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?