Like Kasey, I've recently read a lot of "YA Cliches to Avoid" lists, along with articles about upcoming trends in young adult literature. The lists have been mostly frustrating, frequently patronizing, and even misogynistic, including things like "immature teens" and "female protagonists." Because being your age or gender is, like, so totally cliche. Ugh.
One article that I refuse to link to, so as not to give the site any more traffic, was more disturbing than any I've read yet. It talked about teen sexuality and how (I hate that I'm even typing this) threesomes are the hottest trend in YA. The article explains that most teens aren't sexually active until around seventeen, and then the author has quotes from parents saying that allowing teens to read about such experiences helps them figure out their own identities and prepare for future experiences. (Like, you know, threesomes. Every parent's dream for their children.) This kind of reading, the article says, expands the mind and challenges preconceptions.
Except that I then read a great post from a *gasp* Real Live Teen! who responded to this article by saying that adults need to stop telling teens what they want and, instead, listen to teens.
All of this makes me wonder: who on earth are we writing for? And who should we write for?
I look at the world through religious lenses, so naturally, I want books to be uplifting and/or hopeful and/or to show growth and perseverance (and I want some that are flat out fun and swoony and enjoyable). I want books that my daughter can someday read and talk to me about, books that will help her see the world through someone else's eyes and help her become more empathetic. I include in this books like Eleanor & Park (which I desperately love for older teens and for myself), in spite of the pervasive language and probably because of the very mature, sad, realistic struggles of both protagonists. It's real and the characters make hard choices and worry about hard things, and all of these things are just so very teen.
An authentic YA book shouldn't appeal to a readership comprised of nearly four times more adults than teens, because 78% of adults aren't worrying about grades, college/future, moving out, falling in love for the first time, wishing that a first love could be a forever love, no matter how ridiculously unlikely that is, or having fights with their parents and siblings, however well meaning they are.
Before writing teen books, maybe we should actually talk to teens. Maybe we should have YA critique partners and beta readers. Maybe, just maybe, if we do that, we can write books that resonate with more teens than adults. Maybe we can expand minds and challenge preconceptions in a way that actually matters.
What do you think about teen books and trends? Sound off below!