I know there’s lots of stuff out there about how Amazon is ruining the publishing industry and basically destroying the world, but it weren’t for Amazon, I’d never have picked up half the YA books I’ve read in the past couple of years. Last week, I went sniffing through Amazon’s bargain bin and found myself 10–yes, 10–YA titles for 35 bucks, several of which were actually on my wish list, including Courtney Summers’ Fall for Anything and Elizabeth Scott’s Love You Hate You Miss You. Since ’tis the season for Jewish holidays, during which you can’t do much but read, I knocked down 7 out of the 10 in one long weekend, and I came to realize a few things I never, ever want to read again in YA:
1) Excessive brand-name dropping. Holy crap, do I not care what brand of jeans your MC is wearing every day. I get it. Your MC is rich. Or fashionable. Or both. She is also boring me because she thinks I care who makes every tank top she owns. Imagine if you had a friend who told you what brands she was wearing every day. Wouldn’t you want to pull her hair and pretend it was an accident?
2) Romances where the couple don’t even acknowledge that maybe sometimes they think about sex. I get it–lots of authors want to keep their stuff kid-friendly so it can be great for slightly younger audiences as well, or they don’t like writing about sex, or whatever. Then don’t. Have your character acknowledge that it’s something she’s saving for later and move on. But do not give me a 17-year-old MC who’s never even had to have “the talk” with her bf because he’s totally cool just making out for the entire length of their year-long relationship. I will not believe her, I will not believe him, and I will not believe them.
3) Outcast girls who have to do some sort of art project that ends up being some sort of running subplot throughout the book. Some of my absolute favorite YA books have done this, so I’m not knocking the idea as a whole, but at this point, it’s so incredibly commonplace that I just wait for it to pop up in every single contemporary YA where the female protagonist doesn’t fit in anymore now that her friend died and she feels somehow responsible. (Yes, the “female protagonist who doesn’t fit in anymore now that her friend died and she feels somehow responsible” genre is a little-known subgenre that I can’t really mock because obviously I keep reading it.)
4) Books with zero humor. I love drama. Drama is fun. But drama can be seriously hard to swallow without something to take the edge off. I’m consistently baffled by how many books have absolutely no funny characters. There’s not a lot of originality of plot out there in contemporary YA, and that’s OK–in real life, there isn’t enormous amounts of variation. Your characters probably go to school and have boy troubles and argue with their parents and get plastered every now and again, just like we pretty much all did in high school. What’s going to separate Book A About Girl Who Cuts Herself from Book B About Girl Who Cuts Herself is which girl (and/or people who surround said girl) you like better. (Well, among other things, but for me, character likability is a serious biggie.) Easy way to get me to like someone? Make them crack a joke every once in a while. Sometimes I just wanna draw a lipstick mouth on a book and shout “Y So Serious?” at it before flinging it at a wall.
What have you totally had enough of in YA?