Discussion

Why I Really Need to Reduce Reading YA Contemporary

// I know my discussion posts often border on the offensive, but please keep in mind that this is not to target/demean/ridicule anyone.


Hi! How have you been doing?

I was just sitting, studying in fact, when I suddenly thought of writing a post about something which has been going on in my head for quite a while. It all began with when I was pondering about which book to read after I finish my current kindle read (My Girl by Jack Jordan) and was looking at the vast amount of YA contemporaries in my kindle library. And, surprisingly, I wasn’t feeling like reading any of them. Which is new for me, because I usually, in general, enjoy this genre. And since a few days ago, this dilemma has been going on of whether to post this or not.

Whereas I think I long established my issues with this genre, I’ve never made a steadfast statement about this. So here it is. I’m considering cutting down on my reading of YA contemporary. Of course I won’t completely stop reading it, but a little bit of control might help. I have three main reasons for it, which I’ll delve into in this post.

[Note : I’m not trying to criticize anyone for their reading choice. If you love YA contemporary, I do respect your opinion and choice.]

[Note 2 : Everywhere that I mention something which I consider as a problem of this genre, please do note that it is my opinion, and NOT a general criticism that I’m making. I’m not making a comment about the genre, I’m merely stating what I feel about it.]

1. Generic Stories. 

Whereas I do realize that YA as a whole is the target of quite a few generalisms (I’m pretty sure that’s not a word, but we’ll let that go) but I think it is YA Contemporary in specificity that suffers through the worst of this. Be it tropes, characters, themes, storylines – the distinguishing lines between these are blurring and we as readers, are being heaped with just the same thing twisted into different forms.

(I’m going to leave out YA Fantasy because of reasons. Fantasy, I’ve found, doesn’t have any boundaries.) 

Okay, firstly, let’s talk about characters! There are, literally, various categories where contemporary characters can fit into. Among male protagonists, there’s the snarky, sexy, witty, asshole-but-eyecandy guy who starts spewing out lovey-dovey dialogues from about 2/3rd of the book. Then there’s the bland, kinda boring, romantic, loving, perfect guy and who cares if such seventeen year-olds don’t exist a lot in real life? At least they make good fictional boyfriends, eh? And oh then, we have the rich cool guy who suddenly takes notice of the poor girl and falls for her and forgets everything else. And the shy, cute, stammering-and-adorable guy, who I’ve noticed, is always paired with an outgoing, extrovertish girl. (Hello, The Unexpected Everything)

As for the ladies, there’s the sweet, pure, gentle, girl whose life is centred around boyfriend problems and when would be the right time for sex and ‘oh-I-want-it-to-be-perfect’. The smart, witty, badass girl, the outgoing party-hard girl.

As for sidekicks, we always have the colored funny-guy whose job is to crack senseless jokes. There’s the smart Asian kid, and to create a conflict in the love relationship of the main protagonists, oh how many times have I read about the bitchy, hot model who has absolutely no personality.

The only books which show a tad bit of uniqueness are probably the ones which deal with mental illness/abuse – maybe because we get to read more layers of their mind and their feelings, and that affects our perception of them. But lately, as I’m reading more and more of such books – characters in these books too are slowly becoming familiar, as if I’ve read about the same person so many times before.

As for the storylines, the same old high-school stories, or the neighbors-falling-in-love story, or the spending-the-summer-in-a-quiet-little-town-story is getting to me. Even though the stories are different, they are all so similar, and it’s like, every facet or every aspect of the story has been dealt with or written about, before by some other author. It’s like, there’s nothing new to write – everything has been covered and now it’s just a mission to recycle old stuff and present it in other ways.

2. Unrealistic.

Studying in Ivy League colleges, and spending your time drinking and partying and making out? I’m sorry..um..is that even possible? I’m in 12th grade and life is already crap, but if college life is oh-so-glamorous, I’ll definitely come through! (*rolls eyes*)

Let’s face it : contemporary YA is unrealistic. Apart from the really exceptional self-discovery stories or the really touching mental-illness novels, this whole genre tiptoes boldly on the borderline of unreality and fakeness. Be it finding your true love at the age of sixteen, or be it quoting Virginia Woolf at the age of seventeen, or speaking like poetic metaphoric fools whereas the rest of the world goes on with its dumbness. I’m sorry, but I’ve never in my life encountered an individual who speaks like some of the characters I’ve read in many recent YA books, or spews out poetry like it’s second nature to them. I’m sorry, I’m not buying it. (Not even my English teacher speaks like that, hah). And apart from teenagers, I’ve never even seen adults who speak metaphorically or so philosophically in normal day-to-day conversations like some of the YA characters do.

And let’s not even get to the topic of true love…because, I just can’t. Gahh. And this has forever been my pet peeve in YA books (but I do tolerate it more in fantasy) but why would you find your soulmate at sixteen? Why? Who not look for variety?? Don’t you want to be sure before you choose who you end up with?

3. Using certain things as mere plot devices.

I did a post on this recently, about how abuse is used as a plot device in books. Whereas that post was garnered towards literature in general, I’m of course, in this post, mainly targeting YA contemporary.

Okay. So, I have an issue with how sometimes in books, certain things are used as mere devices to develop the story or the characters, and then later completely forgotten. Important issues should be given the importance they deserve, and not handled just like that, to merely add substance to the story. In the post I mentioned above, I talk about how specifically abuse is used as a plot device but there are other things too.

For example, lately I read The Problem With Forever, which is basically a story about a girl dealing with past trauma and falling in love with a boy from her past. Well, suddenly, about a little more than halfway of the book, a sudden mishap takes place which is mainly connected to some drug-issue. See?? How, drugs don’t have any relation to the story, how it’s not even an aspect of the story, but suddenly the author throws this at us to create a conflict and a ‘sad death’. Which is, ridiculous. Without delving into necessary details, implications, consequences, and impact of the whole issue, the reader is just supposed to take it as an incident and move on and concentrate on the sappy love story.

Or, let’s come back to another thing I mentioned previously in this post. The hot girlfriend of the male protagonist who creates a conflict in the love affair? What is she, if not a plot device? I’ve read so many books, where this girlfriend is a mere presence, apparently millions of times hotter and prettier than our plain-Jane female protagonist, but guess what she doesn’t have? A personality! Because why would the author waste time on that?


So these were the three basic reasons of why I’m thinking of cutting down my contemporary YA intake. I’m not going to completely stop reading YA contemporary (ofc, because what would I do in summers then, or when I’m in need of a quick short read?) but I’m seriously considering reducing the number of books I read from this genre. Of course, I will continue reading masterpieces like I’ll Give You the Sun and Since You’ve Been Gone, but I’m not keen on reading anything mediocre just because it’s ‘famous’.


Let’s Talk! What are your opinions on this genre?

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43 thoughts on “Why I Really Need to Reduce Reading YA Contemporary

  1. YA Contemporary’s not a genre I really get into all that much, with a few exceptions – Eleanor and Park, Fangirl, Looking for Alaska – and that’s because, like you pointed you, it often feels really fake. Ironically, I’ve always found fantasy to be a more realistic genre, at least in the sense of characters – the characters in fantasy books are normally (though definitely not always) more developed and unique. Also, there’s not always the whole Happily Ever After/Life is Perfect Now trope that’s just too unrealistic for me that seems to appear in a lot of YA Contemporary. You made some really interesting points :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I forgot to mention Eleanor and Park in the ‘YA masterpieces’ in my post! :P It was a magical book. Even I too am more drawn towards Fantasy, whose characters I feel are more developed. And maybe that’s because fantasy is usually in a series and the characters have time to develop, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are often more realistic. For a genre called contemporary, it does not really match much of the real world. Also, even I’m totally not okay with the HEA or Life is Perfect trope – it gets on my nerves when sometimes so much shit happens in the book and yet in the end the characters are happy and married and already have four babies. Ugh.
      And, thank you :)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree a lot of contemporary YA can start to recycle the same characters and plotlines and even characters If you’re looking for honest, raw YA contemporaries then I’d reccomend checking out Alice Oseman, Holly Bourne and Patrick Ness. There’s definitely an aspect of researching YA before reading it since a lot can sound promising but not deliver.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the recommendations! Actually, that’s where I go wrong – I hardly research a book before starting it – I just pick it up on a whim, maybe because I’ve heard of it or it’s a famous new release or something, and then end up disliking it. Also, lately I’ve been trying to read books by going into them blind, I hardly read summaries before starting books. Which basically, I think, leads to me picking up way too many books I don’t really enjoy.
      Anyway, thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There isn’t anything specifically wrong with the genre, but after reading the same one for so long, it’s good to try to branch out. Why not try a New Adult, or an adult book? Why not urban fantasy, which you’re probably aware of already, some kind of supernatural world beneath the ‘real’ world we know. I think, when you limit yourself to only one genre, it becomes stale. Most traditionally published contemporaries, romances, etc, follow a kind of formula and rarely stray from it,which is why you see basically the same story told over and over again in slightly different ways.

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    1. Well it is those formulas I have a problem with, and how few books actually try to break out of those. As for other genres, I do read everything else (apart from horror) though I have to admit, YA Contemporary is definitely a huge part of the top genres I choose to read. Maybe because getting through short standalones is easier? Plus, lately with increase in school work and all, I tend to avoid longer adult books and pick up something easier to get through. And yeah, I definitely do believe that adult books are much better (I don’t really like NA) but like I said, right now my reading life is going haywire.
      Anyway, thank you :)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand. Unfortunately most traditional publishers won’t go outside those formulas, because it risky. If you’re looking for short and easy, try staying in YA but a different genre. But, I have to say, at least for me, once I discovered series, I actually prefer them, especially if I like the characters and their stories. So maybe try a YA series, perhaps something by Maggie Stiefvater? You might be surprised at how these shorter, easier books are more fulfilling, because the stories continue.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ve read the Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, it was absolutely amazing :) And I haven’t heard much about her other series.
          I’m a tad bit skeptical of picking up new series at this point, because commitment issues and yeah, school :/ But I do love reading series a lot. It’s just that right now, it’s not much of an option.
          I’ll definitely try reading more of other genres in YA. :)

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  4. To be honest, YA Contemporary isn’t a genre I’ve read much of for the last couple of years (I’m more into fantasy these days!), and that’s largely because of the reasons you’ve pointed out. I totally agree with you that so many of them are the same, and it tends to just be a slightly different combination of the same few characters and plots. Of course there are some exceptions (and I would love some recommendations for good YA Contemporary!), but it’s so hard to know until you start reading.
    Great post! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am not big into YA Contemporary because I am 27 and find it nearly impossible to relate to, but I have read some that I found to be extremely realistic and well written. So, maybe it’s not the genre as a whole. Maybe you just need to find the right book. I suggest The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. I know, it doesn’t come out until November, but it’s excellent!

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  6. I don’t read a lot of YA contemporaries but I agree. It’s always the same recycled plots, some of which are based on classic books we already know the ending to, and the lack of plot makes them feel very uninspired. I like Kasie West books a lot, but it’s not like all the tropes aren’t there. I read a YA book that dealt with abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, and a whole list of issues a few months back and it’s one of my favorite books. I like stories like this because real life doesn’t always have a happy ending. The super hot girlfriend that causes trouble I swear is in every YA book. It’s such a waste of time, too. I mean we know the guy won’t end up with that girl, so I almost feel like it’s just there to fill up space in the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. Some of the plots are straight away from classics, and it’s pretty pointless to read a predictable book. I too like Kasie West book (well actually, I enjoyed one of her books) and yes though she too follows the regular tropes, her books are light and kinda fun. The darker YA books are definitely the better ones.

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  7. I really agree with you! Last December, I got approved for a contemporary book which would be released in May, so obviously I didn’t read it until near the pub. date. But turns out, I didn’t enjoyed the book at all because I feel I’ve read many books with similar plot. I realize if I read the book sooner I’d enjoyed it more, but too much reading contemporary made me sick with it to be honest. Also yes, sometimes the characters are just so unrealistic with the poetic quote and all (eventhough I love the quotes). Same with you, I’ve reduced my contemporary books and start reading other genres. Anyway, great post! :)

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  8. This is one of those cases where I point out that pretty much all genres have their tropes – I honestly don’t think this is so much a flaw of YA contemporary as it is of reading the same genre too much. I could name you plenty of fantasy tropes that get rehashed again and again as well – or horror or NA contemporary or even sci fi … Sure, there are going to be some outstanding books that shine with their creativity, but you won’t find them all the time. I actually don’t mind tropes when they’re done well, but that’s just me – I can definitely understand how you might get tired of them. I’d say you should stay away from YA contemps for awhile and then see how you feel.

    (P.S. I started dating my husband in high school and definitely don’t regret not having “variety” – I’m glad I didn’t have to go through a variety of bad relationships to get to the good! ;-) )

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    1. Yep I agree that every genre has its own tropes but maybe it’s just me or by reading way too many ya contemporaries, I’m just tired of reading them anymore. But I read a lot of ya fantasy too but have never felt like this in that genre.
      Also, you’re one of the really lucky ones :) If you look at college students now (I’m in junior college currently), I doubt you’ll see any of the present couples married happily twenty years later :P
      And I guess my variety comment was wrong and this is just a thing of our generation. :)

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  9. I sort of agree with you on this post! I tend to read more fantasy than contemporary because of the commonplace aspects that contemporary offers. However, I know that a lot of contemporary cannot be categorized under one whole genre. There are some contemporaries that fit the novels that you describe, but there are also some contemporaries that truly ARE unique and interesting to read about. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic; thank you for sharing!

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    1. I have read way too much contemporary and thus have come to such conclusions. Maybe that IS the reason why I feel this way towards the genre. And yes, I do agree that some masterpieces do exist – I’ve given examples in my post – but speaking on a more general basis, I’ve found these points to be recurring in YA Contemporary.

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  10. These are really the reasons why I don’t get into YA contemporary too much lmao. While I love losing myself in a completely unrealistic and cool story (hence why I read ALL THE FANTASY), YA Contemporary toes such a weird line with me. On one hand it’s supposed to be closer to life so that teens and young adults can relate but on the other hand it’s supposed to be super fictional…but suspension of disbelief can only go so far. I do dabble once in a while and thank god that they’re fantastic books I’ve chosen, but most of it I don’t really like.

    I will say this, though, as someone who currently goes to college–you can have a final exam the next day and I’ve seen people get blackout drunk the might before. It happens. It’s kind of hilarious, but also really bad life decisions.

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    1. Yeah exactly… Suspension of disbelief can only go so far. And YA Contemporary, I know, is more relatable with real life, but YA Fantasy isn’t completely unrelatable. Yes, it’s a different world, but the characters are (some of them at least ) humans and even if they’re not humans, they pretty much show human emotions and have human traits.
      And really? That’s crazy, and hilarious :’D

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      1. Haha definitely! I think the difference with contemporary and fantasy is that, while fantasy has its fair share of tropes, there’s SO MUCH ROOM to do literally whatever you want. In contemporary that’s true too, but in a lot smaller scale. I think fantasy also takes larger strides to show the ugliness of human nature where as contemporary tends to keep it light.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!
      And my intent was not too put you off :P If you are genuinely ineterested in the genre, please go ahead and read it and don’t let my opinions bother you.
      Also, since i’ve been kinda ‘attacking’ YA lately, I’m planning on doing a YA recommendations post soon (because even though generally I do criticise YA, exceptions exist and I’d like to talk about those exceptions.) If you’re even a tad bit interested in YA, then look out for that post :)

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