Top 5 Pet Peeves in YA Contemporary Books

contemp pet peeve

I like reading contemporaries. They pass like a blur, and can either have really great messages, or leave me with fluffy feelings. On the other hand, I can also have a great urge to throw a book across the room or maybe even – gasp- burn it. There’s a bunch of things that tick me off in contemporaries. Obviously, it’ll be different from your own likes and dislikes of this particular genre. But from the standpoint of an adolescent female who is pretty much around the same age as the main characters of these books, sometimes I can’t understand things.

Dumbing Down Main Characters

I remember when I first read Anna and the French Kiss, I was appalled that this narrator did not know that “oui” was spelled “wee.” Other than the boring Etienne (sorry guys), that was the one detail that stuck out to me all these years. I couldn’t get past a couple chapters after that.

In another more recent book, I was a little disappointed that this girl didn’t know if a mile or kilometer was longer. (Seeing as I’ve been taught metric conversions since middle school.) However, after mentioning it on Twitter, it seems that it’s not so unusual after all. So in the end this category pretty much depends on the individual. But I don’t know, I like to read about characters that have decent common sense and knowledge, you know? Which is hard obviously, since my definition of those things are way different than yours, probably. What I do in the end is suck it up and remind myself that there are teens out there who probably think that “oui” is spelled “wee.”

(I will never get over that)

Angst, drama, angst, angst… Let’s add a love dodecagon and some cheating in here too!

Truth be told, if I wanted to read about drama, I would rather go on my personal Twitter or any other social media accounts where I’m following/friends with peers from school. I mean hey! At least those are as realistic as it can get. I know I complain about love triangles a lot, but I also see wayy too many from my own social circles.

I remember over winter break, this “civil war” came between a clique at school where this guy successively dated two girls who were best friends, and people started taking sides. Then shit got real on Twitter and whole school factions were fighting against individuals. If you think I want to read about that kind of situation all over again in fiction, you’d be wrong.

Save the drama for your llama.

Also, cheating makes me so angry. THERE IS -10% EXCUSE FOR CHEATING in my mind. I’ve read these NA books where girls get so heartbroken over it and all I’m thinking is “WHY DIDN’T YOU PUNCH THE GUY IN THE NOSE OR CROTCH WHEN YOU FOUND OUT.” Gosh, this says much about my personality, doesn’t it? Only in rare situations do I empathize with a cheater. Even the beloved Since You’ve Been Gone, which was one of the better contemporaries that I’ve read, made me uncomfortable with the slight cheating. Maybe this is because I have no experience! (Ok, probably.) So I wouldn’t know how it’s like to be so caught up with my feelings for another woman or man to basically go against my current relationship. But I do know what discipline is, and I know that it’s only respectful to break up with someone before doing something with another person. Either way, reading about it makes me want to rage.

Hint: if you’re vacillating between two love interests, chances are you should pick the second. After all, you wouldn’t have fallen in love with him in the first place if you loved the first guy so much.

Lol what is the future. What is college. What is me.

I recently read a book where the love interest’s dad reminds him about being the third generation in the family to go to Yale. DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD GETTING INTO YALE IS? Characters in YA make it seem so easy to get into these top-tier colleges and/or Ivy Leagues, when it’s really not. Not only do you have to have a very, very, very good GPA, but students have to spend a bunch of time doing extracurriculars, participate in outside-of-school events, and put dedication into volunteering or research or something they’re passionate about. AKA things that I never see these characters doing. If you don’t have anything from the list I stated above, then chances are really really good test scores also contribute to acceptances. Again, things that characters don’t mention at all.

I hate that it makes it seem so simple. Yes, hate is a strong word, but as someone who’s trying to get into one of those nice colleges, having a character so flippantly say they got into an Ivy League without any descriptions or scenes on their efforts tears my soul. I put SO much time into studying, and my classes hold memories of both sweat, tears, and blood from my efforts. When I read a story where the character’s main preoccupation is trying to capture the attention of a popular guy in the class, day and night, while still getting accepted into such prestigious colleges, do you know how annoyed that makes me? The answer is very.

And on the flip side of things! Sometimes I read books about the summer between junior and senior year in America, or after senior year. Most of my peers are looking for colleges during this time and still studying, either for a late standardized test or summer assignments for the next year’s classes. And yet it’s a 110% vacation in the YA books I’ve read. There is no mention of colleges, and if there is, it isn’t very prominent. In a comic way, I feel jealous about these characters because hey! Looks like they don’t have to worry about anything. On the other hand, I feel a sometimes irrational frustration at just how careless these characters can be sometimes. For stories of self-discovery, I wonder how their development affects the colleges they go to, aka define the next four years of their life? Who knows, since they usually don’t mention it at all in their narrative.

My life is saved by a love interest.

Also known as: “I’ve Never Lived Until I Met You.” “You Have Changed My Life – Utterly.” “Nothing Else Is Important In My Life Except You.” “I would die for you.”

The only thing I do when I’m not at school is make party and/or make googly eyes at love interest.

Bah, who cares about school clubs? No one needs those lame extracurriculars like band, drama, chorus, Science Olympiad, FBLA, or Honor Societies. You guys don’t volunteer at all, or help out in the community through clubs or anything? And homework? Is that even a thing in school? HA. Who needs homework when there’s a totally dreamy new guy sitting in the front row of my English class?

I totally get it when there’s a good-looking guy around you, narrator. BELIEVE ME, I DO. I have eyes, and I am not immune to nice-looking things and people. But can you honestly say aloud that you stared at a guy’s eyes for twenty minutes of the class period straight without laughing? I find that utterly ridiculous and hilarious at the same time. If you waste twenty minutes and those sorts of things, I’d hate to see how you spend your day.

Speaking of spending days, I always, always, ALWAYS appreciate it when I see a line or two of a character doing homework. Because hello? THESE THINGS EXIST. And seeing a character pine over having a Significant Life Event happen to him/her or spend days worrying over if a best friend is mad at them makes it really seem like first world problems. I know not everyone in the world spends a couple of hours or more a day doing homework, and that same amount of time studying for tests, but I’d appreciate at least a brief mention of being occupied by a thing that takes up so much of a teen’s life.

(Unless you’re a teen who doesn’t do homework. Then go you!)

And an honorable mention for all the unrealistic scenarios, situations, and antics of some characters. But of course we forgive those, because FICTION.

Usually these problems dim an otherwise solid book from 4 stars to 3. Something that was pretty enjoyable while reading, but would not read again. I would recommend it to friends (these usually have generally easy-to-like characters), but not shove it in their faces with force. Chances are, if these pet peeves aren’t seen in the story (and really, they’re super debatable for each reader), then it’s one of those books that have a special place in my shelf.

Do you guys have any pet peeves in contemporary books? 


28 thoughts on “Top 5 Pet Peeves in YA Contemporary Books

  1. I feel so, so stupid now! I personally don’t know if a mile or a km is longer because umm, isn’t miles only used by Americans? We measure everything in kms here so I don’t know the conversions, I don’t really need to. I don’t know what the Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion rate is either because well, it isn’t important to me. And ahhh, I didn’t think oui was spelt wee but since I’ve never taken French before, if you’d asked me to spell it, I don’t know if I would’ve gotten it right… which is making me feel so dumb. *hides in shame*

    I so agree with hating the “never lived until I meet you thing”. It drives me bonkers!

    1. Omg Rachel!! Please don’t feel stupid! YOU ARE A STAR. The miles/km thing seems to be something many people don’t know, so you’re not alone!! Plus, I figure people in America would know the difference better because, well, we use the mile. (Curse you, American measurements that are so different from the world!)
      And OMG, I still haven’t memorized Celsius to Fahrenheit conversions, and I’ve been tested on them. :’) so you’re good on that aspect!
      Like I said, I guess it totally depends on the reader’s experience. I think since Americans (or at least I) have been exposed to certain words from other languages, their spelling also comes naturally. I totally understand where you’re coming from though! I wouldn’t care about America’s weird measuring system if I lived outside of it. 😀

      For real though, MC, you don’t need no man/woman to change your life! You can do it yourself 🙂

  2. I feel the same way about the college stuff – and my particular take on that pet peeve is that in (what feels like) 99% of YA books, if the character is smart, OBVIOUSLY they’re trying to go to the Ivy League or Stanford or overseas. If they’re going to a state school, it must mean they’re stupid or a slacker or poor or don’t have any other options. I’m a high school teacher – the vast majority of my students go to college in-state! That’s one thing I really liked about the end years of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s “Alice” series – she was a good student and was applying to the University of Maryland and UNC and William & Mary, and none of those were seen as “failure” schools to her. A character doesn’t have to be Harvard-bound if they’re smart!

    1. I TOTALLY GET WHERE YOU’RE COMING FROM. Like NO, 5% of the people get accepted into those Ivy Leagues or top tier school like Stanford. And so sososo SO many smart students go to state universities, or even community colleges! (Like my brother LOL. But that’s also because he’s pretty lazy) I just hate the fact that they mesh all these stereotypes with smart people when in actuality, there are so many different situations to choose from. It becomes utterly ridiculous, at some point.

  3. Everything you say about high school and college apps is on point! That is the most frustrating thing that can happen in a contemporary read. There is basically no high schooler who does no homework…unless it’s a book, apparently :/

  4. I’m laughing so hard at your advice to pick the second guy because it’s so true XD
    My most recent pet peeve is the SLE situation and all those people who destroy their own lives/act like a total cow for absolutely no reason except for the fact that they can. And that it apparently builds character, leads to self-development etc etc. Spare me the bullshit.

    1. OKAY though when you were talking about that one book with the girl who wanted a SLE, I just wanted to jump into the book and slap some sense into her. Technically, THAT can be her significant life event, hehe. 😛 But for real, nobody in life frekaing thinks like that. Why should I read a book about someone who does?

  5. This post has made my day and I completely agree with everything you’ve said. Cheating and the love triangle situation is an immediate turn off. I mean pitting two people against each other and the back and forth does not do the character any justice. The shipping wars are the bane of my existence, especially when they also pit the two characters against each other and get so aggressive/defensive. I also hate it when the story gets so consumed by the lovey dovey, gooey eyed romance that the characters basically lose their independence and identity outside of the relationship.

      First of all, yeah, I care about romance. I like romance in my books. Heck, I wouldn’t mind romance in my life more. BUT THAT DOESN’T EXCUSE THINKING ABOUT A BOY FOR 24 STRAIGHT HOURS. That doesn’t mean I want to see a character change JUST because of another individual. NO. That’s not strength at all, that’s a codependence that is unhealthy and unwise and terribly scary because it’ll only make the character more weak once they break up. I do not condone it at all.

      SHIPPING WARS. *brandishes knife* I will kill all the teams in the shipping war just so the protagonist can become an individual person on their own. It’s the most ridiculous marketing technique I can think of, which unfortunately works really well. Ugh. I don’t need those things in fiction AND my life.

  6. This post? SO much awesome-sauce I can’t even compute! I have found, especially recently, that my tolerance for YA with characters who do the things you listed above…are NEVER my favorite characters. Because…unrealistic, much?

    Really, though, I laughed SO HARD throughout this post! Looooove it! ❤

  7. AILA I appreciate your comments so much about this topic because you literally are doing what these characters are doing, but it sounds like you can’t relate because it isn’t realistic at all! I always wondered why it’s so easy to get into an Ivy League and why it’s always like YAY VACATION and all care outside the window. The way it’s depicted it’s like high school is all fun and games – and it’s just not because it’s actually a lot of pressure and rife with drama! IT’s hilarious because from my perspective, I’m like omg school drama I just don’t want to read about it and it’s a turn off because I just can’t relate but for you it’s the same thing, just that it’s like reliving your life again lol!

    Anyway, wonderful post Aila!

    1. Thanks Jeann!

      And for realllll, I read contemporary not necessarily for the unbelievable aspect of it, but so I can find myself in some of these characters. And when I can’t, well, that’s certainly a problem. Because now I’m just left with some fluffy YA that has some girl pining over a guy for three months straight like YO DO YOU EVEN HAVE A LIFE THO. There are SO many aspects in a teenager’s life, I just don’t understand how authors can fail to understand that.

  8. I can’t stand it when characters do no extracurriculars or volunteering or anything and then get into really prestigious schools. It’s so unrealistic and just makes a really difficult task seem so simple. I wish that authors would include more state colleges or community colleges not just for this reason but also just to have more representation for readers who will go to these types of schools (which is probably a lot of them). Great post!!

    1. I agree with everything you just said, Kourtni. 80% of the senior graduating class went to some state university, 5% at some prestigious college (only a handful!!) and the rest to community colleges. Why doesn’t YA reflect that? How can I read about something so unbelievable? It just makes me so annoyed and frustrated.

  9. number 3 and 4 are mine too! i really hate it how teens in books make it so easy to get in to an ivy league, while they don’t seem to spend that much time studying. and i really hate the “saved by love” trope, especially when it happens in YA contemporary that has mental illness in it, which is a lot. IT’S NOT THAT EASY TO DEFEAT DEPRESSION. It’s not that easy to get happy or will to fight. It’s not.

    And anyways, I also didn’t know about miles and kilos because I use metric system and never learn about the miles and foot and stuffs. I sort of find the situation relateable, especially if the MC just move in to the states (because as far as I know only US use miles, pound, yard, and foot as it’s customary units). As for french word, it’s really hard to know how to properly pronounce it because it’s so hard! Nothing is at it seems with French XD Great post Aila!

    1. Lol nice explanations, Tasya. I totally understand if the MC was new to the states, but considering she was born there… well, that made me question her a bit. However, I also found out that a lot of readers didn’t know the difference who ARE in the states, so maybe that’s just me being picky LOL.

      BUT FOR REAL, it’s like, you DO know that most of your readers will not go to a top tier school, right? How do you expect us to relate to these characters then?

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