Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Mumbles: Why I Don't Like (Most) YA Novels

Monday Mumbles is a new feature I've decided to start up where I talk about different topics this week. Mostly they'll deal with books, anime, video games, or cosplay! Come join me and join the discussion!

Young Adult novels, I've read my fair share of them and I've liked a lot of them.

...When I was about thirteen or fourteen. Which is fine. They're written for people of that age or at least they were. Recently I've found that a lot of YA that people have picked up is written for people leaning towards their later teen years rather than the beginnings of it. So most of the books that are written for thirteen/fourteen/fifteen year olds are kind of tossed to the "middle school" section rather than YA. That's fine, I would like books that I can relate to. People my age. Yeah!

....Except... not yeah.

Romance? Please, Not Again

I think with a spark of Twilight becoming immensely popular a few years ago (oh God has it been a decade?), there was a lot more paranormal romance. There's even a section in Barnes and Noble for it now!

Don't get me wrong, I've read a lot of paranormal romance and I've loved it. Until I didn't. A lot of my school girl kind of "ahhh I love romance aahhh" has kind of faded away. Now I want to read engaging stories. Stories about people in dire situations and their solutions....without romance. Try finding that in the YA section. Yeah, not so easy is it?

"But that's just a preference!" Yes, it is. However, reading something like The Hunger Games for example. Here is Katniss living in a dystopian society where children are sent to an arena to kill each other for entertainment as "punishment" for rebelling against the Capitol. In hindsight, what should you worry about first in that kind of situation? Romance or survival? Arguably they melded together in the first novel because Katniss and Peeta's romance was their survival, but I mean the audience reaction to it. Since The Hunger Games grew popular shortly after Twilight was popular (and even more so because of the movies) I kept hearing "Are you Team Peeta or Team Gale?" and it's like, um...shouldn't we be looking at the more serious picture here? Like Katniss being about sixteen or seventeen having to essentially lead a revolution she was thrown into, unwillingly? But romance sells.

Which brings me to this: why is romance a requirement for every YA novel? And not just any romance. White and heterosexual romance. I'm Korean. I have a half white, half Taiwanese boyfriend. Sure our relationship is heterosexual, but I'm not. There's a lot of issues I have with the romances.

  1. It's a requirement.
Since when did a love triangle trump the importance of a murder, a crime, a rebellion against a dictating government, an apocalyptic situation, etc. etc.? When I read a book where I'm indulged in these characters struggling to find a solution to their problem and I read a sudden make-out scene or a sexually tense moment it almost drops down a rating. Especially if it seems completely out of nowhere and unnecessary. I'm okay when it later comes into play plot-wise, but most of the time it's just... there. Why?

       2.  Insta-love.

-Groan- Insta-love is probably the biggest pet peeve I have about Young Adult novels. The reason I don't go to the romance section of YA or any fiction is because it doesn't interest me. The most I go to for romance is romcom anime and shojo manga to be honest. So I go read things that, for the most part, shouldn't have romance, but please refer to #1. What's worse than required romance? Instant love. Not instant romance. Instant love. Whole hearted, I will die for you, love. I can't even call it something like The Romeo and Juliet Phenomena because that story was over the course of... two weeks? Whereas insta-love happens in about three days. How are two characters supposed to know each other well enough, go through so much, and have time to develop a full fledged relationship in three days? It makes the characters unrealistic and it takes the fun out of the novel since being able to connect to a character is through how realistically they're written (yes, even in fantasy folks).

We're White and We're Straight

What do I find a lot more irritating than required romance? Lack of representation. I'm Korean and I live in Southern California which is known to be a pretty diverse area. When I see media that's set in Los Angeles and all they have are white people? It makes me roll my eyes, because (surprise!) LA is not filled with white people. There's a reason why Los Angeles has China Town, Korea Town, Little Tokyo, and Philipino Town (I think that's what it's called). It's because those people live there! 

Authors when you're writing a story set in a major city (Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, etc. etc.), it would be nice to know that someone did some research to the kind of people that live there. And when I ask for representation, more people of color, I don't ask for more black people. Don't get me wrong, it's great that black people are being represented more in the media! But that's essentially become the "I didn't meet the diversity quota, let's add a black person!" effect. Add some more people in there! Add some East Asians, some South East Asians, Polynesians, Middle Easterns, South American, Latinos. Do you understand how boring it is to read about another white girl with blonde/brown/red hair with blue/brown/hell, rainbow eyes? 

So. Incredibly. Boring.

And honestly, don't even worry about "how" to write them. Write them as a regular character with strengths and weaknesses. If you're worried about their culture, ask people of that culture. Not just one person. A lot of different persons. Make sure you're not getting something wrong because of stereotypes. It makes for such a better experience, and it's sad that writers have gotten almost lazy in this department.

And straight? Are you kidding me? I have met and become friends with so many people who don't meet the heterosexual criteria and it's not like I'm even trying to meet them. It just happens! People are straight, people are gay, people are asexual, people are bisexual. It goes on and on and you don't even have to do so much research as you might with the race issue. Take about maybe fifteen minutes reading up on it and all you have to write is something like "eh not my type" and then add little quirks that deal with their sexuality that can be either subtle or incredibly forward (psst like straight people do). 

I hear authors say things like, "It's so hard to bring original content now a days" and it's because they don't seem to put the effort into it. I know how hard writing can be, I've been writing for over five years (and still haven't finished a single novel). I know that it's hard to bring a story together and get it published, but all of the material coming out just seems like a small little variation of the same. exact. thing.

This blog post is getting incredibly long, so for your sake (and mine...but mostly yours) I'll stop it here. 

Do you agree or disagree with what I've said here? I'd love to know! 

*Please keep all comments respectful. I've tried my best not to seem too harsh, but remember that this is one person's opinion in a sea of many people's opinions.