It’s important to read outside your “comfort zone”–whatever that may be. It’s certainly not as though I’m sitting in my smoking jacket reading War and Peace. Speaking of which, where does one buy a nice smoking jacket? I feel like every good author needs that and a pipe…but I digress. I’ve been trying to read more YA since that’s (arguably to me) the closest genre to my writing and (because I’m a total sellout) it’s a very popular genre if you want to make some money publishing. However, I always hit a wall very early into most novels since they fall very quickly into the same patterns.
1. Your protagonist (male or female) must have an outdated, embarrassing, unpronounceable, or otherwise unusual name. In over half the cases, it will be one that prompts them to use a catchy, edgy nickname. (See: Those Stephanie Meyers Books Name of the Star, The Blue Sword, and The Fault in Our Stars)
2. If your protagonist is female, they will most likely be incurably clumsy. I don’t know when tripping over your own feet and damaging other people’s property and, occasionally, people themselves became synonymous with being desirable. The baby fawn syndrome is so overdone (See: Those Stephanie Meyers Books, Name of the Star ) Close seconds to this rule include: possessing “untamable” hair and NOT possessing athletic acumen.
3. If your protagonist does not meet their love interest in the first ten pages, they certainly will by the end of the second chapter AT THE LATEST (See: Harry Potter, Those Stephanie Meyers Books, The Fault in Our Stars, The Blue Sword )
3A. If your protagonist actually likes someone in the first few chapters of the book, chances are it isn’t their real love interest. Every good YA romance grows out of hatred.
4. The male protagonist or love interest must have an element of the rebel. This can be evidenced by his choice of clothing or simply by the refusal of his hair to conform with societal strictures (See: Those Stephanie Meyers Books, The Name of the Star, Harry Potter )
4A. I don’t know why unruly hair is so popular among the YA lover boys. Sure, everyone thinks they like the rebel in high school or college–his hair is always a mess, he wears old band t-shirts, and possibly has some ink or an earring and plays music with his buddies in a dive bar on the weekends. But then, something remarkable happens; you graduate. That same boy is still wearing his stupid hair too long and his band t-shirt has holes in it and he and his buddies have moved from the dive-bar to his mom’s basement. The clean-cut, preppy boys that are the beloved stereotypical jerk jocks are the ones who wear real shoes, have a job that doesn’t involve a deep-fryer, and can buy you dinner and your own real shoes. Ahem. Anyway….
5. Your protagonist must be forced outside of their comfort zone as soon as possible. This usually involves shipping them off to school, preferably out of the country. (See: Harry Potter, Those Stephanie Meyers Books, The Name of the Star, Looking For Alaska )
This list is by no means complete (I haven’t even finished reading Name of the Star, yet, or many of the other YA novels on my list) but that’s why they don’t limit blog posts.
Author’s note: several of my favorite books are included here, I’m just making an observation somewhat affected by too little sleep and too much time trapped inside a hot office possibly working for a crime ring in disguise…but that’s a story for another time
4 thoughts on “A (somewhat) Definitive and (utterly) Arbitrary Compilation of the Elements in a YA Novel Part I”
I laughed hard. This is true, and yet I love reading the same, slightly tweaked story – every time.
Almost all these rules apply to the Divergent series, too. Sigh. I melted at the scene where she has her first kiss.
I just realized I forgot the Hunger Games. It applies to a few of these. And I never read Divergent…someone told me it was disappointing. I still love them, too, but I would occasionally like to be surprised!
You’ll have to write that one, then – and surprise yourself as the words fall out!
The last time I tried that, it was like I ran down this checklist…. Haha