Sunday, May 19, 2013

The 5 Kinds of Characters in Almost Every YA Book (That I'm Tired of)

The 5 Kinds of Characters in Almost Every YA Book (That I’m Tired of)

Before we start, I would like to make sure you know that this is based on opinions, not facts. If you don’t feel the same, I understand. Now, onto the clichés.

1.   The Popular Girl

Don’t tell me you’ve read a book set in High School without this character. She’s mean, annoying, and hates the main character for no reason in particular. Usually, she’s blonde with blue eyes and is super rich.

Why am I tired of her?

Because no one bothers to write a good one. Why is she mean? Why does she hate the main character? If she’s such a jerk, why does she have a posse? This isn’t explained. She has nothing to do with the plot. She’s basically there to be annoying.

2.   The Dark, Edgy, Mysterious, Handsome, [adjective] Boy

He’s Miss MC’s love interest. He hides so much, he’s so dark… She needs to find out more. As we go along, we find out he has a bike, a tragic past, and a 24 pack. I mean, most teen boys don’t have abs to speak of. I’m not sure how Mr. Dark gets away with it.

Why am I tired of him?

I don’t like him because, really, he makes no sense.
I already pointed out the teen boys and abs thing, but now there’s the romance factor. What girl wants a boy who’s unwilling to say anything about himself, ignores her, and, usually, is rather cold? No one. No girl wants that. So why does the main character? Because the author might not remember that, in her girlhood, she wanted to kick that kind of guy in the nuts.
Also, he just gets boring. Yeah. Got it. He’s mysterious. It was interesting the first sentence, but now? No. Just no.

3.   The Super Average Main Character (Except They’re Not)

This is the MC with stick-straight brown hair, an average body, brown eyes, and over-average grades. Because they can be average in every sense but grades. Oh… GASP They have a super mysterious and weird past?! Never saw it coming, they’re just so average!

Why am I tired of them?

Well, does the author really, really have to emphasize that they’re just that average? I mean, sure, there are lots of average people out there, but they don’t narrate themselves as average. It’s just annoying.

4.   The Paranormal Love Interest

This guy is a vampire, an alien, a demon, etc. So, basically a monster by all means. That, most likely, would not look human (okay, maybe the vampire, but whatever). Yet somehow, this one does. And he speaks perfect English. And is the only one with a heart of whatever. Because he’s special.

Why am I tired of him?

Well, I don’t hate all of them. It’s just the ones you know don’t make sense. Angel/Demon love story, and the demon looks human. Okay, I guess that’s okay for Christian demonology, but so there are so many other cultures to choose from! Why can’t he be a Wadget, huh? HUH?
Cough So, uh, yeah. Aliens, they probably won’t look human at all. Starfish are from our planet and look nothing like us, what would an alien be like? It just makes me feel cheated. I understand the needs-to-be-relatable thing, but really?
Vampires I’m just bored with. After (and during) Twilight, they kind of lost their shine.
This goes for any kind of non-human creature.

5.   The Tragic Past Character

This doesn’t go for all of them. I’ll clarify.
This is the character that angsts all day long. Their parents died at three (they probably don’t even remember it), they lost someone else they loved, their parents are neglectful or abusive. Something like that. Yet the author completely forgets to bother with the whys and hows and what it has to do with the plot.

Why am I tired of them?

They’re overused, one. I mean, there’s probably more characters with sob stories than ones without in the YA world.
Also, as I mentioned, it rarely has to do with the plot. The character just angsts annoyingly and mentions their past all the time. It gets in the way. That’s why.

~ Corinne

1 comment:

  1. I definitely agree with the popular girl being so contrived. I wonder if the writers (maybe some novel writers, but especially TV writers) have ever gone to school with an actual mean, popular girl. Or, if she's just stuck in there because of some paint-by-numbers idea of adolescent life. Maybe there were some cultural and economic factors that made mean girls prevalent when these usually-out-of-high-school writers went to school that just was never updated?

    To combine 2 and 4, there's the dark, edgy, mysterious, paranormal boy. Lindsay Ellis and Nella Inserra crowdsourced the writing of a parody paranormal romance, chronicled on their "50 Shades of Green" channel. Serious fans of Lovecraft might be even more horrified that their cosmic horror abominations are turned into conventionally attractive teenagers who have a weakness for COMPLETELY AVERAGE AND RELATABLE designated love interests.

    Ha! Wadjet. Yes.

    Finally, the tragic young adult. I like how this is subverted in "Charmed Thirds" by Megan McCafferty. The first two books chronicled a lot of drama that the main character was going through, but the more she tried to explain her miserable high school life to her newfound friends at her university, the more they told her that she sounds like a high school Mary Sue.

    I was fine with it in Percy Jackson, because the whole point was that he wasn't special: he falls in with a whole lot of kids from single-parent homes who struggle with mental disorders, and when it turns out that he's slightly more special than they are, somebody even way more special comes into his life and he's "just" the narrator again-- he makes a great narrator for the story, because there are so many opportunities for the story NOT to be about him. He's allowed to be immature and overwhelmed, and especially to laugh and have fun with his friends and have odd and quirky random thoughts.

    I've also heard a lot of backlash against the angst and uncertainty added to lively characters. Aang from The Legend of Aang had an entire genocide to get over, but his default personality is that of a goofy, optimistic prankster. Fans missed it in the super!serious!movie version of the character.

    I also read that Goku from Dragon Ball Z was a very ambitious, can-do young man... that, in the movie trailer at least, had to utter something along the lines of "Alas I am a mere boy I cannot bear the burden of the weight of the world upon my shoulders" which many people would consider a natural reaction, but I consider it a bad sign when every single main character in movies, TV, books, even RPG video games... must be MADE to angst and angst only. It shows much less variety in human experience, and it's probably because when angst done with some heart to it, some insight, it sells really well. So, contrive angst and see if that sells really well.