Saturday, October 15, 2011

What I Want to See More of in YA

Seven things which I think are currently lacking in YA... and that I want to read more of...

1. Psychological Thrillers

Because when done right, they can be SO awesome.  That's why The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin and Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick are two of my all-time favorite reads.  I put Becca Fitzpatrick here because although her books have paranormal elements, the most important part are actually the relationships and knowing who to trust.... which is why I did not put Hush, Hush down until I had finished it.  Good psychological thrillers are the types that I am devoted to until the very last page--I am with the protagonist every step of the way, also trying to solve the mystery.

2. Romance Where the Boy is Chasing the Girl

Because face it: how many YA romances have you read where the girl goes on and on about  the beauty of the romantic interest, and that's what seems like defines their relationship?  I'd like to see it where the boy is the one with the insecurities for once.  I hate seeing that sort of helplessness portrayed in so many female YA protagonists.  It's not something I'd want to be propagated as a descriptor of my gender.

Great examples: Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl and the Firelight series by Sophie Jordan

3. A Romantic Interest Whose Beauty Isn't Emphasized:

Yeah, yeah, it's an ideal world, and everyone is beautiful and we want that for ourselves too, but it's just not realistic.  Awesome example in paranormal is Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.  Lend is a great romantic interest because of his interactions with Evie, not OHMAHGAWD HIS EYES ARE SO GREEN, I JUST WANT TO DROWN IN THEM!  (His eyes aren't actually green ;P).  Awesome example in contemporary is What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen.  For me, at least, there's nothing more romantic than actually believing the guy is real and that the relationship can exist.
4. Attitude.

I mean writing a protagonist who's unforgettable in some way because of his/her attitude.  Divergent by Veronica Roth - Tris's flaw: lack of compassion; definitely not something I've read before.  Definitely makes it harder to empathize with Tris but also showcases Roth's writing in that she pulled this incredible feat off.  Hourglass by Myra McEntire & Hex Hall / Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins - Emerson Cole & Sophie Mercer have got plenty of attitude and a sarcastic streak that makes those books so much more enjoyable.  Nightshade by Andrea Cremer - Calla Tor isn't afraid to take charge and snap back at the men who want to assert control over her.  I lovelovelove the strong female protagonist who's defined by her attitude.

I just read a book--which shall go unnamed for the author's sake--where the protagonist was thinking about her PEDICURE when her boyfriend was examining her sprained ankle.  If your ankle had been hurting so badly that you couldn't walk earlier, why isn't it now?  Through your pain, your major concern is your TOENAILS?!

Point being, the nice, sweet, sometimes even quirky protagonists are a dime a dozen nowadays.  Give the girl/guy some spunk.  A sarcastic protagonist is also overdone so hopefully the sarcasm also coincides with something else that really makes him/her stand out.

5. Romantic Interests Who Already Have History with the Protag.

It's always about meeting the new person.  Why can't the romance in a YA novel involve someone the protagonist already knows?  Someone he/she already made out with?  I'd love to see more of that sort of evolution.  Those type of relationships happen a lot in adult romance novels - the rekindling of the sparks - so why can't it happen in YA?  I know many writers talk about how they love writing for teens because teens are so volatile and so many things can change and blah blah blah (no offense intended, but you get my point).  So why can't we see this?  The true example of changing hormones--seeing someone in a different life?  This does happen occasionally in YA contemporary novels but definitely not as often as the whole insta-love scene for paranormal.  Which...needs...to...change.

Great Example: The Summer series by Jenny Han because it's all about Belly's history with the Fisher boys, and the dynamics are constantly changing.

6. Fantasy/Paranormal Worlds That Tie in History

I know it's already a ton of genres put together, but I'm a sucker for worlds that change our perspective on history.  I think this is one of the reasons why Victorian novels are so popular.  The history adds extra layers... makes you really feel involved.  I can't honestly think of an example right now that re-imagines why our history was a certain way; I can definitely think of stories which include their own history, and those are good too... but I do wish there was more of the former.

7. Fantasy without the typical creatures or at least one that gets rid of our preconceived notions of them

This is hard to pull off... but we all have our own associations with vampires, faeries, werewolves, etc. etc.... so when a series comes along that completely upturns these notions, then man, oh man, I am a fan.  Wings by Aprilynne Pike for faeries as plants!, Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz for vampires as reincarnated souls after their fall from Heaven, etc. etc.

Vampires, faeries, werewolves, witches, demons, gods/goddesses, and fallen angels are all the typical paranormal/fantasy creatures that we read about, and it gets harder and harder to come up with a "spin" that someone else hasn't already explored with them... so I'd love to read books which have an awesome take on mermaids, sirens, centaurs maybe, trolls, dwarfs & elves, elements of the earth personified (a book recently came out with this... but it was less about this, which was disappointing), nymphs, dragons, griffins, sphinxes, giants, hags ..... I could really go on for quite a while, but the point is these creatures are remembered for a reason, right?  So let's put them to use!

There were lots of romance issues in that list, weren't there?  But that's also because I realized that not a SINGLE YA book that I've read recently has lacked romance.  I've considered posting about this... because I cannot tell if it's just my choice in novels or if it truly is one of those things that has to be included for a YA novel to be successful.

So what about for you?  What things would you like to see more in YA?  What things would you like to see less of?  What things do you think are done exceptionally well in YA that aren't done so well elsewhere?

13 comments:

  1. I agree with the points you made on the romantic interests. It would be refreshing if roles were reversed, like you mentioned happens in Beautiful Creatures. but it isn't common for YA books to be told from the boy's POV. I also think that having the romantic interest be average where appearance is concerned, it would be more realistic and I think a lot of readers would be able to fall for said character because of that. But I must confess that I do love the pretty boys of YA, as do many others...so that one might be difficult to pull off >.<

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  2. yep totally agree! I'd love more psychological thrillers in YA, they're some of my fave to read.

    The Cait Files

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  4. I totally agree! Great points made. We need to see more insecurites in the guy but not so much to make him sounds like a girl ...great post :D

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  5. I think this is a completely awesome post. I love psychological thrillers! If more of those could be put out there, that would be amazing. Also stories where the girl and boy already know each other and have history. Insta-love is so last year. Lol.

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  6. Awesome post. I agree with most of your insights, as far as there being a romance in most YA series and novels we read now, I think that it really does kinda have to be a part of the books to make it. At least in some way, it dosent have to be the main point of the story but there at least has to be a small part of the plot that includes some romance. I mean we are talking about YA books. Which means these books, while read by many, many adults (including myself) are geared toward young adults in general and most teens are at that point in there life where relationships, romance and the opposite sex (or same sex depending on the individual) are almost all they think about. At least thats how I remember my teenage years:) And since Im on the subject I think we need more same sex romances in our YA novels, it would reach an even broader audience and teach teens to accept people for what they are and understand that no matter what gender we are interested in we all deserve romance in our lives:)

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  7. I think I pretty much agree with everything you've said.

    Psychological thrillers are absolutely amazing. They can hook you in so quickly and hold on tight.

    I like it when a boy's appearance - or at least the rippling muscles and deep, deep eyes - aren't played up at every opportunity. I actually like it when the clothes are talked about, and not how they fit him, but how they express his personality. The personality is definitely what counts, not the drool worthy appearance.

    I think I've read a few books in the past year where there wasn't a romantic thread in the plot line, but the problem with me is that I'm always looking for one, so I can't be 100% sure :P

    Awesome post :)

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  8. Great points though I'm not sure Hush Hush comes off as a psychological thriller.I would love to read a book in which the guys chase the girls in earnest I think there are TOO many YA books told from female POV'S It would be nice to see some more with male POV's


    Krazyyme @ Young Readers

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  9. I totally agree with you about tying in history! It makes the book so much more valuable-- you are learning history while reading! I'd love to see more authors do that.

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  10. I'm pretty sure you've read my mind with 2,3 and 5, Christina. I've never read Beautiful Creatures but I'll definitely have to give it a go.
    I agree with the love interest not being all about beauty, too. I don't understand why authors always put so much emphasis on the boys being hot with grey eyes and whatever.
    I think the majority of the readers would always go for the funny ones ;-)

    Brilliant post.

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  11. For books where guys chase the girl, you should try the Perfect Chemistry trilogy by Simone Elkeles. It's an amazing book that has no clique paranormal stuff and it's actually about three Mexican brothers.

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  12. That was a great post everything you said was much true.

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  13. Honestly? All that I have to say about this post is Amen sister! I agree wholeheartedly with every single one of these! Thanks for the awesome point. And seriously? AMEN!

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