Hello, guys! Just wanted to say I’m sorry for so many reposts this week. I’ve been in a strange mood, and I’ve been trying to focus on my prose and catching up on my reading lately. I have a few ideas for next week, so make sure to stay tuned!
For now, enjoy this older post!
I’ve always been the snobbiest person that I know. I’ve taken pride in knowing that much of my interests are not the sort of things that you would find on other people’s radars. When gaming was my main hobby, I played games that no one inside my circle of friends had even heard of. When I watch anime, I never watch the shows that everyone raves over in my school.And from the perspective of much of my friends, the books I read seem like they come from some alternate dimension.
Due to this, I developed an unwarranted superiority complex (which still persists to this day), in which I was the individual with the most refined taste in entertainment that could ever be found. I’d sneer at individuals whom idled away their time by playing casual games on their smartphones, and I’d mock the losers whom watched all the popular animes. All the while I’d lounge in my corner with a monocle and a glass of aged champagne being twirled in my hands.
*Sips glass of Champagne*
Naturally, since humility has never been my strong suit, this habit of mine crossed over to my taste in literature. Which is to say that while I read my ADULT and SERIOUS novels, I groan in aristocratic displeasure at the sight of those whom partake in reading Young Adult literature. Whenever I see meaty books that have a font size of 14+ and are virtually double-spaced, it makes me want to gag. To think that so many trees were sacrificed for the sake of a sub-par piece of literature that should be rotting in the very depths of hell and festering in the pits of–
Well, you get the idea. In all seriousness though, this is actually an opinion that I genuinely hold. Young Adult Literature has rarely been able to impress me. One could say that perhaps I’m too old to understand the message of these novels…but that doesn’t take into consideration that I’m currently seventeen years of age. And even before I had my latest birthday, I don’t recall taking a fancy toward any of the YA series that are currently out.
Now, before start losing sleep tonight, allow me to clarify. When I say that I hate YA “literature”, I mean to say that I hate the majority of what comes out of the genre. I’ll be the first to admit that the first fantasy books I read were The Chronicles of Narnia, which I still respect (Even tho
ugh they might technically count as Children’s Fantasy). And I have read a couple contemporary YA books that I enjoyed.
But these are an EXCEPTION.
For the most part, I wouldn’t hesitate
to dismissing the whole genre as being utter rubbish. And it’s not to say that those whom write in this genre are untalented hacks, despite my suspicion that most of them are, many of them are good storytellers that condemn themselves to the same recycled techniques that hold this genre back. So knowing that I’m incapable of explaining why I feel the way that I feel in the regular format, allow me to share the pet peeves that make me loathe this genre.
1. They read like an essay
And not a good one either. Think of the very worst report you’ve ever heard anyone utter back in your schooling days. Remember how monotone the speaker was? Remember how
their language was lacking in any pacing or character? Ever wonder if they wrote it during a bout of crippling depression?
Well, the standard YA novel shares a lot in common with that report. Allow me to start with a quote of sublime prose from a YA “Masterpiece”.
“It’s too bad, really, that they hold the reaping in the square — one of the few places in District 12 that can be pleasant. The square’s surrounded by shops, and on public market days, especially if there’s good weather, it has a holiday feel to it. But today, despite the bright banners hanging on the buildings, there’s an air of grimness. The camera crews, perched like buzzards on rooftops, only add to the effect.” -The Hunger Games
From the moment this perfect, godly, and majestic piece of description is given to us, we are swept away with the vivid storytelling at play. Notice how the author takes great care in mentioning the banners, but not once offering any further sensory stimuli save for the word “bright”. Notice how we are told that this marketplace could have the atmosphere of the holidays, but we are never told how. Oh, and I just adore line in which she mentions there are shops but doesn’t bother to mention what kind of shops they are!
If you haven’t noticed the sarcasm, you should consider reading another blog.
It’s one thing to summarize an area in the middle of your book. It’s one thing to describe a tiny location that doesn’t require that many sensory details. But when this is in the first chapter of the book–IT’S UNFORGIVABLE! This is supposed to be the part of the story that I get hooked with the setting. If there is anytime to be showing me what it feels like to live in this city, it ought to be now!
As you can see, I don’t have a positive opinion of the Hunger Games.
Where is the wonder!?!? Where is the immersion? The beginning of a story is when an author is MOST invested in it. The writer here sounds like they made the setting for this novel back in fifth grade, and is somehow being forced to write it into a book as an adult! There is no passion here, nor is there any sense of being in the dystopian city.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a trait that’s exclusive to The Hunger Games. Countless young adult novels suffer from this dreadful Beige Prose!
There seems to be a frame of thought pervading the writing industry, one that dictates that teens and young adults are illiterate barbarians that cower in the face of a mere metaphor! And independent of whether or not this is true (knowing today’s society, it very well might be), many YA authors use this as an excuse to write unimaginative description. Maybe I’m the exception, but I’m quite sure that a little poetic language here and there wouldn’t kill anyone.
Now I’m not asking those whom write YA to make purple prose in the way that they describe things, but PLEASE, if you’re trying to drag us into the setting, give us a bit more to go off of. A reader is a voracious eater as well. We take in sensory details like a conveyor belt on overdrive.
2. Sarcastic protagonists stopped being funny a long time ago
So you’re in the middle of reading Vampire Romancing Saga: Lover’s First Bite. So far you think you’re enjoying the story (you probably have bad taste in literature if you are) but you find that the main character is pretty bland. Chelsea, a new resident in Genericville after moving from Nameless City X, is a cute girl with freckles on her cheeks. Her hair is a perfect pumpkin color and she’s always enjoyed wearing it in its untamed form. She loves books, writing, philosophizing, daydreaming, being a loner, and an overall attention whore. But you find that she’s lacking in flaws. Sure, she’s clumsy, but that isn’t cutting the chase for you. Her narration is still dry and lacking in character. How would the author go about fixing this?
AHA! Clearly, all we need to do is add
Let’s get one thing out of the way, I don’t have an issue with a character just because they are sarcastic. My problem is when the sarcasm is so obviously stuffed into the character in order to give them a superficial semblance of personality. Sarcasm can often create a very sharp and gross contrast when it suddenly shows up in bland narration. So what makes the dry wit of Katniss from the Hunger Games (1st book, I haven’t read the others so I can’t speak for them) different from that of a good sarcastic protagonist? In short, it’s that the sarcasm complements the narration rather than being the only thing worth noting in it. And to show what a good sarcastic narrator looks like, allow me to use Jalan Kendeth from Prince of Fools as an example.
Jalan is as snarky as they come. He’s gross, witty, a wisecracker, and an arrogant young gentleman. But it goes with his character. He’s a member of decadent nobility and the tenth in line to the throne of an empire, he’s become a spoiled brat. But over the course of the book he grows into a slightly more mature brat. And this shows with how often the sarcasm came in the first half of the tale when compared to the latter half. The more that Jalan grew as a character, the less sarcasm we saw coming from him. This is an example of having sarcasm be of actual use in the plot.
Again, I’ve no issue with using it in the occasional joke here and there. But when sarcasm is the only defining feature of your narration, you should start looking deeper into your characters. Because they deserve more, and so does the reader.
3. “Tabula Rasa” Main Protagonist
This factors in a great deal with the previous point that I put forward. I’ve spoken about this before in my post Blank Slate Disorder (BSD), but it bears repeating for young adult novels.
These often make the fatal mistake of allowing the main character to be as bland and utterly unremarkable as possible. This is an MC that WILL have characters traits, but they will be character traits that are unoriginal in every sense of the word. Usually they are good-natured, kind, brave, and optimistic. If they have flaws, it will be something along the lines of having a short-temper or being a loner. Yet the problem is that these characters don’t really grow away from these.
I have no issue with assigning any of these traits to your characters, after all, unless you’re creating some reptilian monstrosity, these are human traist that could easily be given to human characters. The problem is that these traits ought to be a starting point from where our characters are able to evolve. Yet this is rarely the case.
It’s either one of two things. There is no change at all, or what change there is occurs over an expansive period of time (An entire trilogy, for example ;D) and would be impossible to notice without any in-depth analysis.
I like to call this the “Watered-down” Mary Sue, main because it lacks the perfection of the Sue, but you can be sure that it’s DAMN close to reaching it. What people fail to understand is that unless we are playing a video game or a choose-your-own-adventure book, bland protagonist do the very opposite of placing us in their shoes.
They drive us away from immersion.
Teens have the capacity to be very colorful individuals with all manner of tastes and preferences from all corners of the spectrum. And as a sort of spokesperson for them, I’d venture to say that it is rather patronizing to be expected to relate with a character that’s actually a pile of bricks in human clothing. You could argue that authors are afraid they might alienate some segments of the market for their book, which while a genuine concern, only furthers the fact that this character type is only created for personal gains.
All in all, each to their own and everyone ought to have their own preferences. YA is a genre that has the potential to bring in scores of new readers of books, yet these habits that I’ve mentioned can drive many people away. If somehow, one of you people reading this work on YA, then I don’t necessarily mean to insult you. This is only me mocking the general trend with young adult literature.
As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.
An older post of mine that I’d like to see getting a little more love. Christmas is fast approaching, but school remains unrelenting! Either way, I hope the rest of this month ends quietly, for both you and me.