Today’s guest post comes from Angela A, teen blogger and aspiring writer. Did I mention how cool I think it is when teens blog? And WRITE?? Very cool. Even better when they share their unique perspective with writers who are a few years (*cough*) past their teens.
Tips From A Teen: What Bugs Me In MG/YA
By Angela A.
Well, hi there! I’m Angela, if you haven’t already met me out there in the bloggerverse, and you can find me at http://www.highlyactiveimagination.blogspot.com/
There are so many Young Adult books out there that it’s pretty much inevitable: you get the good, the bad, the really, REALLY good, the really, REALLY bad, and…well, you get the point. A lot of things can go wrong in a book. Writing, plot, setting, etc. Don’t even get me started. This guest post will focus on elements that I have seen repeatedly in Middle Grade/Young Adult books that I simply cannot stand.
*Disclaimer: I’m not trying to be negative. I’m trying to let writers into the brain of their target audience, so that they know the things we really, REALLY can’t stand, and can ultimately improve their writing.
**Another disclaimer: This is just my opinion. I’m sure there are other teenagers that feel differently. These are just the pet peeves that I have developed, that I have discussed with other teenage readers, and that I find all too common in MG/YA writing.
You know what I mean. The Jock. The Nerd. The Cheerleader. The Rebel. If there’s one thing teenagers hate, it’s being boxed in. Don’t get me wrong: stereotype or two can be a good way to add comic relief, or to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover. But when every! single! character! is a stereotype…you’ve got a problem. Football players aren’t always dumb. Nerds aren’t always awkward. Cheerleaders don’t always want to claw people’s eyes out with manicured nails.
Let your characters be who they are, not what they appear to be.
Yes, teenagers can be extremely whiny, myself included. But that doesn’t mean your MC has to constantly complain about their parents/friends/boyfriend/life. From the perspective of a lot of teens, they’re lucky to HAVE parents/friends/boyfriend/life.
We don’t want spend our time reading about how much the MC’s life sucks, we want to see them DO something about it, we want to see them take action!
3. Possessive/Overly-Heroic Love Interests
You know what I’m talking about. The boyfriend who is unnecessarily concerned, ALL THE TIME. Or who swoops in to save the MC every time she’s in trouble, NEVER even thinking about letting her save herself.
A certain book Saga has a boyfriend like that, and has made a great deal of money. So I guess you can still be successful with this kind of character. But this was pulled off very, very carefully. Any of the other times I’ve seen these kinds of boyfriends in novels, they’ve come off as creepy, or stalkerish, or stiff.
Let’s be honest:if you’re writing MG or YA, the love interest is going to be young, probably somewhere from the ages 12-18. How many twelve-to-eighteen-year-olds do you know that would risk EVERYTHING for a girl? Probably not that many. And when a boy gets possessive in a relationship, the girl usually has a freak-out, instead of running back into his arms and thinking how wonderful and protective and strong he is.
4. Boys Who Don’t Act Like Boys
Come on now. No matter how sensitive/poetic/wonderful a boy is, he still has guy friends, and still acts a certain way around his guy friends. Cocky and confident and laid-back and lazy. He can’t ALWAYS be paying attention to his girlfriend, or ALWAYS acting like he’s above their childish antics. What fun is a guy who doesn’t know how to have a good time with his buddies? A guy can be a good boyfriend while still acting regular around his friends.
For the sake of positivity, I’ll include three things that I, as a teenager, LOVE in MG/YA books:
1. Shy Guys
They’re just so cute and quiet and amazingly awesome!!! Enough said.
2. Love Triangles
Especially the irreconcilable kind. It lets us, as the reader, decide what WE would do if we were in that situation
The Edward-Bella-Jacob. The Peeta-Katniss-Gale. People form TEAMS about these relationships. Need I say more?
Because not everything is always chummy-chummy between sibs, but they aren’t constantly fighting, either. It’s usually a mix of the two, a strong companionship that is hard to perfect in writing but is totally touching when you do it right
Do you agree? Disagree? What elements do you love/hate in MG/YA? Leave a comment, let me know!
Thanks, Susan, for letting me do a guest post on this awesome blog! 🙂
Thank YOU, Angela, for some fabulous advice for MG/YA writers, direct from our target audience! I am off the grid today, so Angela will be fielding your questions/comments.
Also: here is an excellent post about stereotyping boys in YA lit!