Lilian Min
March 31, 2015 1:04 pm

Girl receives indication that she’s very, very special, but refuses to see it in herself; girl meets boy by chance and because they’re total opposites, they butt heads; boy has a surprisingly thoughtful and kind interior despite his rough and brooding exterior; boy helps girl overcome her insecurities and she realizes her inner and outer beauty and strength; girl and boy take on the world together, and live happily ever after.

We’re not saying that every popular YA novel follows that basic formula (sometimes, the girl and boy find themselves separated by either death or iron-fisted fate, and you find yourself sobbing at 3 a.m. and furiously looking up happy ending AU fanfictions… this definitely isn’t based on IRL experience), but let’s face it: YA as a genre does have a lot of clichés. While that doesn’t make its stories any less meaningful, and other genres recycle motifs all the time (see: vampires), YA appears to be reaching a breaking point.

Enter: #VeryRealisticYA. The Twitter hashtag is serving up some well-meaning but pointed critiques of the genre in the form of “realistic” young adult situations and stories, often from YA authors themselves:

In the spirit of the tag, here are some more #VeryRealisticYA plots:

– Girl finds an old book in her library basement. It’s a ledger of city council meetings from the early 1900s, and she falls asleep reading it.

– Boy finds himself captivated by the new girl next door. She goes out with his older brother and after they break up, never speaks to the boy again.

– Girl has crush on another girl, but doesn’t act on it because she’s still trying to figure out her sexuality and isn’t out to her friends.

– Girl and boy are opposite captains on the school’s dodgeball team. Girl hits boy in the face; he continues to hold a grudge through high school.

– Boy woos girl with personalized gifts and ripped-from-the-movies romantic gestures; she finds out he’s been doing this to half of their class.

Started by Twitter user @ABoredAuthor, #VeryRealisticYA points out that wow, there are a lot of plot and character shorthands associated with the genre. However, these characteristics, or “tropes,” are so rampant across any kind of media that there’s an entire website dedicated to keeping track of them. So what’s this really about?

In a word, diversity. Many of the #VeryRealisticYA tweets focus on girl/boy relationships, and especially the unhealthy, obsessive ways they’re often depicted in popular YA series. But that’s another thing — the genre itself is incredibly diverse in terms of who its protagonists are, what they do, and how they live their lives, but the YA that’s lifted out of teens’ bookshelves and into movie theaters tends to fall into two major categories: Protagonist is fated to save a supernatural and/or dystopian world, or Protagonist has to overcome emotional and/or physical trauma and learn to love themselves and trust others again. That many YA books feature female protagonists is fantastic, but unfortunately, the genre’s mainstream image is still incredibly focused. If nothing else, #VeryRealisticYA makes it apparent that the genre’s own authors recognize these issues, and are creating their own stories to remedy them.

Have any more #VeryRealisticYA critiques? Leave them in the comments, or tweet them to @teengiggles.

(Image via.)

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