*Note: This is an informal blog post, with info taken from reviews on Goodreads. This is not for research, and is only an assignment for summer reading.
YA fiction carries a lot of obvious elements shared between novels—a teenage narrator, a romance, and either a real-world plot or fantasy quest. Every YA book I have ever read has contained these components and I don’t expect to find one that won’t, but what, with all these elements in every book, separates one YA book from another? What makes one better than another? Well, obviously, personal taste is the first answer, but the other obvious answer is how well the elements are represented.
For one thing, if a teen is going to narrate, it has to *be* a teen, meaning that the narrator has to talk, think, and grow like a teen. Common sense, but still easy to get inaccurate. Teens are going to be silly, deep, logical, emotional, and growing all at the same time. For a reader to appreciate a good teenage character, the character must be realistic, then complex enough that the reader will sympathize. Let’s compare and contrast examples from “Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky and “Hunger Games.” In “Perks,” Charlie is sometimes criticized for being a stereotype of a mentally handicapped teen. He is extremely naive, he cries constantly, and his voice is more like a child’s than a teen’s. While this is not criticism of the illness itself (if he does have one), it is criticism of how Chbosky wrote Charlie. For many (including me), Charlie seemed far too emotional and whiny to be realistic enough to sympathize with him. By contrast, Katniss Everdeen’s character in “Hunger Games” left many fans (including me) admiring her character from the way she was a female acting independently and not suffering from the damsel-and-distress-and-must-have-a-prince-save-her cliche. It might be unfair comparing an awkward boy to a feminist female, but the point is that characters matter in how the story will be received by the audience. I didn’t enjoy “Perks” because Charlie just seemed too helpless to me, even in the end, but I loved “Hunger Games” because I loved how Katniss relied on her own skills to help her survive.
Which sorta kinda but not really segues into the next point of how plot affects popularity. It is easy to mimic reality—write a scene of a normal conversation and you have a mirror to reality. But take that mirror, warp it, and reflect back the uglier side of reality and you are not only showing reality, but teaching readers about it. Example: compare “Why We Broke Up” by Daniel Handler and “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. “Why We Broke Up” deals with the unfortunate thing that every teen faces: break-up. Every teen knows how that feels, so there is some sympathy for Min as she writes to her ex about why it ended. However, this book simply mirrors reality. Min’s lessons only apply to her as she learns how silly she was to love someone whose personality didn’t compliment hers,and the only thing left at the end of the book is the feeling of “Oh, I know how that feels.” But did you learn anything from it? If you read “Thirteen Reasons Why,” I’m sure you learned something, like how what you think is something small can actually be a big thing to another, especially if it’s part of a snowball effect, or how to better recognize the signs of suicide. Asher’s book is the warped mirror as his character, Hannah Baker, tells thirteen people how they furthered her choice to kill herself. She demonstrates how little things can cause a whole big snowball to destroy someone and how easy it is to look away and not notice when you’re not the one under the snowball. When the book ends, Clay’s not the only one left with lessons: the audience has shared in the learning of remembering the effects of things and recognizing someone on the verge of suicide.
Finally, while not always necessary, a good romance never hurt anyone. Now this can be done either really badly (*cough*Twilight*cough*) or beautifully like the one in “The Fault in Our Stars.” Not only is the story of two teens fighting cancer touching, but their romance while struggling is what makes the book for a lot of people. Both know they have a limited time and that one could easily go before the other at any time. They also want to hurt as few people because of their cancers as possible. Rather than try to avoid hurting the other by building up feelings, they do it anyway and help each other before one of them has to go. Augustus plays the gentleman and Hazel relies on him to reawaken her will to live. My point? It’s not just an average romance, but one that’s trying to accept that it will end in death. For many people (not including me), this is all that’s needed to make a good story. For others (including me), this just increases the beauty of the story.
There are many other components found in YA lit that determine the epicness or epic failure of a book, but character and plot play the most important roles. Unbelievable characters and stories will leave readers asking way more questions than they need to until they give up and stop reading. Characters have to be teens, not just act like one, and stories are better when they reflect reality in a way that both characters and readers learn together.
Note: Once again, this isn’t scholarly research. This info was based on Goodreads reviews for an assignment for summer reading.
The void does not care about you; it does not acknowledge your existence. Thus, you can do whatever you want without fear of retribution. Go crazy.
"I love Iron Man."
"Yeah, I love Iron Man too."
"No, I REALLY love Iron Man."
*rolls his eyes*
"Iron Man is pretty cool, yeah."
"I love his beard."
"... I'm also quite fond of his beard, I must admit."
*raises his eyebrows at me*
"I want to marry Iron Man."
"You can't marry Iron Man, he's with Miss Potts, remember? Pepper?"
"I don't know why. Girls are icky... no offence."
"I think Black Widow would make a pretty bridesmaid, though."
"Can I marry her?"
"NO! She's a BLACK WIDOW Dad, she'll eat you! You can marry... Captain America, because he's nice and he's old like you."
and then the bus came and the kid fist bumped me goodbye, and then so did the kid's dad and he said thanks for not pointing out that you can't marry a fictional character.
SLEEPING BEAUTY (1485).
POCAHONTAS (17TH CENTURY POWAHTAN).
CINDERELLA (MID 1860’S)
JASMINE (PRE-ISLAMIC MIDDLE EAST)
SNOW WHITE (16TH CENTURY GERMANY).
BELLE (1770’S FRENCH COURT FASHION).
Megara (Ancient Greece)
Mulan (Ancient China)
Rapunzel (18th Century)
I’ve reblogged this 6 times probably