I love young adult fiction. I really do. I love reading about people my age, who face similar things but react so differently. I love the way it’s so easy to slip into their characters and into the amazingly detailed worlds. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there), I can admit that the young adult genreisn’t perfect. Some messages that some young adult books convey…well they’re unhealthy (not to mention completely untrue) to say the least. I’ll be touching on some of them in this post.
Boys and girls can never be just best-friends.
This is not entirely a Young Adult fiction phenomenon. In fact, in real life many people seem to believe this too. But I’m going ahead and starting my list with this thing because it happens all the time in young adult fiction. It usually goes like this: Boy and girl have been best friends since they were babies, one of them develops romantic feelings for the other, they refuse to tell their friend because they don’t want to ‘ruin things’, inevitably they wait too long and a new romantic interest shows up, they get jealous and they end up confessing their love and boom- instant love triangle. I’m serious this trope has been overdone (that’s why it’s called a trope).
Characters stuck in this trope: Gale and Katniss from the Hunger Games, Simon and Clary from the Mortal Instruments (at least for the first few books)
Books which managed to evade this trope: I’m going to be a little more specific- I want male and female main characters who are not related to each other (and neither of them can be a LGBT for this to work) but who still don’t have romantic feelings for each other, no matter how much you tilt your head and squint. Not surprisingly, this lowers the list quite dramatically and the only thing I can think of off the bat is Forever Mine by Elizabeth Reyes (and even that comes with a whole set of other problems). In it Sarah has a great relationship with her best friend Sydney, who is male and has his own girlfriend.
No matter what your ‘soul mate’ does, you should forgive them.
Stalking you, scaring you…hurting you– we’ve all been taught in real life that we should never be with a person who doesn’t respect you as a person or who scares and hurts you. It’s called abuse people. And no matter what the situation is, it is unforgiveable. So why did we forgive Four so easily for taking a part of Tris’s ear off with a knife (on purpose) in Divergent or Patch trying to scare Nora into leaving him alone in Hush, Hush? And before you feminists get all superior- it’s not just the men who hurt women. In the Hunger Games, Katniss toys with Peeta’s emotions and pretends to love him before revealing it was all just a sham. And what does Peeta do? He just swallows his pride to play the part of the not-so-star crossed lover for the sake of the Capitol and Katniss’s family? Sure, it’s different but at the end of the day- it’s just another kind of abuse.
Books stuck in this trope: Like I mentioned above, Divergent, Hush, Hush and the Hunger Games all fall into this category
Books which are totally against this trope: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard deals with emotional abuse, Bitter End by Jennifer Brown and But I Love Him by Mandy Hubbard deal with physical abuse.
Parents and teachers (basically all adults) are incapable of fully understandin and helping you.
Like my English teacher would say, a huge part of being a teenager is wanting to show that you’re self-sufficient and independent. In other words, we teenagers would like to believe we don’t need no grownups. So in books like the Iron King by Julie Kagawa, the parents are the last one who are let into the loop. Because they wouldn’t need to know that their son is being held hostage by the fae and has been replaced with a changeling, would they? Nope, not at all. Even the Harry Potter series is not safe from this trope. Dumbledore, though a great man is eventually shown to be fallible and most fans believe Harry would have been better off never trusting him in the first place.
I can not, and I repeat- can not think of a single young adult fiction book in which there is a reliable adult around who the main character trusts and tells them about everything.
Whining can be endearing.
Bella Swan from Twilight is perhaps the most well-known for this trope (boo-hoo, i’m not pretty, it rains so much here, my boyfriend won’t turn me into a vampire, he wants to celebrate my birthday, and it rains so much here *sob*) but there are others too. Zoey from the House of Night series and Cassia from the Matched trilogy, I’m looking at you. Authors, there’s one really important thing you need to know about teenage girls: Most of us are not whiny and none of us find whiny people endearing. If you need to give your narrator’s voice a little bit of oomph, then whininess is not the way to go.
Some books without this trope: Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder and The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman- all three are great books with non-whiny heroes who have excoriating circumstances thrust upon them but still rise to meet the challenges with minimal self pity and whining.
Love at first sight exists
This trope exists in so many forms. Of course there is the ‘You don’t need to walk by again, I believe in love at first sight’ but perhaps the most common form in young adult fiction is ‘I had never seen that boy before but I felt an instant connection’. The ‘We met in a dream and that’s how we fell in love’ one’s pretty common too. All so different but they have one thing in common- they’re all annoying. Not to mention unrealistic.
P.S. the ‘We met in a past life’ one counts too. Cheaters *sticks tongue out*
Character stuck in this trope: Ethan and Lena from Beautiful Creatures, Daniel and Luce from Fallen
Books without this trope: The Gallagher Girls and Heist Society by Ally Carter. I’m not sure if Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan gets to go in this category or not. After all, Kami and Jared have never met but at the same time they’ve been each others best friends (even if each of them thought the other was imaginary). But it’s so good, I’m going to go ahead and put it here.
Everything will work out (even if you do nothing)
So here’s what happens when you’ve got a huge problem that stresses you out completely- a magical and amazing outsider will come in and wave their magical fairy wand and your problem will disappear forever. How often does this happen in real life? Once? Twice? Oh wait, I remember…never. You usually have to work hard to make your problems disappear. Even if they do disappear, it’s because you’ve matured and grown and thus have bigger problems to worry about. So yeah, I hate happy ever afters when the main characters do nothing to deserve them.
In fact, there’s a fancy latin name for this whole trope. It’s called deus ex machina. Wikipedia defines it as a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. It also makes it pretty clear that this is undesirable.
Books with this trope: This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith and The Chemical Garden Trilogoy by Lauren DeStefano
The exceptions to the rule: Lord of The Flies by William Golding- but only because I think if it went any further, I would have freaked out.
So that’s a list of some things I hate about YA. What about you?