So, this is just another complaint. I promise we'll have actual reviews soon. I'm almost done with about three different books. I'll get to it.
This is about the many follies you may, just may, want to avoid while writing.
1. Every teen smokes and drinks
Listen up, because this is probably why teens are looked at so badly. Not because we all go on big drinking binges and scream at our parents, but because that's what we're advertised to do.
For some reason, YA authors are convinced that every teens drinks and/or smokes pot/crack (do you smoke that?)/cigarettes. Yes, in the real world, some people do that. Heck, I KNOW people who do that. There's a girl in the grade above me that constantly brags about stealing vodka and beer and tequila and (insert any other alcoholic beverage here). She also complains about having headaches all the time and also brings up her puking habits too, interestingly. But not everyone is her.
A lot of books talk about teens drinking very casually. No mention of straight edge people (high five to all my straight edgers out there), people who don't want to, Muslims, Mormons, and kids who don't like the idea of the possibility of a multi-thousand dollar fine over their head.
In some settings, this is kind of understandable (thank you to D.H. Scott on Figment for pointing this out to me). Maybe it's a run down, crime filled place. Or maybe something traumatic happened and character X uses alcohol or drugs as a getaway. But this is rarely the case in YA.
2. Textbook minorities
This one will continue sarcastically. If I got all my information from YA, this is what I'd "know". Please do not take offense, as this is sarcasm,
~ If a guy is gay, then he is destined to act like a whiny little girl that calls everyone darling, honey, or some variation of that type of thing. He is overly concerned with fashion and hangs out with more girls that guys. He is extremely flamboyant and is horrible at anything athletic. Always.
~ If there's a lesbian, she is butch and macho and sarcastic and arrogant. She is never shown in an actual relationship.
~ If you're Latina or Latino, you are from Mexico. Only Mexico. Central and South America are hoaxes created by the government to keep us in line.
~ If you are African American, you have two choices. As a guy, you are butch and strong, you're probably on the football/basketball team. If you're a girl, you're sassy and probably give a bunch of advice on dating.
~ Native Americans are super wise, have no knowledge of contractions, and have some affinity with nature. Defining what tribe/community they are from is unnecessary. Unnecessary, I tell you!
~ Asians are a rare breed of extremely intelligent superhumans. Their lives revolve around being goody-goodies and getting A+s.
~ West/East Pacific Islanders don't exist. Guam is a lie.
~ Atheists are only ever atheists because something bad happened and they decided the world was too cruel and God couldn't exist, boo hooooo. Evolution, the Big Bang theory, and all other ways it's possible we don't need a god don't exist.
~ Jews are just Christians with Bat Mitzvahs and Bar Mitzvahs and celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas, right?
~ Muslims don't exist, silly. And is they do happen to appear, they say 'Allah' instead of 'God', though when speaking English, that is the name He is addressed by.
~ Buddhism and Hinduism are only practiced in Asia. Fiction is an Abrahamic-only club.
Now, before I punch a wall, onto...
3. Example characters
I didn't know what to call these guys, but here's basically how it works: if a character is not perfect/is a minority, they are used purely as a way for the author to say "Look! I'm okay with overweight/pimply/minority/etc. people! I included them in my story as minor, personality-less characters!" Usually has some textbook minorities in there.
Can also lead to a Gaysop's fable, in which we learn 'gays are people too!' in a really unnervingly in-your-face fashion. Because we didn't know that they are. Because all teenagers are homophobes. All of them, even the LGBTQ ones.
Or we can learn that you don't have to be beautiful (like the MC) to be a good person. Actually, you do. Because if you're fat, you're whiny, if you're not athletic, you have no social life. Because...
4. Teens only love each other based on looks
If you don't have dazzling/piercing/sparkling/deep/[poetic adjective] green eyes and smokn' hot abs, you are nothing. NOTHING.
Onto the more serious bit, these kind of romances frustrate me to no end. These are the reasons why I usually complain about romances in YA. Do the authors seriously think that the only reason we need to love is good looks? That the only kind of love is love at first sight? What about personality, friendship based relationships? The way love is portrayed in most YAs is unrealistic and grossly exaggerated.
Or maybe the descriptions are because of...
5. Minor teen dramas are blown up
This really didn't occur to me until a book I read about a month ago (I won't mention the title, since this is what I hate, and no need to be a jerk). I know high school dramas. Mean girls, gossip, romantic troubles, but YA authors don't seem to remember how it was back in the old days. Or maybe Nowhere, USA, just doesn't have enough people for it to be too big. Either way, a lot of small things go huge in YA.
Break ups- When I finally entered the great world of romance (read: my friends did, I watched), I was surprised how easy break ups could be. No screaming, no crying, no ice cream chugging, just the general rule of hush, hush when it came to the ex's name. And even that would be over in a month. Usually, we forget him pretty soon. The name drifts off to meaninglessness.
It's not too bad for guys, either, from what I can tell. From my observations of guys in school and my cousin at one point, it's no angsty, "oh, dear X" fit.
If someone is going to break up, it usually gets obvious. By the time they break up, you've probably steeled yourself because they've been giving you the cold shoulder. Or maybe we're just good at keeping quiet. Maybe we shouldn't listen to me, being a partner-less, never partnered person. You can listen to me about the next one, though.
Rumors- I have had more rumors than I can count swirl around me. It's natural. Usually, they're more laugh-worthy than anything and dissipate pretty quickly. We may not be tiny adults, but we're pretty darn good at sniffing out a lie. We've been raised in a world with not always true information (the Internet, each other), we know when to be skeptical and do some extra poking around. And since rumors are usually lies, they don't usually catch on unless they're really good.
Who loves who- You will not become a social pariah by dating X, X, or X, unless they're someone else's, in which a case you're doomed. Saying you aren't, though, we don't care. It's usually a quick laugh if you don't think it'll work, and then acceptance if it does. Or, if you're a friend or sibling, secretly plotting to get rid of your friend's/sibling's partner because they don't give you enough attention anymore.
New kid- I was a newbie to my school when I was in second grade, so I'm not sure what the feeling would be in my current grade, but I'll make some guesses based on what I've seen.
* Everyone tries to be your friend. They want another friend, and you're a blank slate.
* People are concerned with what you do and wear. First impressions really do count. The new girl that our class got last year was at first accepted and soon rejected because of her tendency to wear skin-tight, skimpy, barely-allowed-by-dress-code clothes. So I imagine clothes would be a major concern as the newbie.
* Usually newbies are sucked in by the eeeeeevviiiil popular crowd. How do they remain in power? They get a lot of people. How do they get new people? They warm up to the new kids.
* We get over your existence within a month. That's right. Even in my hometown of Nowhere, getting a new kid isn't that big. It's nice for the first couple days, but quickly you'll be brought into the flow. In a bigger town? I bet it would take a week.
The Popular Kids- Call them what you like, the Peacock girls (that name makes me laugh), the Populars, the Pops, we had the Sis Crew, they're the in your face popular kids. Except they usually aren't too in your face.
Yeah, they can be jerks. Huge jerks. Want-to-punch-them-in-the-face jerks. But they're actually a lot like bears. As long as you avoid them, they avoid you. (Now I'm thinking of a grizzly bear in hoop earrings and a miniskirt. It's kind of odd.)
No, sorry to burst your bubble, for the most part, they don't insult random people just for fun. If they did, they wouldn't be popular. Maybe they should be called the Rich Kids if they're doing that.
Yeah. Sorry. But I think knowing will make you a better author.
6. Teens think adults are idiots
Riiiiiight. We probably live with an adult or two. It would kind of suck if we thought they were completely ignorant/oblivious.
You see, from what I can tell, I don't know anyone who thinks their parent(s)/guardian(s) is/are complete morons. A bit bad with technology sometimes, yeah, but you'd be surprised how often adults actually understand teen dramas.
Here's some problems that I think really do need to be addressed.
- Listen. Seriously. I understand, we're not "old enough" to understand complex problems such as politics and human rights and... Oh, wait. Some of us are.
We understand how the world works better than you may think. Otherwise programs like Future Problem Solvers wouldn't exist. But people disregard our opinion purely based on age. It wouldn't matter if we wrote a scholar-level persuasive essay on our views. It wouldn't matter. That's what I love about the Internet. You can talk about your views without being disregarded based on age, as long as you don't say how old you are.
- Needing to say the right thing all. The. Time. At least at my age, everyone is hypercritical about what you say. Say one thing wrong, and, bam, you lose everyone's trust. Without knowing why. Because people think we're old enough to always need to be right, without realizing we're just getting out of random thinking and just starting to figure out what we are and aren't allowed to say.
Be mature, don't bring up mature topics, stay young, don't act so immature, be responsible, we can't trust you.
- Be uniquely conformed. It's always stressed on me, and from what I can tell, my friends, that we need to be individuals. Individuals, to the standards of everyone else. Because the reason you're bullied is because you're so flamboyant. No, you lost your personality. No, stop being so weird. Be yourself, don't conform, conform, hush, hush.
So it's not "you just don't get me" all the time. There is so much more to it.
7. Txt Spk
... Not all of us talk like we're in a chatroom, and I'd prefer you didn't write like that. Because this is how it feels when you want to write your story "like a teen would":
OMG! It's like, whoa, this is a totally STUUPPPIIIIDDD way of writing. LOL! Omg, I can't even tell what it means, which totes sucks. Ugh, I feel stupid just reading this!
... No. No no no. Do NOT patronize me. All the capitalization instead of italicization, the acronyms, it's, OMG! HORRIBLE!
You know what also applies? Seeing a hot guy (*grumble* It's always a guy.) and saying something along the lines of "Time to drool", "drool", "drroooooooolll", or basically saying drool at all. Or saying parents are so stoooopiiiid in your book, as discussed above. It's not relatable, it's weird.
Don't patronize me.
8. All teens are hateful
Kiddies, not all of us are racist. Not all of us are homophobic. Not any more than adults, at least.
My school has two options when it comes to race- white, or Filipino. Did we go crazy when a kid from the Dominican Republic joined us? No. Because we don't care. Our life isn't based on thinking up racist jokes (though I do know a plethora of white jokes).
Okay, my school isn't a great example for anti-homophobia, considering I have classmates who use "gay" as an insult (as a reply, I always say "Ugh, you're so straight." It shuts them up.), but GSAs? Remember those? There are plenty of schools with them because the kids accept and join them.
And while my town also isn't a great example for religious diversity (the only type of building we have more of than churches is houses), not everywhere is like that. Unless you're in a really conservative town, you should be pretty good. Younger grades are more freakishly concerned with who you are because they only know how to parrot what their parent(s) say(s). At around tenth grade, things get better. People think for themselves. People will even change religions. So, not all of us are like that. Get over it.
A dandy little rant I had there. Now, I'll get to reviewing.