I was all set to make a post about stuff every author ought to have on their blog (I have a list I’ve been generating), but I’ll save that for another day. Why? Well, I just read a really scathing review of a YA book I happened to love. I’m not mentioning titles or linking to the review because I don’t want to get into some kind of internet pissing match, but there are a few charges she levied that simply begged response.
- All main characters in YA are hot. Okay maybe this one half has merit. This IS the case in a lot of YA, particularly YA that deals with the paranormal because it mostly seems that paranormal denizens of any genre are hot. But one thing must be mentioned, about YA in particular. A huge chunk of YA is written in first person. Which means that the hero or heroine is talking in first person about his or her crush. How many butt ugly people did you crush on in high school? I know I thought every guy I had a crush on was hot, whether he was by model terms or not. I can remember so many friends who had boyfriends they thought were the greatest thing since sliced bread, but they didn’t do a thing for me. Attractiveness is wholly in he eye of the beholder, so yes, ESPECIALLY when romance is involved, the main characters are gonna think each other is hot. It’s the nature of the beast.
- All the characters were stereotypes. This made me positive that the reviewer did not go to public high school. Stereotypes exist for a reason. Teenagers are exaggerations of themselves…WALKING stereotypes. You have the jocks and the cheerleaders and the brainiacs and the quiet boy and all manner of typical pigeon-holing definitions. Go to any high school in America and you will find oodles of the same. Are there more to these kids? Absolutely. But when have you met a teenager that automatically looked beyond the surface of every person they meet? Stereotypes in YA help draw you in and set the stage. For those of us who are long out of high school, it brings us back and pulls us into those halls. Almost every YA I’ve read that was set in a school setting (rather than out on some adventure somewhere) did the exact same thing. It’s how they start out. The point is that they emerge as deeper characters over the course of the story–which this reviewer totally missed because she stopped only 1/3 into the book.
- Hero was weak, heroine was a coward, and none of the mains was perfect. Okay I’m exaggerating a little bit, but the way this reviewer spoke, it sounded like she expected these teen characters to be grown up and mature and making the perfect decision right out of the gate. Here’s the thing: Teens make bad decisions (so do adults, but we’re still talking YA here). Teens make selfish decisions. Teens wrestle over WHAT decision to make. If you have a teen character who does the exact right thing from page one, then why am I reading your book? The whole point of YA fiction is for teens to GROW and CHANGE. And if the heroine starts out as a coward and lets something bad happen because she’s afraid to get involved–it haunts her the rest of the book and is the catalyst for her entire character arc. But oh, you wouldn’t know that because you STOPPED at the first third of the book.
I think that there is a tendency because we all read so much paranormal or supernaturally based YA that we have greater expectations for the characters in these stories. So when someone comes out with truly authentic and flawed characters, characters that could have had the locker next to ours, some readers are disappointed that they aren’t reading about an Edward or a Jace or a Nick Ryvves. That doesn’t make these books any less valid or wonderful. And if you didn’t finish the book, fine, but don’t base a full review off 30% of a story.