Guest Post: Teenagers in YA Novels

Teenagers In YA Novels
By: Lucia Brucoli

It is safe to say that we’re in the era of the Young Adult genre. More and more people, not just adolescents, are starting to read and write YA novels. There are hundreds of sub-genres within it such as fantasy, horror, thrillers, coming-of-age, romance and science fiction, and even more within those such as epic fantasy, futuristic, and chick flicks. However, the one thing they all have in common (as it is the main feature of YA) is that the main characters are teenagers.

I love the Young Adult genre, not only because I see myself and my age group in books, but also because being a teenager is no longer being regarded as a time stuck between childhood and adulthood, but a unique stage of a person’s life. However, something that frustrates me in YA novels is when teenagers aren’t portrayed realistically. So, I’d like to point them out in the following list. 

Some of the things I’ll say potentially apply to the New Adult genre as well. I also want to mention that since most young adult novel characters are from the middle class, I won’t touch on issues such as criminal neighborhoods and heavy financial problems. So, my notes may not be relevant in these cases.

Let’s jump right into it! 

No School 

Whether your teen character is in a fantasy world of powers and magic, in a moon colony after a nuclear disaster on Earth, or has an ordinary adolescent life, chances are, there is an educational system they have to attend. I realize that there are exceptions to this, but the moment it is established that a character goes to school… wait for it… they must go to school. There are entire contemporary novels of the typical life of a high school teenager, except they’re never in school, but always at parties and sleepovers, and the only school-located scenes are in homeroom an the cafeteria. Even someone who doesn’t care about school and skips lessons will get detention, be called to the principal, or parents will be contacted. Even though this is different in all schools, most have some kind of record of absences. 

On a related note, something I’ve noticed is that characters who go to school never seem to have homework, or need to study. There are tests. Exams. Pop quizzes. Projects. After-school clubs.  How do YA teenagers manage not to repeat grades or drop out?

Having a character mention that a professor was being unfair, or that someone got detention, or that Trigonometry will be the death of them isn’t an info-dump or useless dialogue. It is only adding depth to the story, as well as making the story more realistic and closer to the readers experiences. For example in KEEPER, the story starts with Lainey annoyed because her best friend Maggie made her go with her to a noisy store, when she has to study for SATs. She resolves this issue by reciting the vocabulary while waiting for her. 

No Guardians/Adults 

It is no secret that in YA novels, adults are usually distant, nonchalant, or simply nonexistent. I understand the use of this, to a certain extent: most YA novels focus on the growth of teenagers, making their own decisions and finding out how far they can go to solve whatever obstacle the author has thrown in their way. 

But aren’t parents or guardians worried? Say your main character is a superhero, who was given special powers by the Gods but must practice them in secret. Where are their parents in all this? While the kid is going around preventing war and destruction, aren’t the parents or guardians frantically searching for them? Doesn’t the kid have a curfew? An example of a story where this is addressed is in the movie E.T.: the main character is always trying to hide the Alien from his mum: faking a fever, sneaking food, the phone call where he pretended to be sick… and even then, the mum still kept a close eye on him. 

Parents don’t usually abandon their children, and if they do, there’s got to be some sort of psychological reason: even an absent parent always on their phone will realize if their child is never home and happens to have a pair of wings. 

Even in books where the teen character is homeless without a family, there are always adults somewhere. I can tell you from personal experience to what extent nosy neighbors can factor into a person’s life. 

Knowing Everything

It should be fairly well-known that teenagers wonder about the future, constantly trying to figure out what they do and don’t like. Whether they’re daydreaming about the perfect house, their journey in life, a job, and partner, or wishing they could be different, adolescents try to figure things out. Then why is it, that teens in YA novels always seem to have everything under control, never hesitating? Even the most determined adults can have doubts, and even the couples most in love feel insecure. It is incredibly rare that teenagers know everything they want to do in their lives. 

This also applies to teenage relationships, as most don’t make it past six months, let alone staying together after high school. I’m not saying teen relationships cannot work out because some do. But teenagers are in such a chaotic and emotional stage of their lives: call me a cynic, but it’s unrealistic for so many teen couples to think they’ll be together forever. So no, Bella from Twilight, I don’t think you and Edward will be in love for the rest of your immortal lives.

In my opinion, Bebe Rexha perfectly summed this up in her song Call You Mine: “You said, ‘Hey, whatcha doing for the rest of your life?’ And I said, ‘I don’t even know what I’m doing tonight’ ”. 

There’s also the issue of teens knowing how to do all sorts of thing. Teens flying spaceships without a second thought, leading entire kingdoms, and murdering expert killers. Too many times are there stories with main characters who can’t even handle running after the school bus for ten seconds, but suddenly they can beat up a thief or fight armed police guards, getting out without a scratch? 

When talking specifically of sports, most adolescents fluctuate between being absolutely unfit, doing sports only because Physical Education is compulsory, or they are obsessed with sports and the gym. If your character falls into the former category but then does something incredibly athletic, there’s got to be something huge justifying their newfound fitness. 

Language Extremes

And last but not least, language. Once again, in my experience, there are two extremes many authors fall into when writing teen dialogue: either really sophisticated, or over-slanged. Unless there’s a way to justify this, a teen isn’t usually going to call up a friend saying “Hello, how are you? I was wondering if you were free for dinner tomorrow evening?” or “Yo man what’s up dinner tomorrow you down?”. Chances are, they’ll fall somewhere in the middle depending on their culture, class, circumstance, up-bringing, and the universe you’ve created for them. In conclusion, “Hey, wanna go out to dinner tomorrow?” can be a good compromise. 

Next comes a personal pet peeve of mine: texting. I adore books where characters text. However, I can’t stand when authors make characters text absolute gibberish abbreviations to sound ‘cool’ and ‘modern’. Trust me when I say, nobody ever texts “Hiya how r u, hw rn I got math 4 tmr dyinggggg, cyou 2night @7 yah?” 

No. Just no. 

Writing teen characters is really difficult: I’m a teen writing YA, and I struggle. This article actually helped me reflect on my own novel, and while writing I made a number of changes regarding schoolwork and parental presence. I added scenes where they were doing schoolwork (or complaining about it), and I removed some scenes with secondary adult characters, making my main character’s parents be there instead. 

Of course I realise there are exceptions to my list: it’s merely a general overview of some things I’ve noticed in Young Adult novels. My best piece of advice for authors wondering if their teenage character is accurate, is to give it to some beta readers in the same age group. If they approve of it and say it is accurate, then I wouldn’t worry. 

Happy writing! 


Lucia Brucoli is a high school student, aspiring author and freelance writer. She is now working on her Young Adult sci-fi novel, GOODBYE. In her free time, she enjoys watching t.v shows, reading, and of course, writing!

Connect with her:

Twitter: @BrucoliLucia

Instagram: @LuciaBrucoli

Website: www.luciabrucoli.com

When Edits Hurt

Hi all!

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to guest post on the blog of Jeni Chappelle, editor extraordinaire. I spoke about the agony of the edits.

As a writer that has been edited and an editor that has worked with writers, I’d like to paint you a picture.

You’re a writer, and you just received a massive developmental and line critique from the editor you hired. You open it up and gaze into the glaring image of comments and track changes that have made your once monochrome document into a rainbow of color. Your heart gives a little squeeze. Tears poke at your eyes. You haven’t even read what the editor has to say yet, but you see that rainbow and it evokes memories of literally every test you ever got back from a teacher to find it marked in red. Then you start reading the comments and suggestions. Some make you nod. But some cut to the bone. You want to hurl explanations at the editor. Couldn’t they understand? Why weren’t they getting what you were doing with your words! You’re caught somewhere between anger, sadness, and a sort of numb defensiveness, and you don’t know which direction best serves you as a writer.

And that’s okay. Getting edits should hurt.

To read more of this post, and to check out the rest of Jeni’s blog, click here.

Guest Post: What is Authorgraph?

Today on the blog, author C.S. Woolley is here to spread awareness about a very cool service available to authors and readers alike. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please welcome Ms. Woolley to the blog!


What is Authorgraph?

By C.S. Woolley

Being able to get books signed by your favourite author is something that is truly special, and the rise of e-books seems to be making that harder – or is it? As you may have guessed, e-books, especially kindle books can now be signed by the author. No, you don’t need to get a collection of Sharpie autographs on the back of your e-reader. Instead,  you can use Authorgraph to do it for you.

So what is Authorgraph?

I’m glad you asked! Authorgraph  is a completely free service for both authors and readers to use. What it does is allows authors to register on the site with their book catalogue and in turn allows readers to request autographs from their favourite authors. So it doesn’t matter where in the world the author or reader are, a signed book is only a click or two away.

How do I use Authorgraph?

As the service is free, it’s a relatively simple process. You need to sign up before you can start getting Authorgraphs, and you can do this by either filling out the form or choosing to connect to the service through Twitter.  If you use the form option to register, you’ll need to verify your account using the link in the email that is sent out and off you go. If you use Twitter, you’ll need to add a few personal details in your account section before you can start. But it is a relatively straight forward and quick process.

In order to get an Authorgraph, the author must be registered on the site, so this can mean that some of your favourite authors might be missing, but you can always send them a message and get them to sign up so you can get their autographs.

To help guide you through the user process for readers, here is a step-by-step guide with some screenshots.

First you find the author or the book that you want to get authorgraphed by using the search bar at the top of the page. Once you’ve found the book, then you simply click on request authorgraph! It takes one click and a screen will pop up.

The  pop up screen gives you the option of sending a message to the author as part of the authorgraph request. You might have a question you want answered or a dedication that you want included with the authorgraph, or you may want to tell the author about how much you enjoyed the book or have a story to share with them about how reading their book changed your life. You just type whatever you like in the message box and click add message. Alternatively, you may just be happy with the authorgraph, if so, then just click skip.

If everything has gone smoothly, the next screen you will see is the confirmation that your request has been sent. Then it’s up to the author to fulfil the request. Once it has been, you’ll get a message that it’s arrived and you can view your Authorgraph. Some will be flat signatures, others will appear before your eyes as though the author is signing it for you at that very moment.

What if I am an author and want to register on Authorgraph?

It’s free for any author to register on Authorgraph and the process is the same as the process for signing up as a reader. Once you have verified your email with the site,  you can view your author page. On the top right nav bar of any screen is the option to add books.

All you need to do is put in the ASIN of the book you want to add. You can do this for multiple books. It takes a minimum of a few hours for your books to be added, so don’t worry if they aren’t there straight away. You can only add them one at a time though.

Once you’ve got your books uploaded, you can choose how you are going to sign your authorgraph. You can use a signature that is generated by the site or use their drawing tool. The drawing tool is a little hard to deal with if you don’t have a digital pen or aren’t used to using your finger or a mouse to sign things online. Because of this, if you aren’t confident with using the drawing tool, you may want to stick with the site generated signature.

If you do brave the drawing tool, then when the signature is opened, it will be revealed to the reader as though you are writing it for them then and there.

The other nice option that Authorgraph has, is it allows you to send personalised messages along with your Authorgraph, even if they haven’t requested something. It’s a chance for your to hone your standard inscription i.e. Stan Lee had  “To x “Excelsior! Your friend, Stan Lee” as his standard inscription.

Once you’ve fulfilled the order, you can see the Authorgraphs you’ve sent under “Your Requests” on the drop down menu, under your profile icon. Similar for readers, you can see all your Authorgraphs under “Your Collection.”

And that’s all there is to it. Authorgraph is a great tool that allows authors and readers to bridge the distance gap and lets readers get autographs without having to wait for hours in long lines. Plus, authors don’t have to get hand cramps signing books all day. It also lets readers see all the books that the favourite authors have published in one easy place, and you can see if there are any missing from your collection that you may want to add.

I started using Authorgraph in 2016 and think it is one of the best services out there for readers and authors alike, and is one of the more underrated tools.

****

C.S. Woolley (Caroline Sarah Woolley) was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire and raised in the nearby town of Wilmslow. From an early age she discovered she had a flair and passion for writing. She currently lives with her partner, Matt, and their two cats in Christchurch, New Zealand.

She has published many books in her mystery series Nicolette Mace: The Raven Siren, as well as a series of adapted classics for Foxton Books, and a series of modernised Shakespeare and workbooks to help with GCSEs. Her upcoming series include Alpha Sigma, The Children of Danelaw, Dark Hearts, and The Children of Ribe Story Books. C.S has taken part in charity projects that produced content for Standing by the Watchtower: Volume 1 & Volume 2, Indie Visible Volume 1 and the 12 Days of Christmas in Stickleback Hollow. C.S has also acted in several plays and films including Weekend (2011). She loves horse riding, including show jumping and cross country, Formula 1, tennis, free climbing, singing, boxing, dancing, playing guitar, cricket and is also an avid PC and console gamer.

For more information please visit: http://www.mightierthanthesworduk.com

or follow on:

Facebook: facebook.com/AuthorC.S.Woolley/

Twitter: @TheCSWoolley

Instagram: @thecswoolley

Guest Blog: Fact and Fiction–Pulling it Together

Today, I have another writing friend here to give everyone a new perspective on research. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the post. Please welcome Morgan Smith to the blog!


Fact and Fiction – Pulling it Together
By Morgan Smith

I have said from the very start of my writing career that I don’t do “writing advice.”

That was kind of a lie, because now I’m going to tell you about the terrible, dangerous nexus between all those carefully garnered facts and writing fiction.

Beware, beware: because the days/weeks/months you’ve spent organizing all those incredible details into easily-accessible files can trip you up.

It’s called the info-dump for a reason: it will appear like giant walls of text: blow-by-blow summaries of exactly how the monetary system in your world/14th century France works; recipe-by-recipe descriptions of forty-seven different kinds of food served at a medieval banquet; long political diatribes detailing the exact relationship of one peerage to another in a semi-feudal society.

You must resist. You must. Plenty of authors don’t, and while there are readers who like a fictional story to read like a high school text book–I’m not saying there aren’t–the vast majority of readers are looking for something that takes them out of themselves, without the destination being a classroom. Most readers are, in the end, looking to escape, and nowhere is this more true than in fantasy fiction.

You, as the writer definitely need to know and care about every bit of this. You need to know your world inside and out. It’s really the only reliable way to make sure your world holds together as tightly as the Great Wall of China.

But the hook in this enormous net of factoid fish is that your readers really do not care.

They don’t need to know those details and frankly, they don’t want to. There is nothing that will stop a reader faster than stepping outside the story to deliver a History 101 lecture on currency exchange in the fictional 1200’s.

 But then, why bother doing all that work?

 And this is where the authorial magic trick occurs.

When you know your stuff, it shows. You only need the most minimal of details to make your reader feel that they are in good hands–because for some reason, when you really, really know your apples, you don’t need to deliver all those details.

It all somehow magically bleeds through in the way the prose gets out. The reader senses that there is authority there without the writer having to prove it by listing all the minutiae out. They can feel the reality, BECAUSE you aren’t spending 20,000 words showing them the skeleton underneath the flesh.

And they will rave about your world-building, even though you have only twitched the curtain aside for a microsecond, and given them the merest glimpse of the mechanics. They’ll feel it, and they’ll know it, and they will sink deeper into the story, never daring to let go.

And that’s a reader worth having.


Morgan Smith is a former goatherd, a textiles geek, and occasionally an archaeologist. She is also the author of several fantasy novels including “The Shades of Winter”, “Casting in Stone”, and “A Spell in the Country”, a romantic fantasy called “The Mourning Rose”, and a memoir about growing up hippie in the 60s. Her life is held together by caffeine, cigarettes, and cheap granola bars, and she will drop everything to go anywhere, on the flimsiest of pretexts.

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/morgansmithauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/morganauthor1

Blog: https://morgansmithauthor.wordpress.com

Website: https://theaverrainecycle.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/welcome-to-averraine/

Published:

Casting in Stone Book 1 of The Averraine Cycle

They said ill winds blew at her back. They said she was cursed: a hex, and a jinx. And it was true: everywhere she went, no matter what she did, misfortune seemed to follow in her wake. But that, of course, wasn’t the worst of it.

A Spell in the Country Book 2 of The Averraine Cycle

What if you weren’t “The Chosen One” but still had to try to save the world?
https://www.amazon.com/Spell-Country-Book-Averraine-Cycle-ebook-dp-B07VJB8XFY

The Shades of Winter A Novel of Averraine

An aging band of sea raiders set out on one last voyage of revenge, and get a whole lot more than they bargained for.

The Mourning Rose

Manners meet magic in this tale where curses mix with curtseys, and Charm takes on a whole new dimension. 

Flashbacks (an unreliable memoir of the ‘60s)

A collection of memories about growing up hippie in Toronto, during one of the most interesting periods of the 20th century. Not to mention the sex, drugs and rock and roll…

Guest Post: What’s So Important About Diversity Anyway?

Don’t stab me. I swear, this is a pro-diversity post. Today, my friend Jennifer L. Gadd is making a guest appearance to tell us why diversity in books is so important in her and every classroom. I firmly believe her opinions to be dead on, and can’t wait to hear your responses. Her post begins below.


What’s So Important About Diversity Anyway?

By Jennifer L. Gadd

Disclaimer: I am an old white lady. This blog belongs to a white lady. We’re doing our bit to bring this important point home. 

The bulletin board in Jennifer L. Gadd’s classroom

Let me start out by making everybody angry. I’m one of those author-by-night, English teacher-by-day people. My classroom library has over 2300 books in it. You know what I did at the beginning of this school year? I culled over 200 books. They’re currently sitting in boxes taking up a lot of space in my very small Toyota Yaris.

Do you want to know what I pitched? The Little House on the Prairie. Caddie Woodlawn. The Cay. The Indian in the Cupboard. Indian Captive. The Secret Garden. Peter Pan. The Slave Dancer. To Kill a Freakin’ Mockingbird. A lot of other classics. Your childhood favorite, no doubt. And mine.

Sorry, not sorry. Here’s the cold, hard truth. Every single one of these classics contains stereotypical portrayals of marginalized people—maybe even slurs. They are, not to put too fine a point on it, racist.

But wait, you say, they are a product of their times! Okay, Karen. Slavery and displacement and criminalization of sexual expression were also products of their times, and we’re trying really hard not to tolerate them anymore. But wait, you say, these are classics! So we do things simply because we’ve always done them that way? Is that a Keurig on your counter or a percolator, Kevin? But wait, you say, they have historical value! No, they don’t really. We have better historical interpretation now. And as Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”

So let’s just move past all the excuses white folks give to enforce and enshrine their own literary canon. Anybody can read anything they want in the privacy of their own homes, so if you want to read TKAM for the 835th time, I will not try to stop you.

Maybe though, you’d be interested in reading something new. If you follow YA lit on social media, you might have seen the #ownvoices hashtag and wondered what that was about. #ownvoices is a long-overdue movement in literature: books by authors from marginalized people telling their own stories. No longer are people whose voices have not been heard content to allow white writers to interpret their stories for them. Happily, this movement is also proving to be highly profitable, so traditional publishing is ready and willing to make their buck by signing African-American, Latinx, Asian, Muslim, LGBTQA+, disabled, neurodivergent, and other authors they wouldn’t have given a second glance a few years ago.

Everyone benefits.

I think back to my own education in the Sixties and Seventies in southeast Texas. I was privileged to have Beezus Quimby and Meg March to show me ways to be a big sister. I had Kit Tyler and Nancy Drew as models for how to be the plucky and intrepid heroine of my own life. And I imagine my Latinx and African-American classmates checking out books in that very same library at Brookside Elementary, almost all of them about white children, written by white authors. Or perhaps worse, books about Latinx and African-American children, written by white authors. Never seeing themselves or their actual lives reflected back to them in the stories that were available for them to read. Never seeing people like themselves showing what they could become. I think about the queer and neurodivergent kids who had zero representation in stories to show them they were not alone or weird, forced to keep themselves hidden and unknown to others to escape ridicule or even danger. How did they survive without books that were for them?

#Ownvoices books also benefit white kids. We live in a diverse world that gets smaller every passing day. The interpersonal skills needed to be successful now include an ability to dialog, work with, and–to a degree–understand people from diverse backgrounds. Any child reading an engaging and engrossing story develops empathy and deepens their understanding of those who are different. I fail to see a downside to that. There is absolutely no reason a white kid cannot relate to an African-American or LGBTQA+ protagonist. Girls have been reading books with male protagonists since, oh, Beowulf and before, and never mind children of color. Not only is it okay to read books about people who aren’t exactly like you, but it’s also good for you!

Many of the recently published #ownvoices stories have an added benefit. When people tell their own stories, the stories are not simply about their marginalization or their trauma. #Ownvoices books get to be about authentic lives. This allows readers to see deeper than and beyond the escape from slavery or persecution or the rescue from the “thug” life or the coming out or the “inspiration porn” as a character adjusts to disability. Readers see people who aren’t like themselves as people just living their real lives, not serving as plot points.

The book I’m currently reading in my classroom is Dread Nation: Rise Up by Justina Ireland. In this post-apocalyptic story set in postbellum Baltimore, the Civil War has ended, not because of any decisive military victory, but because of the rising of the dead. In these post-Civil War times, it is the former slaves who are trained and given employment as attendants who protect rich white folks from the shamblers. The protagonist, a black girl named Jane, is the daughter of the white woman who owns the plantation on which she was born. In Ireland’s story, steeped in a rich background of authentic American racial history and the fantastical overtones of a post-apocalyptic nightmare, we are given a black female protagonist facing a zombie apocalypse. How often do you see that?

These are the kinds of stories my students want to read—and believe me when I tell you that they do want to read. They want to read engaging, well told stories in which they can see themselves represented in history, adventure, world affairs, and EVERYWHERE. Authors such as Ireland, Jason Reynolds, Marie Lu, Christine Day, Tom Ryan, Meg Medina, Joseph Bruchac, Kwame Alexander, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, S.K. Ali, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Sandhya Menon, Meredith Russo, Tomi Adeyemi, Alex Gino, Taherah Mafi, Ibi Zoboi, Samira Ahmed, and so many others offer fresh new stories that haven’t been told before. I’ve cleared some space on my classroom library shelves for them because kids these days are ready to devour them.

And so can we. We just have to stop clutching our pearls, put down our beloved, but problematic, childhood classics for just a little while, and read them.


Jennifer L. Gadd is the author of Cat Moon, the first in The Were-Children paranormal series, The Second Battle, and other books for young adults and children. In her day job, she is the reading interventionist at an urban middle school in Kansas City, Kansas.

How to Handle a Critique

Hi all!

Today I’m sitting in on Craft Quest’s YouTube page with a short video containing my 4 step rule for handling a critique. Check it out below, and be sure to join us live on Saturday at 5PM EST for a live panel on self-care for writers! Hope to see you then!