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