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January 06, 2014



Honestly, I never liked teenagers (even when I was one)... But sometimes reading through these teenage dilemmas can help me reflect on my past and maybe even prepare me for being a parent, and I am grateful for that. :)


Yikes, I really didn't face any of these classic problems as a teenager, and that was something I was very proud of at the time. Now I'm 25, and even though to all outward appearances I have my act together (I am gainfully employed and responsibly living on my own) on the inside I feel like the teenagers I enjoy reading about in YA fiction. I'm stuck in the middle of a third- or quarter-life crisis. And I appreciate reading YA fiction to help me cope! :)

Lauren Ritz

In my opinion the problem isn't in the patterns themselves, but how they manifest. The astonishingly perfect female who has two ardent swains who are just perfect for her and she can't make up her mind so she makes all of them miserable and they don't care that she can't make up her mind and enable her codependent behavior and yes this run-on sentence was deliberate.

There is a point where it just becomes ridiculous. I've read love triangles and teenage angst that didn't make me feel like I'd overdosed on something nasty. If it's not done well it can ruin an otherwise good book.

It seems as if far too many writers throw in the love triangle or the absentee parents, etc., simply because it's "expected." As a reader, I can tell the difference between a necessary plot point and a cliche.

Angela Cothran

Amen!!! You've made me think of it differently.

Gail Gauthier

Interesting point about "enough teenagers." I've wondered for some time if we'd start seeing YA reflecting more adult interests as more and more adults buy and read it. Recently I have read a couple of YA books with protagonists who are out of high school, in nonYA situations, with two love interests who are both men in their twenties. These were not being talked about as New Adult but clearly marketed as Young Adult. Enough with the teenagers?


I couldn't agree more!! I'm a high school librarian, and I can tell you without a doubt that the kids want MORE of these exact same themes (I can't tell you how many times I've heard "can I read a book exactly like _____ please?"). I rely on the themes being similar enough that I can make good recommendations and usually be right-on.

It's sort of like saying "I'm SO TIRED of these kindergartners wanting to color, ugh!" - yeah, developmentally, that's what they do.


Many of the tropes you have mentioned I have read in a YA book and felt tired and critical of them, and then there are those that have the same things, but I don't even notice them as tropes because they're such a natural progression of the story. Certain books, I would even go so far as to say many books, about teenagers don't present an accurate portrayal of teenage years, but a caricature of teenage years. I believe it's those widespread caricatures, the over-sensational and shallow idea of what teens are stereotyped to be instead of the deeper characterization of who each teen is, that make people tired and critical of those tropes.

Jessica Arnold

This is a great perspective! I've heard a lot of those complaints about YA tropes and occasionally felt that they were justified, but it IS easy to forget that YA is a genre just like any other. And most people wouldn't fault a sci-fi book for employing that done-to-death space travel trope ;) I don't see why YA books have to be so heavily criticized for the very qualities that make them YA and make many people (not just teenagers!) love them.


I admit that love triangles can be done well, but for the most part, I am completely sick of them- and being a teenager myself, I know a lot of my friends and I dislike a lot of YA fiction simply because we *don't* act the way teenagers are portrayed. I've always found so many protagonists in YA fiction selfish and annoying, and horribly disrespectful to their parents/guardians, as well. Actually, one reason I loved your Books of Bayern was because it had characters I liked and could relate to. They made mistakes and weren't perfect, but they were still likable. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of times YA authors load on so much angst and melodrama in their teenage heroines it just makes me want to throw my hands in the air and yell, "Get some perspective! Seriously, you're only 14- you don't need a boyfriend!"

ah, well, that's my two cents worth. :)

Laree @ Ever Heard Of Euless

I read almost exclusively YA (every time I try an "adult" book without a really good recommendation, I get burned by the total smut!!)

And I'll admit, I've noticed lately that every. single. book seems like it has yet another triangle. I'm seriously getting over this already!

But I also thought that was a result of the type of books I'M drawn to, and decided I needed to find some new authors/genres to try out. In other words "it's not you, it's me".

Nope, the author isn't doing anything wrong (and hey, I liked the first 3952 love triangle books, I'm just over it now). It's me as a reader that needs to do some stretching.


People who call books out for having "YA cliches" either don't read enough or don't understand them. I'm sick of adults saying "Oh, this book has a love triangle, it's exactly like Hunger Games/Twilight." Talking about books with them is like discussing politics with someone who can only name Obama and Romney. Sure, those are the big famous ones, but if you want to have a good conversation you better know more. Lots of times they didn't even read the book they're complaining about.
And the part about whining-so true. If a male characters cries it's cute because he's showing emotion. If a female protagonist dares to cry, even if she has a good reason to do it, she becomes a weak heroine. Because we all know there are only two types of females: Damsels and Action Girls.
If all you get out of a book is "this character is a brat" you fail as a reader. Authors will intentionally put in whinny characters, bratty characters, shy characters, and weak characters. It's your job as a reader to look at why they're that way.
Adults who criticize teenagers for being teenagers, who think adult romance is "love" and young love is "angst", aren't the kind of people who should read YA. You can't enjoy a character-or a real person-if you think their emotions are somehow inferior to your own. YA is written for teenagers and adults who read YA have to respect that.


I agree with your point that we shouldn't send the message that the books readers love aren't worth reading.

However, the YA genre is so full of tropes, it's banal and overly formulaic. As you said, a well-crafted story will enchant readers no matter the tropes. But nowadays in YA/paranormal and YA/dystopian fiction, it seems that authors are responding to the demands and pressure of the industry and publishers rather than writing for themselves. And when that happens, what we get is run-of-the-mill stories with little substance, stereotypical characters and settings...

Don't write a love triangle because the publisher thinks it would attract more readers in the target market. If you write a love triangle, let it be because it truly is essential to the story's development and the characters' growth.

The romance genre, too, is full of tropes. I am so tired of the insecure beauty, the reformed rake, the libertine seducing the innocent debutante..

We want stories that challenge us, that reflect our own thoughts and dreams.. We want characters that speak to us. We want fantasy but we also want realistic stories, plots and characters.

The insecure beauty who isn't aware of how truly beautiful she is and her power over men... Oh, give me a break. In this day and age, how many pretty girls don't know how beautiful they are? Beautiful girls either grow up being especially aware of their beauty and end up exploiting it or with the right upbringing, they become modest and self-effacing women.

Give me a beauty who offends people. Give me a narcissist. No more of this, "Oh, I'm so plain. I can't believe I have two guys struggling for my love. Oh, whom will I choose?"

Give me wickedly intelligent girls but make them flawed and vulnerable. Make them arrogant. And then hack at their pride. Make me fall in love with your characters and root for them as they rise from the ashes of their hubris.

Give me guys who waste their days away gambling and thieving and make them into generals and kings who would fight for their families and their countries.

It's so easy to start out with an underdog as the protagonist. Everyone knows that trope - the underdog saves the world.

No, give me someone unlikeable.. And make me like him or her!


I'm not saying "Enough teenagers!" I'm saying, "Enough unrealistic situations and unrealistic portrayals of teenagers."

In YA, so many novels have overly perfect, dreamlike scenes and characters. So unrealistic.

Real life is so much more awkward.. We fumble our way through our school exams, our SATS, college applications, internships. We fail our driving exams twice, thrice. We're on Tumblr, we're on Instagram. We take selfies. We're obsessed with street style. We discuss and debate Tom Hiddleston's manners and charm. We argue with our parents. We wonder whether being mediocre is something we could live with. We talk about political correctness, racist policies, and revenge porn. We're so much more complex than the depictions in so many YA novels today.

Not all first kisses are super hot and passionate. Sometimes, they're sloppy and weird. Some guys have gum while they kiss. Teeth clash. Her braces get in the way.

I also think that in harsher environments, teenagers are forced to grow up faster and to be adults earlier.

In some parts of the world, some teens get married as young as 13 years old.
Some take over their parents' food stalls and work part-time while studying and taking care of their siblings.

I'm not saying YA isn't good. I'm not saying that we should reject YA. There are some truly beautiful stories out there. We just have to keep reading and keep digging.

I personally adore Melina Marchetta. Her depiction of teenagers is just.. amazing. No matter the era or the label her books get, whether YA or fantasy or general fiction, her teenagers.... her adults will always speak to me.

I also love Sherry Thomas, amazing writer and storyteller with a unique gift of turning tropes on their head and crafting realistic characters that resonate with you.

Richelle Mead, Juliet Marillier, Gail Carson Levine, Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, Julie Anne Long, C.S. Lewis, Kody Keplinger, Meredith Duran, Stephanie Perkins, Jennifer Echols, Gayle Forman, John Green, Jerry Spinelli, Melissa de la Cruz, Jenny Han, Siobhan Vivian, Rachel Cohn, David Levithan, Miranda Kenneally, Marni Bates, Laurie Boyle Crompton, Sarra Manning, Julia Quinn, Courtney Milan, N.K. Jemisin, Julie Kagawa, J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Marissa Meyer, Rainbow Rowell.

I would read anything and everything these authors write - YA, fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary fiction, thrillers, mysteries, horror. If they wrote Star Wars fanfiction or martial arts epics or space operas or screenplays, I would read them. If they decided to write how-to etiquette books and journal articles on quantum mechanics, I would read them.

These writers have a gift with words. They spin stories and tell dreams.

Forget the labels. Don't think about them as YA or New Adult or chick lit or science fiction. Forget the connotations that go with each label. Just read and look for great stories. Keep looking for gems that inspire you and challenge you and your worldview.

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