The Problem With YA Fiction

I love reading Young Adult fiction and I don’t make it a secret. I also write Young Adult and I stand on a very narrow line where I know if I make one little slip, I will be hated.

Of course, there are those people who might still like it despite my vapid female character, my perfect love interest, and my cardboard cut-out supporting characters a.k.a. the BFF. I just want to point out some of the strengths of good YA writers and the failings of the writers English majors love to hate.

I have read a ton of Young Adult and I’m becoming better at realizing what I like and what I can’t stand. I love reading Sarah Dessen. Why? The boy isn’t the central issue ever. Sure, it’s a love story, but the characters always come to their conclusion after the main character comes to her own conclusion. She has to work on herself before she invests herself in a relationship and this is key. Some examples: Remy and her disbelief in love due to her parent’s mistakes, Colie has to find self-confidence after losing so much weight, Mclean has to find a way to repair her relationship with her mother, and Auden has to repair a relationship with both her parents and distinguish her needs from her parents. After all of that is done then Dexter, Norman, Dave, and Eli are able to come to a conclusion. The guys feel real. They have their own quirks and are far from perfect. Sure, I always said I could love Eli, but his best friend died and that’s an emotional trial. I loved Dexter and his silliness, but I need a guy who’s driven, damn it. The point is that the characters feel more alive than in some of the other YA fiction I’ve read. The guys always have a conclusion as well before the girls. Then there are the books where there are other problems that do involve the boys more fully, but are damaging the girls. These don’t end all happy. They have real issues. If you haven’t read Dreamland yet, please do. I think Rogerson is one of the best male characters out there. I fell in love with him with Haley and I was just as surprised at what happened with her.

John Green is my favorite YA author right now, with Sarah Dessen coming closely behind. I haven’t read one of his books in a while and I’ve only read each, once. What I can say is that his main character is an individual. The characters don’t fall flat and he makes sure to test his character. When writing, you have to know what will push your character to the furthest of their limits and that’s what he does. He loves these plot twists, but they’re dealt with tact. It’s not a plot device you roll your eyes at. Instead, they change the character and it takes over their lives. I haven’t read him since I’ve started this reading with post-it notes thing I do, but I’ll be sure to once I get more of his books.

Then there are the books that everybody hates like Twilight. Okay…not everybody hates them. I used to love Twilight. Really, I did. It wasn’t until I started reading more and started looking back at my life and how I reacted to situations because of Twilight. When I was younger, I always defended Twilight. It’s just a book, not everyone is going to be Bella and sure there are crazy people out there, but we know that. You can’t blame it all on Stephanie Meyer. I enjoyed it because I hadn’t read a book like that and it was a quick read that I couldn’t put down. Now that I’m older and a little better read, I have to disagree with myself. Edward is a pity party boyfriend. “I’m such a bad person and you should hate me wah wah wah.” (I’ve dated a guy like this before, it’s not that cute.) What it does is gives girls a reason to dismiss those bad things. Yeah, you are a bad person for hitting me, but I understand. We’ll work on this no problem. Obviously, that’s dramatic, but it still creates a problem. Edward is flawless and Bella will never feel that she can measure up. She has to change herself to become somewhat of an okay version, but still inadequate to feel that she can love Edward. I don’t know how there’s not a problem with that.

When my boyfriend broke up with me in High School, I reread New Moon. I decided that we were about the same way. He had always reminded me of Edward since he said he only hurt girls. This, he proved to me that year, but I dismissed what he did because we were in love. Love can beat anything even painful events that can never be mended. This isn’t a way to look at life. Yes, there are times when people should be fought over, but it’s not something that always needs to happen to prove something. Bella was trying to prove her love for Edward. She felt guilty when she enjoyed her time with Jacob. They were friends and she was all freaked out about it. It takes time to heal and eventually she would have been better if Edward hadn’t come back. Is this a fan fiction? It should be. I’ll write one where she decided Jacob’s a great friend and that’s all and she learns to stand on her own two feet. Why can’t this be more popular?

I know Twilight is the go-to book for complaining about YA, but it’s not only Twilight. It seems that most of the books I pick up and read, have a female character who can’t imagine life without their boy. What it creates is a weak character who doesn’t know who she is. It creates ideals in teenagers that if they’re desperate enough, they’ll get what they want. It might seem like fighting, but if it’s worse for you, why bother? I’m speaking from experience here. One day, I might have a daughter and I hope that she’ll be her own person and not worry about wanting to marry a man right out of high school (seriously, that was me). If I have a son, I want him to be who he is and not act any more tough or weaker than he is. If I have no kids, well there’ll be kids somewhere I’ll be wishing for to be strong and know who they are.

What can still be done in YA is to have these characters begin figuring out who they are. They can have these screw-ups and these misunderstandings, but they should learn from them and have an actual character arc. What these authors are doing is creating role models for impressionable teens. They’ll still hit these hormonal crazes, but at least they don’t have their books making it worse.

Wow, this was a long rant one-sided discussion without any gifs too! Hopefully, I’ve made some type of point that I actually wanted to convey. If you have any responses, please comment. It might be the answer to my prayers.


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