The Young Adult Author’s Guide to Young Adults

Considering that a bulk (read: like 98%)* of YA lit that I read is not written by, well, young adults, I’ve started to notice trends. Not like trendy trends that I’d want to keep up with, either, but more like misconceptions. Misconceptions about teenagers. Misconceptions about teenagers as written by young adult authors who are not young adults but want to relate to their audience because, duh, you have to hook your reader somehow, right?

 But, as a teenager with approximately eight months until she’s not a teenager anymore, I’m particularly critical about how teens are portrayed in novels. Maybe it’s because I want to be a young adult writer as well, and writing a main character who’s about my own age is a little more natural, but come on. What’s with the generalizing? The dopey text speak? The horrible fashions that literally no teenagers wear?

Here I’ve compiled what I believe to be the most irritating, annoying, and (sometimes) offensive misconceptions about teenagers that young adult authors tend to have.

  1. Every single teenager ever is average. And that therefore, an average (read: DULL) narrator is the only way to go. First of all, let’s not even get into the subjectivity of what constitutes as average. But secondly, I have never ever ever ever met a teenager who only wants to be average. Never. You see, in the grand scheme of things, aren’t we all special snowflakes? Don’t we all just want to be quirky and original and cute? There’s not some table designated to the average kids in the lunch table. Actually, there aren’t really designated tables, period. Kids sit with their friends. That doesn’t mean they’re automatically a clique with some stupid rhyming name.
  3. I’m serious about that one, okay?
  4. If a teenager isn’t average, than he/she is incredibly wise. I love John Green dearly (in fact, he’s my absolute favorite YA author), and while his characters are clever, intelligent, even profound, it does not mean all teenagers are like that. I mean, sometimes I just wanna talk about how hot the guy at the ice cream shop is without launching into an existential debate on life and death and where we fit into it all. This doesn’t mean teenagers aren’t capable of this type of thinking, of course. It just means that being really clever all the time is exhausting.
  5. Teenagers wear Converse. Well, okay, maybe this one is true. But it doesn’t mean that those who wear Converse are automatically quirky or chill or down-to-earth, and by pairing said sneakers with, oh, say a prom dress, that does NOT make a character edgy. At all. And, like, shoes are awesome—why are we focusing on a certain brand? I owned a pair of Chucks once, and it was in seventh grade, and they were really uncomfortable and only semi-cute so I wore them twice. What about flip-flops? Gladiator sandals? Really cute knee-high boots? Let’s branch out our footwear options, please.
  6. Teenage girls wear jean skirts a lot. No they don’t. Next topic.
  7. The ultimate way to make a teenager relatable is to make him/her love chocolate and hate broccoli. I’m pretty sure there are a lot stronger ways to make me connect to a character other than our food preferences. Besides, chocolate is so overrated—caramel is where it’s at.
  8. Teens use text speak always. OMG. Gud 1. I nvr text lyk dis & idk y u r makin ur character do it. U just sound dum. LMFAO.
  9. Srsly.
  10.  And, last but not least, that teenagers are so, completely, 100% misunderstood. Give us some credit, okay? I definitely went through that phase…when I was thirteen. But by high school, I grew out of it. And my guess is that most other teenagers do, too. And the ones who don’t? They learn to cope with it. It baffles me how YA characters can be so selfish and bratty. Are there teenagers like that? Sure. But are those really the teens we want to read a book about? Because here’s the thing: selfishness and bratty-ness and being misunderstood are not flaws. Not flaws I really care if a character redeems, anyway. More than anything, I just equate those characteristics with someone who’s really annoying and who I wouldn’t want to be friends with. Or read about. At all.

Are there any other misconceptions you find in YA? Or maybe something that authors get right? I’d love to know what you think, too!

* I totally just made up this statistic, I have no clue what it really is. I opted out of stats at college.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “The Young Adult Author’s Guide to Young Adults

  1. Concerning #1: I’d even say we’re a bit attention-hungry, if anything. I’d love to see an author utilize this fact. It’s a goldmine of flaws for teenage characters. For any characters, really.

  2. Bingo. You are so right, Mer. Genius.

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