I’ve been on a YA kick lately, having knocked out Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver and Simon Holt’s The Devouring in the last week. I’ve been listening to Alyson Noel’s Evermore on audiobook over the weekend, and it really brought home to me something that bugs me about some YA.
Of course it seems that the majority of popular YA these days is in first person. It is supposed to give us an up close and personal view of the hero or heroine’s head, deepen our experience of the story. But something I’ve noticed in a lot of the YA I’ve read (though not Shiver or The Devouring)–and I include the Twilight books in this category–is that a lot of them take that first person point of view and turn it into a story where the hero/ine is sitting there telling us the story. The whole story. In a tell the story rather than show it kind of way. This is not a good thing.
It particularly heavily highlights the incredible self-involvement that a lot of teen hero/ines display in their stories. And yeah, maybe that’s fairly true to life, but good fiction is not ENTIRELY always accurate. Because, damn, that kind of accuracy makes me really dislike the hero/ines for being whiny, angsty, wishy-washy, and boring. Possibly this is because I’m not a teenager and wasn’t a particularly typical teen when I was that age. But still. I think it takes a talented writer to write teens, or any characters really, in first person and still SHOW the story rather than tell it.
Many, many writers begin with first person when they start writing. Not all, certainly, but a significant portion. They often think it’s easier. I know I did. I switched sometime in high school to third person and I haven’t shifted back. Part of this is because I’m far more comfortable in third person. I prefer hitting multiple points of view in my stories, so it’s the natural choice. The other reason is that I honestly think that writing in first person–doing it WELL so that you DON’T fall into the tell rather than show trap–is far more challenging. It’s why I’m waiting to start my culinary paranormal series. That story is absolutely best in first person, and it’ll be seriously pushing my boundaries as a writer.
I gave about two seconds of thought to writing my YA trilogy in first person, doing a sort of chapter by chapter POV switch as was done in Shiver. But it’s just not me. And I don’t think I can tell the story the way it needs to be told in first person. I find myself far too bogged down in all the “I”s and “me”s. And so, too, do a lot of authors (YA and adult). And then there are those that do it SO WELL you feel like the characters are your best friend. Everybody has their strength.
What do you think? Do you think first or third is harder?