Why Some YA Books are Bad for Teens

I’m back to writing YA again, and as a general rule, when I write YA, I read YA. Young adult novels seem to hog the shelves when you browse a bookstore. They’re great sellers with a wide audience. Not only teenagers read YA. I’m a big fan of the genre, but there are certain messages in YA I can’t promote.

I often considered myself a mature teenager growing up (didn’t we all?) but when books like Twilight came out, I failed to see the problems within. A few years later, upon closer inspection, I couldn’t believe I’d overlooked what I now consider a serious issue with YA novels.

Some young adult books teach girls that it’s okay to lose yourself when a boy leaves you. They teach you it’s healthy to be destructive and suicidal. They say it’s all right to let the world slip away, because apparently you were only a real person when you were with someone else.

Wrong.

This is a terrible message to send to teenagers, and I hate how many authors defend their characters for promoting such a message. How would they react if their children or friends behaved this way after a breakup? Would they shrug it off and say it’s natural? I seriously doubt it.

In the Twilight series, the protagonist puts herself through life-threatening situations in order to view a glimpse of the guy who left her. If you need the translucent image of a ex-boyfriend telling you, “stop, this is dangerous” whenever you decide to jump off a cliff, then you really need to get yourself some help. And you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship in the first place. Telling girls it’s okay to act like this is actually not okay.

It’s one thing for a character to act bravely, to seize the day and save someone they love; it’s an entirely different thing when they purposely put themselves in harm’s way because they feel they can’t live if the other person dies or leaves them.

I feel like writers know this, but still the trend continues. It’s being romanticized (for some reason I just don’t understand) and considered the ultimate proof of a couple’s love. You don’t need to promote self-harm to prove your characters’ love. Here, let me help. Have a list of things you can do to prove their love (without the whole break-up-and-torture-them ritual):

  • Say “I love you”
  • Do something nice
  • Cook an amazing dinner
  • Find them that perfect spell book they’ve been dying to get their hands on
  • Win a duel in their honour
  • Slay that dragon (it was probably minding its own business, but love)
  • Conquer a country and give it to them on their birthday (for all those villainous couples)

See? Isn’t that easy?

Characters are free to breakup and go their separate ways, and even meet again later because they’re tru wuv, but can we please stop with the unnecessary self-destruction? They’re hurting, I get it, but let’s not pretend it’s okay to behave like that. Let’s not condone the message that people aren’t whole unless they are in a relationship. Teenagers had lives before getting a boy/girlfriend; let’s not steal those lives away. Develop your characters; don’t reduce them to nothing.

That’s my discussion for today.

Happy writing,

Sandra

* On a side note, there are probably equally bad messages towards teenage boys in the YA genre, though I haven’t come across any yet. I can’t remember the last YA book I’ve read with a male protagonist.

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The Journey of Writing Sky Knight

Hey guys! It’s #ThrowbackThursday, and I’ve never contributed to this particular hashtag before, so today I’m going all out with the story of how I wrote Sky Knight, my steampunk/sci-fi novel.

SKY KNIGHT

I released Sky Knight last year in April, but I originally wrote it in the November of the previous year during National Novel Writing Month. From the 1st to the 30th of November, I sat down every day at my desk and worked on my novel. In my experience, NaNoWriMo provides great motivation to get any writing projects done, and towards the end of the month I had 100k written.

Following the advice of other writers, I took a step away from my story and didn’t look at it again until February. During the months in-between, I researched all I could on the steampunk genre. While I had gathered some knowledge on steampunk already, there were large gaps in my story where I didn’t know how to write certain scenes or how to explain how certain machines worked. By the time February rolled around, I had dozens of bookmarks and written notes all explaining the world of steampunk. I used this knowledge to fill in the gaps and complete the story.

Airship

Then came the hardest part: editing.

This took about three months of constant revisions. Every time I read through Sky Knight, I focused upon a different aspect of editing. For example, on one revision I focused upon spelling errors and missing words; on another I focused upon sentence structure and the flow of things. I checked for plot holes and buried them. I scoured the pages for anything that didn’t make sense. Even after announcing the book I was still looking. At the end, I had several thousand words cut from the manuscript.

Eventually I set aside my fears and published Sky Knight in April, 2015. Releasing a book in a new genre is really unnerving, and marketing towards such a specific genre is even more so. Steampunk is a great genre, though, and something I’ll no doubt return to in the future.

So, what did I learn?

  1. Editing is hard at times. Sometimes it’s fun, but most of the time it’s really tedious. It’s always worthwhile when reading back over the content, though. Editing is also time consuming and the part of the journey to focus most upon.
  2. Researching was a blast! I learned a lot about the Victorian Era while browsing through information. Steampunk is a genre which requires knowledge concerning a great many subjects, especially if you involve airships or other types of machinery. People want to know how these things work, and it’s the writer’s job to tell them.
  3. The first draft can be written quickly. I didn’t pause much while writing the first draft. I sort of breezed through it like a car without brakes flying down a mountainside. The final draft read nothing like the first, and it’s pretty amazing when you look at both documents side-by-side and compare them. So, don’t worry about what you write in the first draft, because it will be butchered later to create something much better.
  4. Market your book while you’re writing it. If you release a book and no one has heard of it before, then no one is going to buy it or talk about it to others. It’s always good to create a good reader base beforehand.

I probably learned more from this experience, but hey, that was last year and my memory isn’t that fantastic. Maybe I’ll make another post later about how awesome steampunk is and why you should read the genre. Trust me: it’s seriously fun, and there are many books out there in the genre to enjoy.

Sky Knight originally wasn’t steampunk, however. It started off as a fantasy novel set in medieval times, where the government was the royal family and airships were regular old ships that sailed the ocean. I might return to that world later with new characters and a new plot line. Who knows? 🙂

For now I’m reaching the end of the writing process for Sky Knight‘s sequel, and I have a YA series I’m rewriting and want to release towards the summer.

Happy writing,

Sandra

Flat Endings

Very pleased to visit Goodreads and see my “2016 Reading Challenge” is already 6% completed. I’ve decided to read 50 books throughout the year, and I’m not going to fail. Or that’s what I’ve told myself so far, at least. The problem is finding the right standalone books to keep me interested in binging a few stories a week.

I’m currently on a fairytale retelling kick. I’ve read A Thousand Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn, and Princess of Thorns. Two of these are standalone stories, and I was excited for both, but I couldn’t help but feel I was let down towards the end–especially in the case of Princess of Thorns. Don’t get me wrong. A Thousand Nights is beautifully written and has magic galore, but its blurb wasn’t true to the actual story. If I hadn’t read the blurb, and wasn’t promised a book filled with nights of magical stories and a girl who falls in love, then I would have truly loved this tale to the fullest.

As to Princess of Thorns, the ending was the flattest of any I’ve ever read. So much build-up throughout the story and then someone shouts “just kidding!” and the plot crumbles. The person shouting was me, of course, because I felt incredibly betrayed. Reading through an entire book, being told again and again how terrible the baddies are and how the world is going to end if this and that isn’t done, and then reaching the end only to have the plotline carried away by the wind is seriously disappointing.

I’ve tried reading a few other stories last month, as well, but I’ve had to stop halfway through because they just weren’t for me. I need a fantastic standalone story that won’t leave me feeling empty after reading it. Something with the magic of Inkheart and the adventure of The Lord of the Rings. I’m on a quest to find that perfect book, and I’m sure out of the 100+ books I have on my Goodreads shelf, I’ll find that book and more. Honestly, I should really finish the list before adding more to it, anyway. It’s getting a little out of hand.

I haven’t yet decided which book to read next, but I’ll probably stick to the fairytale retelling genre for a while yet. Maybe some Beauty and the Beast retellings… or I’ll branch out and see if anything has been done in the steampunk area.

Back to writing for me, though! Just finished a rather intense chapter of Sky Knight‘s sequel. I feel like a horrible person now, but I think that’s a normal reaction to destroying a character’s life. 😉

Happy reading,

Sandra