Nov 16, 2017

What YA needs to get right about teens

YA might be about teens, and majorly catered to a teen audience - although we all know that teens are not the only audience of Young Adult fiction - but it doesn't mean that all YA books get teens right. It might be largely due to the fact that they are most often not written by teens, and therefore sometimes YA sometimes portrays teens in a way how the world thinks they are like. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against adult YA authors, but here's some things that YA needs to get right about teens in the way they're portrayed.

1. Academics play a big role in teens' lives

I am sorry, but please don't tell me that the MC is so smart and is going to Harvard, yet doesn't for a single moment take up a book or worry about grades. I am not asking for YA characters to be shown studying or doing homework, rather make them at least a bit worried about their grades or whatever they do in school. 

2. So do extra curriculars

Don't American high schools have any other extra curricular activities than guys playing sports and girls being cheerleaders? There's always a diverse range of activities available in schools, and sometimes the extra curricular activities a teen takes part in can actually define their personality. Recently I loved that Jus in Dear Martin was a debater. Being one myself, I loved that aspect in the story, and Nic actually made the debates and discussions he participates in add substance to the story. I do so many things in school, that my mum often jokes that for the whole of 2016 I hadn't come home for lunch. So it is funny for me to see characters who have nothing else to do except go to school or get into a relationship.

3. Stereotypical cliques do not exist

This whole talk about jocks and nerds? It's funny and too cliche. The main reason why such stereotypes are not real anymore is that most often students have multiple aspects of the qualities that define these archetypes. I have a top scoring athlete in my grade and an extremely socially awkward popular theater kid as my friend. These labels have become so overrated, and they seriously need to stop. Especially the blonde, popular, evil cheerleader. Please.

4. School administrations can sometimes be problematic. Call them out.

I really wish YA calls out certain problems that exists in schools. They need to be brought to the light and confronted. Whether it be discrimination, nonsense under the name of dress codes, inner politics - teens face them in school ever day. Nowadays you don't have to become adults and face the world to know just how unfair things can be. Schools prepare us for that just fine. 

5. No teenage guy is physically perfect

I am sorry, I just can't with the perfectly gorgeous guys with their abs, sculpted jawlines, perfect hair and piercing blue eyes. You know how actual teenage guys look? Half of their voices are just changing, they have acne, they are still figuring out their "style" and they still have a long way to go to develop abs. Stop giving unrealistic expectations.

6. Birth Control

Whether there should be sex in YA or not is an old discussion, and I am not going to get into that. In fact, in recent years YA has really got sex positive, and that's awesome. However, we really need to talk more about prevention and safe sex while we're at it. One of the only contemporaries that I can remember off my head as an example is The DUFF - which tackles quite a lot of subjects like teenage sex, condoms, birth control, pregnancy and slut shaming. I was extremely surprised - in a good way - when Katsa took some herbs of some sort as birth control in Graceling, and this is a high fantasy! 

7. Porn and Masturbation

Am I getting too bold? Whatever. Why is YA shying away from mentioning this? Watching porn and getting into all kinds of sexual experiments is such a regular thing among teens, so why don't we talk about it in YA? This month's release The Temptation of Adam had done a great job of it, which tackles the MC's porn addiction. 

8. Voyeurism

I think this needs to be mentioned mostly because how scary it is. The length certain guys go for nudes and videos, and how it has become a scary market among teenagers is alarming, and I am waiting patiently for a YA book to call this out. This extends to bullying and blackmailing, and I have personally known girls who have been victimized by this. 

9. Where are the parents?

Seriously, we've had enough of conveniently absent parents. Or houses with no curfews. Or parents who are always blissfully asleep while a guy sneaks in. Maybe it's the desi girl that's so annoyed by this, but seriously?

10. Teenage romance is awkward

First kisses are not perfect and explosive. Most often, the kissers don't even know what the hell they're doing. Teeth knock, kisses turn sloppy, there's hickeys to cover, and it does turn messy. Plus, relationships themselves are not that smooth and romantic, and for God's sake, teens don't fall in love for eternity. They can also be bittersweet, and Our Chemical Hearts dealt with it perfectly. 

11. Friend groups are extremely diverse

Whether it is in terms of personalities, or in terms of minorities, a group of friends are often extremely diverse. In my tight knit group of seven friends, between us we have 3 languages, 4 races and 2 religions. Not to mention we are all POCs and one of us is demisexual. While we don't need token POC and gay friends, YA needs to acknowledge how casually diverse friend groups are.

12. Social Media

So far YA has texting down. And that's all. I loved the group chats in Not Your Villain and the mention of Instagram in They Both Die at the End. But where's the rest? Really where is twitter and snapchat? :D

13. Teens are not articulate

The way some teenagers talk in YA books, I am surprised they're not lit prodigies - I am looking at you John Green. Teens don't talk in metaphors. In fact, we spurt out nonsense sometimes. And a lot of inappropriate things. Stupid things. And man, the swearing. 

14. Friendship triangles

Enough of love triangles, do you know how hard it is to manage friends? I have four best friends, two of them I've known from childhood, and one of the two is eternally bitter over my closeness with the other two of my best friends - whom I befriended much later. The struggle to balance your friend groups is real. There's jealousies, snide remarks, tension and just so much fights over this.

15. Sexual assault

YA has tackled this subject, yes, but it often focuses only on the big picture. We have read books that has talked about rape, attempted rape or sexual abuse. But it's high time that YA addresses the day to day assault teenage girls and boys face. The groping in public transport, the unwanted exhibitionism, pedophiles we face everyday, the leering and perverts, cat calling - it's things we face day to day, and we need to talk about this.

And those are the 15 things that I think YA needs to get right about teens. Do you agree? Is there more things that I haven't added? Let me know in the comments!

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