I’ve done a lot of serious posts lately (on mental illness, the Thirteen Reasons Why controversy, whitewashing, etc.) so I thought I’d switch it up and do a fun post. Today I’m talking about My Bookish Pet Peeves in YA fiction. Disclaimer: these are my personal pet peeves, which means you might not agree with any of these things that personally annoy me, and that’s totally fine. In fact, let me know in the comment section what your pet peeves are. It’ll be fun!
1. Books with one-word titles
I can’t really put my finger on why this is a pet peeve. I think it’s because it was a trend a couple of years ago. Like, every YA book had to have a one-world title. Don’t believe me? Here a just a few: Twilight, Divergent, Uglies, Cinder, Matched, Fallen … It didn’t help that I didn’t like any of those books, which is probably why I started associating one-word titles with bad books. I know that’s terrible because there are plenty of really good books and classics that have one-word titles (1984, Dracula, Emma, Fangirl … ) so the title by no means reflects the quality of the book, but it still bothers me.
No one likes finishing a book you love to pieces. No one. You want it to go on and on and on and on until the end of days so you can grow up and grow old while reading about your favourite characters’ adventures and all the trouble they get into. I mean, who didn’t want to read about oh, I don’t know, Harry Potter’s adult life? His kids’ lives? Heck, why not Dumbledore’s childhood? Seriously, us Potterheads would read anything even vaguely connected to the Harry Potter Universe.
BUT there’s one problem: if you (the author) decide to do a sequel FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, give us a decent story. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck with a sequel where literally nothing happens. Or worse: you get a sequel that screws up the original characters and you’re like: “NO, NO, NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”. Ugh. It’s the absolute worst because it taints the memory of the first book which you loved but now you’re not sure about because the sequel kind of ruined the whole thing.
3. MC’s who’re good at everything
Don’t you hate it when an MC discovers they have powers / are the chosen one / are destined to overthrow the government / are training to be an assassin and they don’t struggle at all? And did I mention they also get good grades, play an instrument, maintain a social life, have time to worry about the love triangle they’re caught up in and they’re rescuing stray dogs left and right? Okay, I might be exaggerating, but you get the point. It’s not realistic for them to be good at everything they do.
4. The MC’s family is not around / abusive / dead
Look, I get it. A big part of being a teenager is figuring out your identity and dealing with problems…preferably without parental supervision. But that doesn’t mean you have to traumatize your MC by giving them parents who’re dead, abusive or who don’t care about them. Yes, I’m aware there are teenagers for whom this (unfortunately) is realistic, but that’s not nearly the case for every single teenager. Which means not every YA character should have a screwed up family. Long live healthy family relationships!
5. Obligatory romance
I love my romance just as much as the next person, but please don’t throw in a romance because you feel like you have to because it will appeal to your audience. It feels forced most of the time and, to be honest, it’s also really unrealistic. How do all these heroes and heroines have the time and energy to worry about who likes whom when they’re supposed to saving the world or stop the evil overlord for killing their family? Priorities. Please.
6. Endless and repetitive character descriptions
I like short, basic descriptions that are not repeated every two pages. If you tell me the MC’s love interest has eyes the colour of the ocean on an overcast day just once, I get the picture. You don’t have to tell me three times in two pages. Seriously.
7. No diversity
This one speaks for itself. We live in a diverse world. People come in all shapes and sizes, they’re not all straight and they don’t share the same background / ancestry and skin colour. I can’t stand a contemporary YA book that features no diversity whatsoever. It’s unrealistic, plain and simple.
8. Bad representation
This ties in with the previous one. If you’re including diverse characters (which you should) please do research. Talk to people with the same experience, don’t revert to stereotypes and always be respectful. Basically, use common sense.
9. Deus Ex Machina
Don’t you hate it when your characters are in big the-world-is-going-to-end-and-everyone-is-going-to-die trouble and you know they’re not all going to get out alive until suddenly, out of nowhere, they’re saved by a character that showed up once 200 pages ago? That’s just one example of a Deus Ex Machina ending but I hate all of them. It’s a sign of poor writing.
10. “I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.”
Can we agree this phrase is cliché and therefore should never be used again? Or at least not in the next ten years? Thank you.