// 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.
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’.