does everyone go ten years without lusting for their bestie, only to have it dawn on them that said bestie is a beefcake? I don’t think so. Plus it’s messy. Plus someone in the triangle is almost always a tool. More often than not, it isn’t even a contest. Like Bob over here is a dirt bag but cute, and Jon is really sweet and cute. Hmmmmmm… however do I turn down the dirt bag? Look at your life, look at your choices.
- Geeky Goddesses / Wonder Virgins. I’m not sure what all of these wall flowers are spritzing on before their epic adventure, but real attraction isn’t as simple or fickle as books make it out to be. It builds unrealistic expectations.
- Backhanded body shaming. When one character describes another as physically flawed somehow (skinny, fat, whatever), but they still somehow find them attractive even though there is nothing wrong with being as they are.
- Slut shaming. I shouldn’t have to explain this. Just don’t do it.
None of these things make for a better story when they are overused.
#2 Whiny Protagonists
I get it. Life is hard, and in some YA the deck is stacked against these people. However, there is a time to whine, and a time to shine. Leg blown off? You may cry. Just killed a kid in a weird death game? Please, proceed. Jeremy didn’t think your outfit was good enough? Bye. Suck it up. You been given epic powers or opportunity, but it’s harrrrddd? Ugh. I want characters with grit, because most teens I know have a ton of resilience, and books would serve their readers well to remember that. I want more Lady Mormonts and less crybabies.
#1 When It’s New Adult, but Tagged as YA
Before I sink into this one, let me start by saying that I feel people (younger people too) all should have the freedom to read what they like. I don’t care if a teen reads an adult book, with adult situations in it. I did. I’m also not their parent, so it isn’t my call what is right or wrong for someone else or their child. YA books can also have things like sexual content, violence, or anything else in them. However, for a book to be YA it needs to represent young adults. For me, that means I need to see young adults in the book (think 12-18 year olds), they need to experience some things that most teens would relate to or go through, and most importantly, they need to sound like real teens. If you have 19-23 year olds, doing adult things, and act like they are 40… it’s not YA. However, New Adults truly deserve to have books that are geared towards their district needs and experiences. There really needs to be more attention and care given towards identifying NA books for readers so that we can a) place books correctly in collections, and b) acknowledge that there are more age groups than “kids”, “teens”, and “adults”.
Regardless of any faults, I still love YA. Forever.
Also, if I missed any, please feel free to comment below! 🙂