Predictable, Irresistible, Friend and Foe
Before I completely obliterate Young Adult fiction I have to say I consider it to be a reputable genre of literature, and my subsequent rant does not apply to every book in this genre, I've just become uncomfortable with the lack of originality some authors demonstrate.
The Young Adult (YA) genre of fiction is one that I have grown to love but drives me to lunacy at times. It’s quite rare to find a book that has a unique charm about it that manages to genuinely surprise me.
Whether you're reading a series from an acclaimed author or a fan fiction by an excitable teenage girl (who’s most probably in love with a slightly overpaid boy band member or vampire), there are some things you will ALWAYS find in YA fiction, it’s the predictability that makes me loathe and love it.
It feels like all YA authors use the same generic template of what to include in teen fiction because they know it’s been tried and tested by their predecessors so if it’s not broken why fix it? I will tell you why they should fix it; just because someone has written something magnificent and it worked for them doesn't mean it will work again for you; it becomes extremely exasperating when you know what is going to happen next, it just makes the whole event of reading a book futile.
As a result of my frustration for the genre I have compiled a list of my own, some trivial others more serious, top 10 of the most irritatingly common clichés found in Young Adult fiction.
1. Perhaps it’s a social comment on elitism in schools and colleges but the archetypal nerd and the stereotypical popular person starting a secret romance and then someone outing them usually in the hope of the popular person dumping the nerd is extremely overused. Yes it is a nice sentiment and it does challenge the status quo that High School Musical made oh so evident, but as a reader I am over it. [E.g. Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider]
2. Posing as a fake boyfriend. Give me strength! For one reason or another a damsel in distress needs to be protected by an undercover agent and of course their only hope is to “pretend” to be in love, usually end up sharing a room if not more, despite the fact they insist they hate each other. Then insert a squabble or two where they are pulled apart then BOOM they fall in love and live happily ever after. [E.g. Nothing Left to Lose by Kirsty Moseley]
3. “We’re just friends” has to be the single most common theme in YA fiction, I’m sure every now and then in the real world friends do fall in love but YA books take it to an extreme.
4. Perfection: there is no such thing as the perfection, the perfect guy/girl, perfect people and perfect couples do not exist, I wish they did, but they don’t and young girls reading these books do not need to be misled with the preconceptions of being perfect. Plain and simple.
5. The archetypical Bad Boy vs. Golden Boy debate. My favourite debate ever! Bad Boys have been around since James Dean in “A Rebel Without A Cause” in 1955, they probably won’t be leaving the world of YA fiction for a long time but why must the bad boy always win, is there no justice for good boys ?
YA fiction does tend to be very light and fluffy but that does not mean that they do not delve into more serious subject matters.
6. Cancer and or Death: I think it is almost a good thing that books can expose young readers to the emotional feelings of losing someone even if it is a fictional character but at the same time it is so upsetting when one of the most likeable characters is diagnosed with a serious illness. Unless it can be beautifully done like John Green’s ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ no one else should attempt to conquer the task of handling such a delicate topic with such finesse. Why authors are determined to seriously injure or kill great characters boggles my mind.
7. At least one deranged or lunatic psychopath who hides under a facade of flawlessness [The Private Series by Kate Brian]
8. Sex, drinking and drugs: personally I think authors have become a lot more ballsy when it comes to sex in fiction which is fine, but some authors assume that all teens do is have sex, get drunk and do drugs. To all the authors who were teenagers once, we don’t so stop assuming we do.
9. Abuse and Sexual Assault has to be the hardest topic to write about ever and so far the books I have read that have involved such a serious topic have done it well, it’s not the subject matter I have an issue with, it’s the fact that so many authors have the sudden urge to write about it and in some cases their books does not help educate young people. [The Coincidence of Being Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen]
10. Love and relationships because clearly that is all teenagers do, there is so much more to young adults than finding love, we’re young now we don’t need to be tied down to one person. YA fiction should focus more on young people finding themselves and their own place in the world without the assistance of a partner.
I think individually these factors are not bad; in fact there are some that I actually like but that doesn't stop the repetitive nature irking me off. YA fiction authors should use their position to inspire their readers with their originality and right now I am not feeling that inspired. I am not trying to rip YA fiction authors a new one, because I have so much respect for their craft but at the same time it feels like at times their originality seizes so they succumb to the ease of clichés, which takes away the sense of fulfilment I get from reading because all books just blur into one.
Many people look at YA fiction as second rate literature because it doesn’t have the same artistic merit seen in Adult Fiction but despite loathing its predictability, the influence YA fiction has is huge. YA targets readers are at a very impressionable age and it’s important to make sure that authors utilise their power of position, which I believe most authors do by writing about such serious social and personal issues.
This started off as a ‘Teen Fiction sucks so why do I read’ rant but the more I went on the more I discovered the reasons I dislike YA at times are the same reasons that make it such an amazing genre. It may be predictable but it will always be irresistible and I hope by the time I add y own piece of literature to this genre I will be able to add something innovative and exciting to inspire other young readers.