Monday, May 6, 2013

What I Want to See More of in YA

I've written about this several times on my blog (various pet peeve posts and want more of posts in the discussion section), and I've thought of some more. Would love to read your thoughts on these.

1. "Fat" Characters Who Aren't Bullies

I've left fat in quotations because even characters who are merely described as having curves are referred to as fat in reviews. Do you realize how pervasive this stereotype is? I'm not sure it appears as frequently in YA books as it does in children's/MG books, but even still, YA needs more characters who are not just thin (or whose body isn't described) and who are NOT mean (for an example, Bridge to Terabithia). I remember that when I first read Twilight in high school and saw that Bella was 110 pounds and worrying about whether Edward could carry her, I was stunned, and it made me feel even more self-conscious. I'm not going to pretend that I don't have issues with weight perception, but I still think that's something that could be easily changed in books. (Great recent example of a great "fat" character: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell!)

2. Girls Who Are Bold

A lot of the books with girl protagonists seem to have plot lines where girls are encouraged to seek what they need and want in order to better their worlds / to fix their problems.... and yet they are not encouraged to be the bold one in their relationships? I don't know why that is. I would really like to read more about girls who make that first step in the romance that's portrayed.

From here:
http://www.nextmovie.com/blog/young-adult-heroines-infographic/
3. Girls Who Aren't "Pure"

I am so tired of this. Something readers mentioned in the discussion on New Adult books is that a lot of them seem to involve an innocent girl or one who has limited sexual experience / who hasn't enjoyed sex yet until she meets the romantic interest. The same thing usually happens in YA too. Can we please have some girls who are not "pure?" Some of them who are also not slammed as sluts for that?

4. More Diversity

Look at the image above. Obviously some of these things are debatable (Hermione with low self-esteem? Not sure I got that feeling), but it's still alarming that so many of these popular books have a lot of similarities in how they portray their main characters. Not only alarming; it's stifling. I want to read about other experiences. I want to read about bolder girls. C'mon now.

5. Books Which Portray Science and Mental Illness Better

You can expect some discussion posts on these two topics in the future.

Do any of these irritate you? What do you want to see more of in YA lit?

56 comments:

  1. This is a great post! I completely agree that more diversity is needed. I tend to be shy, but my favorite characters are bold and unafraid to speak their minds (like Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy).

    That chart made me laugh. While I disagree with some of the things marked down, I laughed out loud when I saw the "Protector" row with Haymitch's picture for Katniss.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this post, I definitely want to see girls who are bolder (I guess the whole 'pure' thing could come under that too) I think it's awful that in YA books so many girls are virgins and so many of the boys are seen as being sexually experienced. Great post!


    Cait x

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm totally with you on the "pure" thing -- I feel like it's a tricky subject for YA, but the whole idea that the female characters are either angels or devils and nothing in between is getting very old. And this isn't a strictly YA or NA (hate that abbreviation) issue -- a lot of romance novels in general have this issue even if they are written for adults.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'd like to see more complex, imperfect and yet functional families. The old drunk-parent-train-wreck-of-a-family is starting to seem like a tired plot device.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love this post! I want to see more of all of this. I would love different racial characters and maybe if they do, it isn't the centered problem that they have in the novel. It seems like all MC girls are white except for the couple who aren't and that's a struggle for them in the book. I'm white, but I don't think any of my other colored friends have daily problems with their skin tone. And I'd like more "fat" characters in general! YA authors depict characters who are 110 lbs and if they're more than that, they are labeled as getting chunky. UGH, hate it! But yes, love the post!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love this post-- probably because I've been thinking a lot about what I want to see more of in YA as well. I really agree with the "fat" character ones-- it seems fat characters are never portrayed POSITIVELY in YA, which is sad.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I want to see more "fat" characters without always talking about food. UGH.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great post, as usual! I think the mental illness gets me the most because it's the field I'm in. I hate when it's portrayed as something to make the main character "tortured," and when it's magically cured by a sexy boyfriend. It cheapens the struggles of people with real mental illness. Ditto to the diversity--in weight, race, etc. There ARE some great books out there with minority characters but they're not read nearly enough, and that's incredibly sad.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh, Christina--these are ALL such good things to highlight. We need more of all of these things. I am tired of the negative body images too (pervasive is such a good word), as well as meek heroines (although sometimes authors go way overboard the other way, too), the purity myth/ideal, and the lack of diverse characters.

    As far as mental illness and science are concerned, I'm guessing authors just aren't educating themselves enough on those topics before writing about them, or they don't think it's pertinent to do so.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love all of your points! I just found your blog through Bloglovin and so far it looks great.
    :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yes to all! Great post!!! I have Eleanor & Park on my tbr list, but didn't know that it features a fat main(?) character. I should move it up on my list.

    ReplyDelete
  12. More diversity in race as well! Every single one of these characters is white. Pretty much every character in YA is white, unless she is described as having "olive" skin, which can either mean she's tanned, or from a range of ethnic backgrounds that authors don't go into.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love this. So many good points expressed here. I so would love to have MC's who've had more experience and aren't afraid to initiate sexy times. I'd also LOVE to be in the POV of someone other than the character who has the powers/gets chosen for a prophecy or something similar. That would be great.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great post- loved it. "Fat" Characters Who Aren't Bullies is the first one that caught my eye. Great points!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. While I didn't understand some of the graphic, I still enjoyed reading it. It is crazy just how many characters in YA have basically the same back stories. No parents, single parents, beautiful blonds, skinny girls, whiny girls. I think the one that bothers me the most is the whiny, needy girls who need someone to save them all of the time. I understand there are times when you do need to be saved. There is a difference if you can take care of yourself for the most part, but realize that sometimes you need help. I LOVE this post, and I hope you do more of them!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Yes!! I was actually thinking of Rose from VA as an example for a couple of those categories :). And oh, for sure that chart is not as accurate as it could be; I definitely laughed at the love triangle part for Hermione.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Yes, and while that to some extent reflects our current reality, it's still a huge stereotype and I think that's changing a lot. But somehow it's not changing in this younger literature, and I'm not sure why.

    ReplyDelete
  18. True. Madonna or slut. And that's also true re: romance novels. I think it's a general perception of women - the double standard of today's society. And I suppose it's reflected across all age and genre categories.

    ReplyDelete
  19. True. While I understand that a lot of the adventures are not possible without separation from the family, I do think that a lot of the excuses for why parents are not there are not feasible.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Yes. The guy to rescue her tormented soul or to portray an exciting thriller... but that's not all there is to mental illness or people who are suffering from mental illness. Certainly things may be more stressful and unsure for them, but that's really not all there is to their lives. And yes, there really isn't a lot of portrayal of other races except in "issue" books. (And true - why does it seem as if there is more diversity in books that don't take place in our current society?)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hmmm, well, I'm not so sure I'd say that they don't have daily problems with their skin tone. Most of my friends are also colored, but their skin color certainly affects their perceptions differently... but yes, it usually is not their main problem in every day life, true. And yeah... if more than 110 lbs is too much, our society is doomed.

    ReplyDelete
  22. True. Including "fat" characters usually happens in issue books and with lots of mentions about food as if that could be the only explanation.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Nope. Not as far as I've seen. Except ELEANOR AND PARK. Which I loved and I love her character and I love the diversity that she is adding to YA.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Certainly I think one of the problems is that books with those characters are not publicized very well, or not very well known. But yes, I also agree with you re: "tortured" portrayals and "saving" the protagonist. And I'm not sure where those two aspects even come from - are these societal or individual dreams or? Is this a manifestation of the mental illness stigma?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Eleanor is the "fat" main character & is referred to as Big Red. :) you should move it up your list; it was a wonderful book.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Negative body images. One series I think that's also doing great work for that is the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead. At least the issue has not gone unnoticed by some of the bigger writers. And the same for her on meek heroines... though Sydney is an example of the purity myth/ideal and that series doesn't have a ton of diverse characters... but still. Any and every book to create awareness around these issues.

    Is it just education? Or is a sensationalism for both mental illness and science?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Yes! Olive skin. I am a fan of not totally addressing the issue of ethnic backgrounds (except as to how they change the protag/character's perception) but olive skin seems like an excuse not to mention either.

    ReplyDelete
  28. That would be interesting! The premise sort of reminds me of TEAM HUMAN - the protag. is not the one falling in love with the vampire, yet I do think I've read several places that agents and editors would prefer the protag. to be directly involved in the action. So it's hard to do that and have it be someone else be chosen.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Thanks. I love writing the What I Want to See More of Posts :). And I agree. There's a huge difference between needing help all the time and what happens most of the time with the whiny, needy protagonists.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I love this post. I really think numbers 2 & 3 tie together; bolder, take-charge females exist. So why aren't we seeing them in our YA/NA books? And when we do see bold females, they're portrayed as bitches who are utterly self-sufficient and don't need anyone. There needs to be balance between girl who can think and fight for themselves and girls who need other people in their lives. And these girls aren't delicate little flowers who've never so much as kissed a boy before they find 'the one.' That doesn't mean they're sluts. Real girls, people!! :D

    ReplyDelete
  31. "And when we do see bold females, they're portrayed as bitches who are utterly self-sufficient and don't need anyone"

    Yes. Sometimes I think YA lags behind in portraying change in current society. Certainly we see these portrayals in society, but I also think there's at least some acceptance of the bolder, take-charge females that we don't see in this lit. And yes, it's not realistic for the girl to not have had at least a kiss, I think. Well. Maybe not likely is the better description. Though it crops up a lot in the lit as being the opposite.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Nope. Not as far as I've seen. Except ELEANOR AND PARK. Which I loved and I love her character and I love the diversity that she is adding to YA.

    ReplyDelete
  33. True. Including "fat" characters usually happens in issue books and with lots of mentions about food as if that could be the only explanation.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hmmm, well, I'm not so sure I'd say that they don't have daily problems with their skin tone. Most of my friends are also colored, but their skin color certainly affects their perceptions differently... but yes, it usually is not their main problem in every day life, true. And yeah... if more than 110 lbs is too much, our society is doomed.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Yes. The guy to rescue her tormented soul or to portray an exciting thriller... but that's not all there is to mental illness or people who are suffering from mental illness. Certainly things may be more stressful and unsure for them, but that's really not all there is to their lives. And yes, there really isn't a lot of portrayal of other races except in "issue" books. (And true - why does it seem as if there is more diversity in books that don't take place in our current society?)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thanks. I love writing the What I Want to See More of Posts :). And I agree. There's a huge difference between needing help all the time and what happens most of the time with the whiny, needy protagonists.

    ReplyDelete
  37. That would be interesting! The premise sort of reminds me of TEAM HUMAN - the protag. is not the one falling in love with the vampire, yet I do think I've read several places that agents and editors would prefer the protag. to be directly involved in the action. So it's hard to do that and have it be someone else be chosen.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Yes! Olive skin. I am a fan of not totally addressing the issue of ethnic backgrounds (except as to how they change the protag/character's perception) but olive skin seems like an excuse not to mention either.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Negative body images. One series I think that's also doing great work for that is the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead. At least the issue has not gone unnoticed by some of the bigger writers. And the same for her on meek heroines... though Sydney is an example of the purity myth/ideal and that series doesn't have a ton of diverse characters... but still. Any and every book to create awareness around these issues.

    Is it just education? Or is a sensationalism for both mental illness and science?

    ReplyDelete
  40. Eleanor is the "fat" main character & is referred to as Big Red. :) you should move it up your list; it was a wonderful book.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy :)

    ReplyDelete
  42. Certainly I think one of the problems is that books with those characters are not publicized very well, or not very well known. But yes, I also agree with you re: "tortured" portrayals and "saving" the protagonist. And I'm not sure where those two aspects even come from - are these societal or individual dreams or? Is this a manifestation of the mental illness stigma?

    ReplyDelete
  43. You really hit the nail on its head with this post. The one I am most disgruntled about that you mentioned is that many books do not portray mental illness well. I have seen this used merely as a way to make a heroine look unstable - the perfect reason to let a guy come out of nowhere and rescue her tormented soul. Smh. I personally would like to see more diversity in regards to race and culture. As the infographic conveyed, all of those heroine are white. What happened to other races? Asian, African American, and the like? I only see such races in anachronistic reads nowadays. Insightful post!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Liss Martz VillegasJuly 14, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    I agree with you. One thing that bothers me is girls who are always "pure". Even the popular ones.
    Another thing that you didn't mention, but really, really bothers me a lot, is Insta-love. Even when the characters seem to "hate" each other. Can we have a love that developes as the story goes? A love like Pride and Prejudice maybe?

    ReplyDelete
  45. Great post!

    I can see a lot of your points. The one point about Bella in Twilight being worried about Edward carrying her...that one doesn't bother me. Did I feel the same as you, that she was being ridiculous? Yes. Do I wish this perception would leave all teen girls' minds? Yes. But it didn't bother me because I think that is a real concern by just about every teen girl out there, no matter what size they are. I don't think it would have been realistic for the author to write "I knew Edward would be able to carry my 110 pound body because I'm a skinny girl and I know it." I don't think that wouldn't resonate with any woman.
    I do wish they would stop describing young women - any female character - as absolutely perfect and skinny but with the "right" curves. Give me some normal women...and don't call them overweight because they probably fit the average in America.
    Just my 2 cents!

    ReplyDelete
  46. I agree with all your points. I would also love to see guys who aren't hot. Guys who suffer from acne problems and are a little bit insecure. Most of the guys I've read about in YA are these suave, swoon worthy, confident and broody guys. As much as I love my sarcastic, charming romantic interest, I'd really appreciate some diversity.

    I'd also like it if romance wasn't such a focal point in so many of the books I read, I feel like so many books I've read the love story becomes to centre of the plot. This especially irritates me in paranormal books. I don't mind romance but when the majority of the book is dedicated to the main character and her feelings for a guy and her budding romance with him while the actual story gets crammed into the last 50 pages of the book annoys me.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Yeah, insta!love is a definite bother--and I tend to avoid paranormal romance because of its frequency there. Here's a post done by another blogger on the subject, if you're interested: http://readeroffictions.blogspot.com/2012/11/instalove.html

    ReplyDelete
  48. True. I hadn't thought of it that way. And there's the opposite perception, where sometimes we shame skinny people too.


    Yes. It seems to me that curvy in YA is synonymous with overweight, and it's really bothersome. As if you can't be one without the other.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Yeah! One book I found that taps into that is DARK TRIUMPH by Robin LaFevers. The romantic interest doesn't suffer from acne problems, but he's not described as being suave, etc. I think he's actually described as being slightly ugly, but he's a totally worthy romantic interest.

    Yeah... I think most paranormals follow the path laid by Twilight, which definitely didn't get into the other part of the story until the last 100 pages. As for other YA, no matter how much of a romance addict I am, I'm with you: I don't want it to be the focal point.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I agree with you about curvy is always synonymous with overweight, which is definitely not true in all instances. It is bothersome. I wish these perceptions would go away.

    I can remember reading Sweet Valley High when I was in middle school/junior high and the twins were a size 6, or something like that. I recall reading somewhere that when they re-released the books recently, their size was reduced. Really??? Was that necessary? We already have an eating disorder/body image problem in this society...this can only add to it in some way. Too much pressure on young girls, young women, and older women.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Tirta @ I Prefer ReadingJuly 21, 2013 at 12:21 AM

    Love this post!

    I agree with you on #1 and #4. This is also why I love Eleanor & Park because the characters are 'new' in some ways; Eleanor is fat, comes from a caucasian family and Park is half korean and isn't exactly the popular guy at school. Lots of books are kinda repetitive on their main characters: beautiful girl with lack of self-esteem meets hot/jock guy who's actually 'damaged' etc... I want to see more diversities and 'real' problems.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Yes. Lack of self-esteem is a real problem, but it is always made less real when the books seem to include a lot of characters who tell the protagonist/character that she is beautiful... when there's no specific reason and everyone seems to still love her. The hot guy part too, less real when it's used as a means for the protagonist to "fix" him. E&P was such a delight to read for its diversity.

    ReplyDelete
  53. I really like this post!
    Correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I know Katniss from the Hunger games is described as having olive skin in the books, but is still played by a white actress.

    What I would like to see are also girls that function in stories without love. Most of the stories I read seem to be written in a way, where the live of the main female chracter started having some meaning as soon as she fell in love. I mean, love is a really strong feeling but we should stop teaching young girls that the only way their lives get some value is through falling in love with some dude.

    Sorry for the mistakes as english isn't my first language but somehow I feel inspired now and I think I am going to write a story...

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting my blog! Please make sure to indicate your blog name so that I can return the favor later :).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...