Lies That Young Adult Fiction Has Told Me
I love classic literature and art-house flicks just as much as the next person, but sometimes they’re not what I need. I don’t bring Beowulf to the beach, nor do I watch Memento for a relaxing afternoon. When I just want something shmoopsy to waste time, I go for the young adult fiction. These books and films generally don’t have re-read/re-watch value, but they’re a good time-waster. However, I’ve noticed several things that are flat-out wallbangers for me; I can’t suspend my disbelief any further.
1. Thank you for submitting your application to Harvard/Princeton/Yale/Stanford/MIT/Dartmouth. In two months you will receive your acceptance letter.
COLLEGE IS FREAKING HARD TO GET INTO. And, yet, those crazy young adult characters get into all of the Ivies, with a dollop of MIT, Caltech, Juilliard, and Stanford for good measure. And you know what’s funny? (drops to a stage whisper) You never actually see them studying. Apparently being a character in a book is the new “being a minority” or “undergoing a life struggle.”
2. Awkward girl is to key as brooding boy is to door.
Many romances follow this formula. Girl meets boy, boy is quiet and brooding and intimidating, girl is quirky and awkward, it melts boy’s heart, boy learns to love, big damn finale. The number of times that this has occurred in novels has led me to believe that if I meet a stunningly attractive but gloomy boy, I just need to act like a dink and he’ll learn to smile.
Do you know how many solemn boys I’ve met? Like five hundred. You know how many times I’ve acted awkward? Like five hundred. You know how many times it’s worked? Like zero. I mentioned this in an earlier article—I blame Zooey Deschanel. Unless you look like she does, I recommend not doing the whole “La la la I’m quirky hee hee” thing. It just won’t go well.
3. Popular people are demons.
I’m not going to come out and say that bullying doesn’t exist, because it very unfortunately does. And I’m also not going to say that the golden elite can’t be bad people, because they very certainly can. But I have not personally experienced a group of popular people spending every waking minute plotting to torment someone. They’re popular because they like to party and have fun. They have good social lives. Someone who spends every single second obsessing over some random person who’s done nothing to them has no life, and wouldn’t be desirable to be around.
Again, I am by no means implying that these people don’t exist. I have read reports of bullying and know that teens can be monsters. I am just saying that YA fiction implies that these people are running rampant at every single school, and I don’t agree with that. Not all popular girls are shallow and vapid, and not every popular guy is a jerk jock dog. Also, if a popular guy dates a more homely girl, he’s not automatically using her.
4. If you’re not dressed to the nines, you’re ugly as sin.
One movie scene that consistently makes me laugh out loud is the one from Not Another Teen Movie when they’re deciding who to make over for the prom. They pass over the albino, the hunchback and the conjoined twins to settle upon a girl with—horror!—a ponytail and paint-stained overalls.
This is what the nice fellows on TVTropes like to call Hollywood Homely. I forget where this quote came from, but it perfectly sums up this lie: “Hollywood’s version of ugly is to put a pair of glasses on a pretty girl.”
There’s a conception that guys only like girls who pimp themselves out with styled hair, complex makeup, and immaculate outfits. That’s a lie. Have you ever seen the hottest guy ever, pointed him out to a friend, and had her go, “Ew!” or even just “Enh”? Probably. My point is that everyone has his or her own taste, and that it’s just silly to think that just because you aren’t one type of gorgeous that you aren’t pretty at all.
5. Hotness is easy to acquire!
This is vaguely related to the previous lie. If a homely, mousy girl takes off her glasses, she suddenly becomes hot and desirable. Nope, sorry. She’s still a homely, mousy girl; she just doesn’t have glasses anymore. I would know. I got contacts in 8th grade after seven years of glasses and I didn’t morph into a sex goddess.
Glasses are freaking hot. They don’t make you ugly. Plenty of very attractive and popular people (including myself, since I’m so super-duper cool and all) wear glasses, and I need to stress that they do not eclipse that much. The world seems to think that if you have glasses, you’re automatically ugly, and if you take them off you’re automatically hot. “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses?” Dorothy Parker, kick rocks.
These conventions do have a degree of basis in fact. People do get into their dream schools (like me!) and the admissions process is so ridiculous that sometimes people do get into a school that they don’t deserve to. Opposites attract, and some guys do like it when girls bring fun into their boring lives. There (very unfortunately) are some absolutely monstrous teens in the world. Some people are shallow and have a narrow mindset of beauty. Glasses can carry the connotation of awkwardness and nerdiness. I’m not saying that these things don’t happen; I’m saying that their frequency in fiction is misrepresentative of teen life.
Honestly, I think it comes down to laziness. Aspiring young adult authors see these things occurring in teen fiction. Maybe it’s been a while since they’ve been in high school, so they see these occurring and think that they must be the norm, and into the book it goes. We are the next generation. If you want to write a YA novel, think about what really happened to you in high school. I, for one, am working on a YA story about a girl who literally spends all of her time Facebook creeping, procrastinating, sleeping, having awkward conversations with her friends, and (naturally) eating #ShamelessSelfPromotion. If these things really happened, then by all means go for it, but when you delve from personal experience, you get realism.
Post by LuckyCharmsLizz!
What irks you the most about typical YA novels and films?