What I Hate About YA

Obviously I love the Young Adult genre.  I wouldn’t be reading it and focusing my blog around it if I didn’t.  But YA as a genre has its flaws and there are some things that consistently appear in books that drive me mad.  What are some of these things?  Read on!

Relationships

1.  The girl always gets the guy (or vice versa).

I won’t claim I’m an expert in matters of the heart, but I do know one thing: You don’t always get the person you want.  Seriously, why is love in YA books always requited?  It doesn’t happen like that in real life.  In real life, when you have a crush on someone, there’s a good chance they don’t feel the same way.  And it sucks.  Yes, fiction is supposed to be uplifting to a certain extent, but can’t it be a little more realistic?

Love Triangles

2.  The love triangle.

This sort of ties in to #1 because not only in YA does the girl always get the guy (or vice versa), but there’s usually two guys drooling after said girl.  And these are supposedly average female narrators that a mostly female audience is supposed to identify with.  Maybe I’m just strange, but I have never been caught up in a love triangle and I know very few people that have.  Certainly they’re not usually as dramatic as they are portrayed in YA.

Now a love triangle once in a while wouldn’t bother me.  Hey, it happens.  But in nearly every single YA book?  That’s taking things a little too far.

Self-Esteem-and-Perception

3.  The narrator is a girl who has low self-esteem but is completely gorgeous in the classical definition of ‘beauty.’

Okay, it’s nice to increase teens’ self esteem and help them accept their bodies, whatever their size.  Why do all YA narrators (the female ones at least) call themselves ugly, but from the way they’re described are completely drop-dead, sometimes unrealistically gorgeous?  Or, their supposed flaws actually enhance their beauty?  (I’m talking ‘flaws’ like freckles, a slightly long nose, etc.)  Let’s face it: some people do not fit into the classical definition of ‘beauty.’  So why do all female YA narrators?

Slang

4.  The author tries to be hip to the lingo.

Oh, stop your moaning; you know older authors try to do this when they write YA.  Some authors try to incorporate current teen slang into their books, or what they think is current teen slang.  However, it usually ends up completely dumbing down the book because they have no idea what teens are really like and how they think.  Need an example?  How about Zoey from Marked?  Do you know any teenager that would even think the word, ‘poopie’?

“So I listened to the haunting Gaelic lyrics and pitch-forked up poopie.”  (pg 133)

I rest my case.

Happy Endings

5.  Things all turn out in the end.

Maybe it’s because I’m a cynic or because I usually cheer for the bad guy in movies/books/operas, but really happy endings seem to be a bit overdone in YA.  Everything is wrapped up perfectly, the narrator gets their love interest, the world is saved, etc.  Reality check: life isn’t like that.  It comes and bites you in the butt when you least expect it.  Again, maybe this is just my life because it always seems to run like this:

Good: My immune system has improved.  Bad: My back hates me and I’m in pain every day.

Good: My stress level is down.  Bad: I suddenly get ten times as much work.

Good: My hits are up on The Mad Reviewer.  Bad: Next week they’re at an all-time low.

You get what I mean.  Life can suck at times, so why do things seem to always work out in YA?  I’m not advocating for an operatic ending where everyone dies, but does every single little detail have to work out?

YA books

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to all YA.  There are some great, unique books out there for young adults, even if it can take some searching to find them.  Still, there are a lot of YA books out there that seem to be written using the same formula/plot elements, over and over and over again.  These are just some of my pet peeves, though. What are yours?

19 comments

  1. Zen A.

    You named the reasons I’m repelled by most YA books these days. I especially dislike the love triangle and the happy ending. There seems to be some kind of rule that the MC has to have two love interests and that they have to choose one person at the end.
    As for happy endings, I won’t deny that I like them, but they should at least be realistic. Even if the MC does win, there should be some grief somewhere in the ending to balance everything out.

    • Carrie Slager

      Yes, thank you! Happy endings should at least be realistic where not everything turns out ridiculously happy. The grief part is a good idea.

      All YA isn’t terrible and there really are some good books out there, but sometimes I get sick of cliches like love triangles and happy endings.

  2. Streetlight Reader

    I’m so glad you wrote this post Carrie, because it touched on everything that I’m tired about in YA too. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m 23 and I know life doesn’t work out the way we always want it to, but the girl getting the guy or vice versa is really tiring. I feel like some of the characters in certain books don’t even experience any growth. I also feel like it’s really unrealistic for the characters to be in relationships ALL the time when it doesn’t even happen like that in real life.

    Thank You for talking about the Love Triangle because sometimes it just doesn’t work. I’m exhausted of love triangles being in books just for the sake of having one. It’s so unnecessary! Great Post :).

    • Carrie Slager

      I can see why you’re frustrated. Technically I’m still in the YA target range, but I feel like I’m sort of growing out of the stereotypical YA story. The love triangle thing drives me insane, but the girl always getting the guy can be just as annoying. Life sometimes disappoints, get over it!

      Thanks Savindi. 🙂

  3. CarlaJHanna

    I love this post, Carrie! Unfortunately, the gods that are publishers require that a YA romance has a happy ending in which the girl gets the guy. It’s a genre must.

    It’s all about money. YA readers don’t buy books according to the Big 5 numbers. Their moms do. YA readers don’t buy books according to all of the “experts” in the publishing industry (who told me that my not-so-perfectly happy ending needed to be a lot more happy so it is now) until the teens are told to buy through social proof.

    I think indie publishing will help you get some more “realistic” reads. Right now, publishers want what has sold well. My novel, for example: I got a publishing deal as long as:
    1. every time the actress kissed a guy it was a steamy sex scene,
    2. changed to adult contemporary romance from YA to have a broader market base (because teens will read Shades anyway),
    3. the actress is more sympathetic – “knowing she’s beautiful doesn’t help girls relate to her, rape her or something”
    4. add more emotional conflict: a more evil antagonist and more of a love triangle. Yes, the love triangle is NOT conflicting enough as I wrote it – because honestly there really isn’t one. The conflict is Hollywood and lifestyle choices, not guy confusion.
    Like you, I found these requirements to be signed boring, not fresh or new, just same old gratuitous sex muddling up the plot.

    On the negative of indie books, I’m personally pissed that the indie “Hopeless” is YA. It’s erotica, dark, and disturbing. Teens are confused enough with sexual messages from movies and adult contemporary romance/erotica genres. It is yet another example of how sex sells and the false assumption that sexual experimentation/freedom is a symbol of power or self-esteem. It’s not. Its humiliating and degrading and in real life hurts the participant’s perception of self in adult relationships. The erotica genre argument is that romance is an escape and erotica is a curiosity so it does not need to be realistic sex. Love triangles offer the necessary steamy scenes and conflict for the protagonist. The responsibility on how the novel affects the reader relies on the reader, not on the publisher. The publisher’s job is to sell books and “obviously readers want sex in books.”

    • Carrie Slager

      Thanks for such a wonderful comment, Carla!

      I honestly had no idea that publishers went so far as to demand authors make specific changes to make their books more generic and appealing to a larger base. But that’s really eye-opening when you say what the publisher demanded from you. I certainly agree that there shouldn’t need to be sex in every book, especially YA. What’s wrong with writing a book without romance? Not everyone is in a relationship all the time and certainly not teens. (Or maybe I’m just weird; that’s always a possibility.)

      I agree with you that erotica should not be marketed at teens. There’s enough pornography and crap out there that they don’t need to have a more muddled message. Erotica is an escape…for adults. Yes, some teens will read it, but more will read it if it’s marketed at them. Sometimes I think pop culture is obsessed with sex but at the same time, preaches that it’s bad. Aren’t teens confused enough already?

  4. CarlaJHanna

    The popular YA fiction genres are: “literature and fiction,” “love and romance,” horror, and historical fiction. For some reason, “coming of age” is not in Teen, it is in “Fiction: genre fiction,” but “teen: literature and fiction” encompasses it. So if you are tired of romance, you might consider eliminating it from your blog YA genre categories and blog about the “literature and fiction” where happy endings and love triangles aren’t required.

    Today, here are the numbers of books on Amazon–not Kindle but “Books”. I don’t use Kindle because so many indies are included that it muddles the publisher’s perspective.

    Just as a comparison for “reach” of readers, look at the “teen” total number of books: 193,944. Just in adult literature and fiction: 2.3 million. Teen lit and fiction: 11,000. Adult romance: 312,402. Subsets: Adult Contemporary (96,855) and Adult Erotica (88,503). Teen romance: 5,820. Yep, HUGE difference. Teen romance is a tiny market.

    I first wrote my series as coming of age with romantic and spiritual elements. There are only 8,747 books in the category. So I included the requirements of YA romance to extend the reach to about 13,000. But still its a TINY market. Every publisher told me that the genre wasn’t commercial and YA romance was barely worth it. If I sold one book to every YA teen romance reader I wouldn’t even break Amazon’s top 20. I’d have to sell to the mommies reading YA and adult. It’d be an utter waste of investment for me or them to publish. So any author who chooses to write YA is eliminating more than half of her reach. It’s both liberating to try to reach teens and scary to focus on YA on purpose.

    • Carrie Slager

      Well, I keep romance as a blog category not because I use it exclusively, but also because I like to include some books under a couple of categories. If romance features prominently in a story, it’s nice to warn people.

      Wow, those numbers certainly are telling. YA is a genre on the rise in general, but it’s still amazing to see how much adult fiction still trumps YA. Thanks for an author’s perspective!

  5. Kelley

    Great post! I agree about the love triangles and the requited love. Another thing that drives me crazy is the insta-love.

    I also think it’s hilarious that you mentioned Zoey from the House of Night series and her vernacular. I laugh every time I read “poopie.” The interesting thing is, at least I *thought*, that for the most part, the teens in those books *do* sound like teens. It’s just Zoey that refuses to swear/curse so she resorts to stupid things like “poopie” (which is kind of, yeah, unrealistic). Oh, AND, it appears as though those books ARE written with the help of the author’s daughter, who seems young enough to KNOW the teen lingo.

    Anyway. ;D

    • Carrie Slager

      Maybe I was just unusual, but that was not how I or any of my friends thought or sounded like. You’re 16, saying “poopie” and not swearing at all, but are judging others constantly? Um, no. The series was just dumbed down completely and the writing style was terrible.

      But thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      • Kelley

        Oh, I agree about Zoey. I think she’s pretty unrealistic, and nobody says “poopie” — but I thought that was kind of a joke. Maybe I’m just *too old* but I did think that many of the other teenagers in the books DID sound realistic, even if Zoey did not.

        (Look, to be honest, I wasn’t like that as a teenager either, but I’ve certainly been around plenty of teenagers who *did* sound like that.)

          • Kelley

            Yeah, maybe you’re right. It’s been a while since I’ve read one of these books — but I’ve just started Hidden. So we’ll see if my feelings have changed.

            IN ANY CASE – great discussion! I’m glad I found your blog. 😀

  6. tarawestauthor

    Ha, ha! I agree about the love triangles. Ugh! BUT I am a sucker for happy endings, or at least, satisfactory endings. After reading The Hunger Games trilogy, I was left deflated by the ending. Not how I wanted it to end–AT ALL. LOL!

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