I’m 19. I’m not going to be a teenager for much longer (*cries*). But I’m still a lot younger than the average YA author, and sometimes I see things that are INCREDIBLY annoying in YA books.
It’s not just one-off occasions, either. So here are some of the things I wish I saw less in books. And also I’m going to intersperse them with photos from Italy France because I only just found them (FROM TWO YEARS AGO) and because I can.
1. Ridiculous text speak.
STORY TIME. My first phone was a flip-top pink thing. I got it in year 7 when I started catching the bus to high school, so that I could call my mum if I missed it or something (…I may have missed the bus home on the first day. My bad).
Anyway, on those kinds of phones you have to REALLY WANT the letter S because you had to press the button 4 times to get it.
But these days, teenagers do not type saying “u shd cme ovr 2 my house” or whatever. We just don’t. It literally takes the exact same time to type in full sentences, and it annoys me SO MUCH when I see that kind of text speak in YA books. What it tells me is that you either a) text like this yourself in which case…why or b) you have no idea how teenagers communicate, in which case why are you writing YA?
(this one even kind of relates)
2. Old music
I get that authors are nostalgic. That’s fine. I’m sure when I’m older I’ll want to relive my wild and woolly youth by putting Lady Gaga in my books (although let’s be real, she’s probably immortal so she’ll still be singing about paparazzi and love games by then).
When authors put in music from The Smiths and Radiohead or whatever, I cannot relate. Not to mention the fact that often it’s put in to make the (female) MC more edgy or cool – that kind of music snobbery is EXACTLY how some people dismiss YA as a category. They’re the same kinds of characters who like classic novels and “aren’t like other girls” and are usually manic pixie dream girls to further a male’s plotline. Which…ugh. There are so many books I’ve read where I’ve assumed it’s set in the ’80s because of the music references. It doesn’t feel right.
Music has a huge influence in the lives of teens. It always has and it always will. And diversity has SO many facets, so I’d love to see more music references – Adele and Ed Sheeran, sure, but also K-Pop and musical soundtracks and rap. If you’re including music, make it relevant to the character’s personality, history and surrounding environment.
3. Avoiding any mention of social media, and instead having characters use “chat rooms.”
I kind of understand this one. If you mention Facebook and then it dies off in a few years, you run the risk of your book sounding dated. But using a “chat room” sounds like your book is stuck in the ’90s.
And as someone studying social media, let me tell you that Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are not going anywhere for a while. Unfortunately I’m not so confident about Twitter but that’s another discussion entirely.
Basically, don’t be afraid to reference social media. The few books in YA I HAVE read that reference Facebook or Insta or Snapchat always seem much more real, because the reality is that social media is a HUGE part of our lives these days.
4. Unnecessary romance
Pretty much my biggest pet peeve, honestly. YA is almost synonymous with romance, and that’s not just the fault of authors – it’s what publishers think will sell. But if you’ve been on Twitter for any length of time, talking to teens, you’ll know that we want more than just romance. We need authors like Alice Oseman who write books without any romance. We need more representation of ace and aro characters. And also it’d be nice to have romances that aren’t featuring characters who are white/het/cis.
5. Girls who are “not like other girls.”
I’m sick of stories where girls tear down other girls. I’m sick of seeing this line, because it automatically degrades the other characters in the story, and I’m not here for that.
I want more stories where girls are here for each other and supporting each other rather than being catty and vicious.
6. And lastly – do not be condescending to your readers outside the world of your books.
For example, do not insist that your characters are not gay in the most dismissive and cold way possible *ahem*. Fan-fiction and reader interpretation are the lifeblood of good fiction – if someone thinks your characters are lizard men from the planet Zorgon, well, good for them! Who knows, maybe they could be. Do not dismiss reader interpretations no matter what you’ve decided as the author.
…unless the interpretations are, you know, sexist, racist, ableist or homophobic.
This also applies if you’re called out. As a white gal, I’m still not great with picking up racism in books. But if you are a white author, do NOT dismiss reader criticisms because you didn’t “intend” to cause harm. Listen, apologise and do better.
What do you guys think? Are there things that really annoy you in YA? Or do you disagree on some of these? Let me know in comments, I love a good discussion.