Attention, YA Writers

Attention, YA Writers

Enough with the following:

1) Outdated clothing terms. No modern teenaged girl wears a ‘blouse’ or ‘slacks.’ Only old ladies or business women who work at corporations wear ‘blouses’ and ‘slacks.’ If you’re a teenager, it’s a Shirt. Or Pants or Jeans. God! It’s not hard.

 Also?  The only appropriate time to wear sweatpants is NEVER.

(OKAY: this sweatpants thing reveals my age and personal bias. According to Sid, my 15-year-old nephew, a lot of kids wear sweatpants to school in completely non-athletic capacities and are not shunned. However, nothing grosses me out more than seeing a main character who wears sweatpants while he’s kissing someone. Same with ‘briefs’ for boys. I realize that you might wear brief underwear, Boys of the World. But I never want to hear about it.)

2)  The face cup prelude to kissing. I’ve spoken about this before, I think, but it’s not getting through. This is that gross move when a boy puts his hands around a girl’s face before he lays one on her. UGH. No. Consider the amount of time it takes to put on make-up. Consider how controlling and awkward this move is, to have your face gripped and studied in this way. Just kiss her, and put your hands elsewhere, boys. The t-zones of girls everywhere have enough trouble without your grimy mitts mucking it up.

3) Girls who don’t care how they look. ALL GIRLS CARE HOW THEY LOOK. Even the ones who look like they don’t care. Especially them.

4) The word ‘date.’ I know that news hysteria programs like 60 Minutes would like us all to believe that modern teenagers just have transactional sex – hook-ups – and nobody gets picked up in a car and taken out to dinner and walked to the door for a goodnight kiss anymore. But I think that Car-Dinner-Front-Step-Kiss model is a limited notion of what kids’ social lives look like, and the term ‘date’ seems stuck in that connotation. And while I know that hook-ups exist, I’m not confident that anyone this age uses the word ‘dating’ to speak of their romantic interaction.

Things I Would Like To See More Of:

* Two nerds who fall in love and remain nerds. Too often in YA stories, there is crossing of the cliques when it comes to romance. Unfortunately, the social streams just don’t collide that much in high school. Kids are aware of their standing in the looks/popularity race and usually match up accordingly.

* The Eternal Saga of Acne. Not just ugly outcasts have acne. Everyone has acne at that age at some point. I had an okay complexion myself, but still remember how one rogue zit on my nose amounted to a complete day-ruiner.

* Ginger-haired boys who get the girl. Usually the ginger boy is presented as comic relief, cf. Ron Weasley. However: RON WEASLEY IS AWESOME. I believe deeply in the Ron Weasley Winner’s Way.* Don’t discount it.

* Camp stories. Summer camp is such a great setting for hijinks. There are no parents, it’s often a co-ed situation, and everyone’s up in everyone else’s business. Exploit it more.

* Trick-or-Treating. Just because it’s that time of year and I’m in the mood. Plus, a lot of way-too-old kids show up at my house for candy. Imagine running around getting free candy while you are high! So funny.

* Crappy jobs. A lot of teenagers suffer with this. They meet creepy older people at their losery jobs. They are demeaned by an awful uniform and degrading tasks. Huge minefield for drama. Sara Zarr does this very well in Story of a Girl, as does Kirstin Cronn-Mills in The Sky Always Hears Me (And The Hills Don’t Mind).

* Pet death. Not that I like to see this, mind you. But if you get a dog when you’re 5, chances are high that the animal will kick it when you are 17. It sucks and it’s hard, but why not use it?

* Kids who come back to school completely changed after one summer. Physically, I mean. Who doesn’t remember that shrimpy boy with the Adam’s apple that could slice you to ribbons coming back to school all filled-out? Or the girl whose hair grows out and braces come off and whoa, she’s a babe? A different person. Usually kids – or their friends – don’t handle this great-before-and-after well, either.

* Private universes of slang words. E. Lockhart does this brilliantly in The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks, as does Lili Wilkinson in Pink.

* Ensemble casts of friends. I know it’s difficult to manage the body count, but it’s so much more realistic. Usually we have a pack of friends at that age and they all play some specific role in the group. Lili Wilkinson’s Pink manages two separate ensemble casts, the Pastels and the Stage Crew geeks. And Sarah Dessen does this all the time in all her books.

(Q. What can’t Sarah Dessen do?
A. Nothing. Oh, wait. Except make her characters have sex. They really need to do more of that, I think.)

*The Ron Weasley Winner’s Way. In which boy of average looks manages to get the girl because he is funnier than hell. Funny = Money. Live it, Learn it, Know it.


  • literatureconnector on Oct 26, 2011 Reply

    I actually completely disagree with the statement that all girls care how they look. I certainly didn’t as a child, and still don’t. Maybe I’m an exception, but any statement that is “all ___ are ___” is bound to be incorrect–mass generalizations just serve to invalidate ones argument.

  • ProfDog on Oct 26, 2011 Reply

    so good, Carrie, that I copied and pasted into a word doc for posterity…or for whenever I get back to my YA. THANKS!

  • Kirstin Cronn-Mills on Oct 26, 2011 Reply

    Thank you for the shout-out! And I’m gonna spend time with your ideas. Dead pet is a really good one. Well, they’re all good.

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