Saturday, May 01, 2010

What's Missing in YA Lit?

A few days ago, I came across this post by Steph Su:

What's Missing In YA Lit? The Contemporary Edition
One of the side effects of blogging, especially if you're blogging with being an aspiring writer in mind, is that you start to notice trends, of what's overdone, what's missing, things that worked for you, things that didn't.

So this got me thinking. We really are missing some key points in YA Lit these days. As a teenager, I read books where I want to be able to connect somewhat, if not all the way, with the character of the book. But I also want a YA book to be well....YA. There were a lot of points Steph made and I agree with most of them.

1. Parents
As Steph noted, why are most parents divorced, single, dead, drunks, etc? Most of the authors are in good marriages, so why make the parents look so horrid? Why must all the teenage protagonist think that their parents are bad people who don't understand them, don't have time for them, or they're dead? Yes, most teens do have problems with their parents but that's expected isn't it? So why make them look so bad, when in reality, they aren't?

2. YA lit
You want the truth? I'm not sure how many friends I have who are willing to read a Jane Austen book over say, a book of The House of Night Series. So why is it that in most books, we see the classics? In Twilight, there was Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet. A lot of Bronte and Austen. I don't remember the last YA book I read that had the MC read a book of the Vampire Academy, or The Hunger Games, or some other book?

3. Homework
What kid in this world can (as Steph mentioned) be in AP classes, honors classes, have 4.0s and get into Ivy League school, and not do ANY homework. I've rarely, if at all, seen a MC worry about homework instead of boys or projects over makeup or a ball game. How can theses characters get around 8 hours of sleep and get into Ivy League? As an honors student my self, that's far from reality. I stay up past midnight, sometimes studying or doing homework. And damn the fact that people say you can get into any schools of grades alone. I've joined clubs and volunteer and play a sport because I want to go to collage. If going to school was based on no homework, I think there would be no reason for school it self. 
4. An ACCURATE portrayal of the college application process
I've actually got a long time before I have to apply for a collage but the teachers and guidance counselors are already hammering down on us to see what we want to major/minor in collage and where we're thinking of going. But my sister had to go through this process and it's not something you can do in about a month, as seen in some books. Other times, there are the characters who get into EVERY SINGLE school they applied for while someone else didn't. I just don't get how this can happen? How can someone have everything every school they applied for is looking for? How can a MC have a perfect GPA, grades, etc for maybe 5-6 school?

5. Realistic romances
You know what's over rated? The story line of the very-shy-girl-who-is-suddenly-the-love-interest-of-some-super-cute-jock-who-has-everything-she-wants. Or where the simple, nice girl falls for the bad boy. THIS IS NOT HOW IT REALLY HAPPENS. Ok, I'm sure there are some people who say this is how it happened for them, but for the rest of us, I don't think so. I don't know a single friend to whom one of these scenarios has happened to. So can we just try and make it realistic instead of a fantasy? Don't get me wrong, I do love reading books like this but sometimes, its too much. 

6. Athletes
I love sports plain and simple. Sure I don't play as much as I did but I still love it. And I love when there is a character who plays a sport. But I don't want a YA book to brush up on the topic. Like Steph said "Though I would like to see some more actual athletic action: mentions or recaps of games, practice, interactions with teammates, bus rides, the like. Basically, I'd love if YA's approach to sports (part of a character's identity, but doesn't define him/her) could be extended to other aspects of YA lit, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, introvertedness, mental illness... the list goes on and on." I agree with her. There is more to a sport than kicking around a ball, or hitting it with a ball, or making a touch down. There is the pressure, the amount of time needed for practice, being in shape and constantly working out. 

And the last topic:

7. Acne (and other physical "uncomfortableness")
Most teenagers hate their bodies. Most of them have some issue or problem or something with their bodies. So why doesn't YA touch on that? Why have I read so many books where the MC has a model's body, no acne, is 5'10'' and weighs less than 150 pounds? Why can't an MC be a size more than uh, say 1? And diets NEVER WORK so why do so many YA books have characters who are on diets? And then there are the girls who have a metabolism that makes them not gain any weight. Alright, I'll admit, my own metabolism is like this. I'm 5'3'' at the moment and I have never weighted more than 107 pounds in my life. And I have acne. I clean my face of all make up, dirt, etc every night but I still get acne. It's part of life and you just have to learn to live with it. 

Here is Steph's post. I am not trying to copy anything of her's but putting my own two cents into this topic. 


  1. This is interesting, I would like to see more of the above in books.

  2. These are all interesting points.
    I think you will find more of all of the above in gritty realistic fiction. Or what they like to call, "problem fiction"
    Fantasy and sci-fi frequently don't feature struggles to keep up in school or body issues because... well... they're FANTASY -- books about how teens wish they could be if they had superpowers and no parents around to bug them. :P
    But, the best fiction always has conflict, so a little less airbrushed perfection in some of our protagonists would certainly be welcome.