Okay, first of all, I don’t hate the young adult genre, but if you’ve noticed the extreme lack of novels I’ve reviewed in that category, you are probably wondering about my tastes. The truth is, I do have some issues with the genre. There are a stack of YA novels on my kindle that I haven’t finished because I started reading them and they got on my nerves. I’ve tried to overcome my prejudice, to find ways to appreciate the genre. It does, after all, inspire reading in the generation of students I happen to be teaching.
At the end of the day, however, I must simply admit that I have some pet-peeves. Here is my list of issues I have with the YA genre:
Lack of diversity!
I know. This is what every booktuber I’ve ever watched complains about, but that’s because it’s true! I also realize that the genre is relatively new, and the first YA novels that really blew up were Hunger Games and Twilight, but not every female lead has to be a white girl with dark, wavy hair and brown eyes.
The good news here is that there are authors our there who have noticed this discrepancy, and they’re trying to do something about it. Seriously, check out Destiny Soria if you haven’t already. Iron Cast does not get enough credit.
Clones, fads, and copy cats
Have you ever noticed how every time one YA novelist writes a story involving a vampire romance that ten other YA novelists immediately release stories about vampire romances? I’m still surprised when I pick up a YA novel that is not set in a dystopian or post-apocalyptic world.
And maybe I’m being unfair. This may well be a trend in all genres. Maybe after Stephen King wrote It all the other horror novelists took a crack at writing their own killer clown story, but I somehow doubt it.
I’m sure this problem has more to do with the way YA books are published and marketed. I mean, publishers want to buy and print what they know will sell, so selling the same exact story in different packages works, I guess. Maybe in this case, the rise in self-publishing will help the genre. Here’s to hoping!
Teenagers think and act like teenagers
I’m a high school teacher and theatre director. I work with teenagers every single day (at least I did before the COVIDs). Because of that, I’m a pretty good judge of how teenagers think, speak, and behave. Yes, every teen is different, but for the most part, they are naive little bags of hormones who act before they think (I don’t mean this as an insult as I was the most naive little bag of hormones not too long ago).
Don’t you hate it when you’re reading a novel and a character does something so completely out of character that it completely takes you out of the story? That’s how I feel every time I’m reading a YA novel and the teenage protagonist makes a decision that NO TEENAGER WOULD EVER MAKE. It doesn’t matter that they are living in a dystopian world or if they are part werewolf, teenagers are going to make mistakes. They will make stupid decisions that may not make sense.
I’m not sure if the authors who make these particular mistakes are just trying to relive their childhoods through their adult filter, if they are trying to write “role model” characters, or if they simply haven’t met a teenager. I just need this to be fixed.
So, I know that some YA novels are quite well written, with a strong grasp of syntax and figurative language. Even the Twilight novels have allusions to classic literature such as Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliette.
However, the YA novels that I have found myself unable to finish have been written in a way that is 100% bleh–boring. They have the habit of telling and not showing, using the same words and phrases repeatedly, or taking three pages to say something that could have been said in three sentences. Some of them divulge unessential information or involve “cute” side stories that completely distract from the overall plot.
I’m sure part of the reason for this is that YA authors are hyper aware of the fact that they are writing to a younger audience, so they make an effort to keep their language simple and add a few humorous side stories to keep their readers attention. What I wish I could tell these authors is that young people who read aren’t stupid. Moreover, if you use a few words that your readers don’t know, they will learn them from the context and their vernaculars will grow. That’s how I learned most of the words I know, from reading books such as Treasure Island, Huckleberry Finn, or Pride and Prejudice–books with stories that interested me as a young person but didn’t dumb down their language.
Here’s the thing, I know there are YA novels out there that don’t have any of these issues. They’re well-written, creative, diverse, and they have characters who are well developed. I just have trouble finding those. I have found a few gems, which I will review eventually, but I think I need some help.
Do you know of any YA novels that avoid the issues I’ve listed? If so, please leave a recommendation in the comments. I’d love to add them to my reading list!
Thank you all!