Funny thing, when the Book Smugglers decided to do their YA appreciation month, I also decided to go on a YA reading kick. Personally I think they were totally catching my vibe and putting it in writing, (no no, if you say it’s the other way around you are all LIARS!)
What I absolutely love about YA is the raw emotion, that life is all highs or all lows and that everything is a first, and it is an exploration of who the character is and where they fit into the world. LOVE this idea. Absolutely love it.
Naturally I start every book with the intentions of falling madly in love with and staying up till three in the morning because I simply half to know how it ends. Sadly this is not always the case. And for your reading pleasure I have made a fancy pants list as to what might make me not love your story. I can forgive a few offences but any more than 3 strikes, and well you know how that game is played.
Without further Ado…. drum roll please…
Reasons why I might not fall in love with your love child book:
Fated Love: I hate when we are robbed of the falling in love stage of falling in love. The we were meant for each other and are instantly in love thing does not work for me. I need effort and the first tenderness of it all, and the questions like what if he doesn’t like me? I need that. Don’t skimp.
First Person present tense: If you are going to use first person please for the love of everything that is good to you please use past tense. If you are going to use present tense please have a very interesting story. Very. Also do not drop the I from the beginning of the sentence, and don’t Hemmingway it up. This kind of voice drives me absolutely MAD!!!
Shady World building: When you hold the motives of the story up for closer inspection and you scratch your head and go hmmm, that doesn’t make sense. Yah those moments are kind of like seeing the magician F-up the magic trick on stage. Not so cool.
Series where NOTHING changes: Book one happens, book one was good, we pick up book two, and low and behold it is an exact replica of book one, they even solve the conflict in the same way, except you know we are a few days ahead in the future and the bad guys have kind of sort of changed, but not really. Oh and we are stilling snotting ourselves all over the place in this book. GET A GRIP!!! And then book three happens, and oh look it is a replica of book one and two, and tweak this dialogue here and change that baddy there and solve the problem the exact same way.
Magic Systems that don’t make sense: Like the ones were you can do anything in, tralalalala, and don’t have any rules to the magic.
Purple Prose: If you are trying to distract me from the plot with your fancy pants purple prose we have a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of witty observation and interesting description. But if this is all your book has to offer, we are done.
Sentence Bombs: When the idea of the beginning of the sentence doesn’t match the end of it, and it goes on for an entire paragraph and I have to read the sentence a few times to make it make sense, or they are trying to pack too much information into one thought, and it gets all super confusing- yah avoid those please. This mostly happens in the first draft of a novel when we are writing to discover things as the author, but if it carries through to the end draft you do not have an editor that loves you.
Over Description: What you don’t like that I just described the desert for the past 10 pages. I thought it was very important to know the entire life cycle of a grain of sand. It’s like purple prose, trying to distract me from your lack of plot.
EVIL Bad guys with no motives except being EVIL: Nuff said.
Flat voice: The characters just you know sound all like each other and no one is unique. Actually every sentence just has nothing to brighten up my day, and the writing is just kind of there. BORING!!! Yawn. Wake me up when this is done.
Books that Mimic Twilight (or just books in general that mimic other good selling books): We only bought into that magic trick once. We won’t fall for it again. I have woken up from that hangover, and am over it. The party was good, don’t get me wrong, but you learn your lesson. Find your own success!! Quit trying to ride off the success of others.
When you can hear the parent behind the character: Mom obviously wrote this book to send us a message that swearing and drinking and sex are bad. I hate when I can see the morals of the story right through the book, and the character is a prissy goody two shoes, and I have to read through her perspective the entire time. BLAH!!!
Lack of Character Arcs: I like me a flawed character, one who gets absolutely tortured and has self realization and genuinely changes. I want to be moved as a reader; I want to feel passionately about my characters. Give me a bitch, and then make me love her. Take up the challenge. Quit writing flat characters that don’t have any personal growth.
Info Dumps: Were characters are saying things for the sake of the reader, but it doesn’t make sense to the situations. Were people are willingly giving out information were they should not be. I can forgive a few, but the constant vomit of info dump, is kind of not fun and a bit messy to clean up after.
Good guys that are good for the sake of GOOD: Irritate me the same way that Evil does. Nuff said.
Where are the adults?: Why is it always teens who have to save the world. Why do adults not step up to the plate? I know this is YA, but are the adults really just that dumb?
Why are there adults?: When does the protag get to stand on his/her own two feet? When will they stop being held up by the adults and someone either just lets them sink or swim. If the adult is going to do all the work, then why not us just read the book from the adults perspective and get rid of the kid altogether?
I know those last two completely contradict each other. It really comes down to finding the right balance.
The good news is though that if you can come up with some interesting characters with an actual character arc, throw me a believable love story, and distract the bejusis out of me with a great plot, I can forgive almost anything. But I mean the story telling has to be absolutely awesome! Totally bonkers out of this field park, and the love story, don’t skimp on the hesitant parts of first love. And make sure they at least kiss at the end. At least. Also if you can make me laugh out loud several times, this will really help tip the scale in your favor. Or you can get me to cry in regards to a characters situation. I prefer a laugh, but a good hearty cry denotes a certain masterful hand in the art.
I don’t mean to be a super miss negative pants, and if you ever meet me you will notice that most of my rants are kind of amusing and meant to be laughed at. I like a lot of exclamation marks and really try to look on the bright side of EVERYTHING. And to be completely honest this list isn’t just for YA, it’s for genres all across the board. Feel free to contend the list or add your own, or elaborate on a note above. I like me a good hearty debate. (also I am one of those people that sees both sides of the fence so you might find me arguing a point one way one day, and completely different the other. Please don’t hold this against me. I am not skitzo. I am just trying to be sympathetic to as many perspectives as possible even if they do contradict each other – wow that was a long bracket).
P.S. I have been reading the Hunger Games (I kind of missed that bandwagon when it was careening wildly out of control down the street, it made another trip around the block and I caught it now) and while it suffers from World Building Flaws, is is super crazy made of awesome. I have cried, and cheered and yipped and laughed. I absolutely can not wait till the last book is released (if i had sick days at work, I might have even considered using it to buy Mockingjay and read it in one day – yes book addiction is a sickness).