Judging from the mediocre successes of Allegiant, The 5th Wave, and that of the more recent Nerve, Young Adult novels and their cinematic counterparts appear to be losing steam. Then again, it’s not entirely fair to compare said works to the likes of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and (SIGH) Twilight. After all, who can predict if a book – or a potential franchise – will end up being a hit?
Nonetheless, a valuable lesson can be learned from the root of these so-so movies.
I’d like to believe that audiences have not only caught onto the many tropes that plague the YA scene, but refuse to accept them any longer. On that note, here are my top picks for things that dissuade me from picking up a book based on its surface alone.
1) Covers Featuring Real People
Seeing as most readers – including myself – turn to fiction for the sake of escapism, I find covers featuring unreasonably photogenic people to be distracting. There’s a certain magic to imagining how our favorite characters would act and look were they real. We don’t need any one artist to pick out a picture for us, especially when said decision tends towards the side of the sexist and whitewashed.
2) Capitalizing EVERYTHING
Oh boy. When it comes to heavy-handed exposition, YA can be a major offender.
It’s hard to find a book in the teens’ section nowadays that doesn’t have something to do with a quirky hero/heroine being named the Chosen One among a group of Nobodies in the Land of “Let’s Place People Into Mindless Categories To Better The Big Bad Government.” This isn’t something that bothers me as much when done in small doses, but the more mundane the word, the more forced a capitalization may feel.
3) Too Perfect Protagonist
Needless to say, having “too perfect” characters is undesirable for any kind of story. Readers are much more inclined to connect with a protagonist with real flaws rather than a straight-up saint. This red flag is not always easy to pick up on, though it is often found in tandem with the capitalizing rule (i.e The Chosen One). As liberating as escapism can be, it’s important not to divulge into it to the point where characters becomes a series of blank slates – unless desired, of course.
4) Nonexistent Parents and/or Same-Sex Friends
By “nonexistent,” I mean characters who may very well not be in a book in addition to those who fail to make an appearance altogether. In an attempt to give protagonists “depth,” a lot of authors have turned to killing off their family ties (minus the obligatory younger sibling) or putting them in situations where they’re forced to be the “Team Mom.” The Dystopian genre is especially guilty of this trope. As for the hero/heroine’s best friend, I’ve rarely seen someone fulfill this role who didn’t feel gimmicky – which is a shame considering how little attention has been given to healthy female/female relationships in lieu of No-No #5.
5) Love Triangles
I’d like to know how common love triangles are in real life, because the way I see it, YA blows them way out of proportion. Not that there’s anything wrong with enjoying one in a book, but I dislike how a woman’s role is often tied to that of a male or two for the sake of drama. There are greater pursuits out there for a young heroine that don’t include falling in love. Then again, this opinion is coming from a fan of childhood and slow-burn romances whereas spontaneity tends to sell among younger readers.