Children’s Writing Weblog

The YA View: What We Like in Our Books (and What We Don?t)

Posted on: October 25, 2010

Hi! My name is Audrey, I am 13 years old and I live in California. I like to play sports, especially water polo. I sing in a choir and enjoy acting. I love reading and writing. At the moment, I’m reading Bullet Point by Peter Abrahams (and so far, it’s quite captivating), and I’m writing a novel titled The Good Girl’s Guide to Jewel Theft. But that will change, because, starting November 1st, I will be participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

For my inaugural column, I chose to interview some of my friends about the aspects of YA lit they especially like.

Caroline C. (14 years old):

  • People who are funny and cool (Caroline defines cool as “people who are smart, funny, and maybe a little out there.”)
  • Good-looking people (Caroline really hates when the good-looking main character is in love with a “freak of the week”, and she wants at least one beautiful person in a novel, preferably more.)
  • Mysteries, theft, and murders
  • Sports
  • Inside jokes that are funny!
  • Characters like Ty from Behind the Curtain by Peter Abrahams and Adam from The President’s Daughter by Ellen Emerson White—Caroline likes male characters who are “nice, smart, funny, confident, and beautiful.”

Eleri Q. (13):

  • Beautiful people
  • Fantasy worlds that you wish you could see
  • Unique names
  • Whole worlds made up of new, exciting entities and lives and laws and societies.
  • Books that make you want to cry when they’re over—not necessarily because they’re insanely sad, just because you want to be in the world for a little bit longer.
  • Mysteries where you have to think/predict what will happen, mysteries that aren’t obvious.
  • British accents (Audrey and Caroline agree with this times 20)
  • People who are intelligent/smart, and tall, because “I seem to connect with them.”
  • Eleri feels really connected to the character if the character in question is super smart but then makes a stupid mistake
  • Characters with a really ironic sense of humor, characters who get the humor in bad situations
  • Characters who are just a teensy bit wicked!

Kailey S. (13):

  • The one character who no one likes because they’re annoying or bratty or just misunderstood
  • Characters who speak their minds, characters who are opinionated
  • Kailey doesn’t like talking animals because they’re annoying and lame
  • Ty from Behind the Curtain by Peter Abrahams

Alex W. (15):

  • Alex likes The Hobbit (J.R. Tolkien) because there are funny characters and it’s interesting. It’s interesting because it’s fantasy but you can relate to the characters and understand why they made their decisions. He also likes this book because it’s not crazy out-there fantasy.
  • He especially likes the Dragon from The Hobbit because he was tricky and smart, but also had flaws. Alex doesn’t like characters that are too perfect.
  • Alex likes the Life of Pi by Yann Martel because it was kind of funny and also an adventure. Alex likes adventure stories a lot.
  • Alex likes characters who are smart and funny and witty.

Audrey (Me!) (13):

  • Interesting explanations of non-interesting things (I swear, The Red Blazer Girls by Michael Beils taught me how to do algebra. Now if someone does a good example on how to factor equations, I will be Set For Life.)

Characters who occasionally talk in other languages (Por ejemplo, I sometimes parle francais, y tu?)

Characters who do relatable things (believe it or not, sometimes teenagers actually have to stay home and study on Saturday nights and miss the party of the year. Pity.)

Books about art theft or jewel theft or the mafia or spies or criminals in general—except for psychopath teenage killers/druggies, they’re boring and way too depressing for me to care about.

Characters who betray other characters

  • Characters like Ty (seriously, everyone loves Ty from Behind the Curtain. It’s indisputable.)
  • Inside jokes! Seriously, if you’re writing for teens, and you don’t include an entertaining inside joke, I’ll be like “no.”
  • In plots: at the risk of sounding cliché, the bigger the better. I like plots with some drama, some intrigue, and a bit of action.
  • In characters: I happen to like characters who are unique, who aren’t perfect. I like the character named Allison who lives next door—but secretly, Allison has an alias that supposedly lives in Prague.

To close this, I would like to state what (in my opinion) is over in YA. Vampires—I hope you know that vampires are finally dead. Ditto vampire boarding school. Seriously, how many books must be written about anti-social vampires at boarding school?

Also, the name Damien/Damon/Damion/etc. for the bad-boy love interest irks me. If I read this line ever again—But when she arrives at the Academy, danger is waiting for her, in the form the darkly passionate Damien.—I think I shall die.

I’ve noticed a trend in YA lately—semi-dystopian heroic fiction. I’ve seen a lot of main characters with special powers, be it the power to fly, or the power to morph into a wolf. My opinion is this: it’s not overdone yet, but it looks like it’s heading in that direction.

Finally, I have a request. Write a normal love interest for us. Someone who isn’t all mysterious and dark and brooding. Someone who doesn’t have eyes that convey hidden depths or battle scars that form weird tattoos. Someone who doesn’t display exceedingly stalkerish traits and isn’t illogically overprotective. Someone who isn’t named Damien.

Audrey is a Contributing Editor to Write4Kids and Children’s Book Insider: The Newsletter for Children’s Writers. She’ll be writing on middle grade and young adult literature topics about once a month. If you have questions for Audrey or topics you’d like her to cover, send an email to Laura@write4kids.com.

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