Our thoughts on teens in YA

Hey everyone! As you might recall, if you’ve been around my blog a bit, I did a discussion post last month (it was actually a collaboration with April @Booked Till Midnight!). I had a whole lot of fun writing that post and so I decided to write another discussion!
Unfortunately I decided to procrastinate on writing this post until just about the last minute and now I’m tired and rushing and this post is nowhere near as good as that other one (which you can find here). Sooooo I’m super sorry about that and hopefully you still enjoy the topic. I promise that the post coming next week will be better. It’ll be one of my famous* wrap-ups so, yeah, there’s that to look forwards to if you enjoy those anyways (and I’m sorry if you don’t?)
*This is self-proclaimed fame. I honestly feel like my crazy wrap ups are the thing I’m most known for at this point (but especially my absurdly long January wrap-up).
This is a really interesting topic that I’m sort of conflicted on, and I’m wondering what all of you think. I really hope you enjoy since I’ve been thinking about this for a while and can’t wait to hear your own opinions on this topic!

In YA books, teens or people in their young twenties are almost always the main characters, the heros of the story. They’re books that really show how young people can be strong, can be the heros, in a world where oftentimes it’s older people who take the helm, from parents to government officials, etc. But how well do authors, who are oftentimes adults themselves, portray teens? Where is it okay that they make the character act a little older/younger than they are and where is it just weird? What books write teens well and what don’t?
(I know people have addressed the wordpress editor font weirdness before but for some reason it just changed for me and I do not like this times new roman font size twelve or whatever)
I just want to start off by saying that all opinions are my own and not everyone might agree with me!

First of all, I wanted to discuss younger teens in YA books, maybe teens who are thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old, ages that I don’t see portrayed that often in YA. I, personally, don’t enjoy how books portray characters these ages a lot of times and I’m going to cite a book that is loved by a LOT of people for this: Eliza and her Monsters. In Eliza and her Monsters, the main character, Eliza, is 17/18 years old. Now, in this book she has two online friends who she talks with a lot, one of whom is 14/15 years. And throughout the book, Eliza and her other friend who I believe is a little older than her (honestly, I’m shocked I remember even this much, I read this in September and info from books slips through my brain like water through fingers.) constantly talk about how young this character is and just make her seem a lot younger than 3 years. Guys, fourteen year olds aren’t actually that young. At all. I promise. They’re teenagers, they act like teenagers, three years isn’t that big an age gap at all. Also, I listened to the audiobook for part of this (it’s a terrible book to listen to on audiobook because there are some pictures) and whenever Eliza was talking to this 14 year old, Em, Em’s voice was so high like she’s a first grader not a fourteen year old.
This isn’t the only instance when this happens in books, it’s just the one I remember most (because Em’s voice was so high and it was in my ears aaack) but the verdict: I believe that younger teens are portrayed as much younger as they are in real life in YA books and I’d love to see some more books with characters who are on the younger age range of the teen-spectrum (not sure if that’s a thing but sure, I just made it up). Oftentimes, teens these ages are the main characters in middle grade books or supporting characters in YA and I think we need more main characters these ages. What do you think?

Next up: Do authors write teens in books too old, sometimes?
Well, in my opinion, yes there are definitely times when teens are written much too old (looking at you, Six of Crows). These are seventeen or eighteen year olds who act like they’re nearly thirty. Does this dampen the enjoyment of reading? It depends what you read for. If you’re reading these books specifically to find characters your age who act like you but who do these super heroic things, yeah, it might. If you spend the entire book telling yourself ‘a teen couldn’t do that. This is super unrealistic,’ and contemplating how un-teen-like this entire thing is, then that will definitely not be a fun read. But I’ve found, at least in my case, that it’s possible to enjoy a book even if the teens aren’t realistic. I pay more attention to the plot than I do to the characters, most of the time and that means that even if these eighteen year olds are acting like thirty year olds, they’re still doing awesome things to help the plot forwards so I still enjoy the book. How does the way characters act affect your enjoyment of a book?

What makes a good teenage protagonist in a YA book?
Well, I think this varies depending on the genre of the book. If you’re reading a YA realistic fiction/contemporary, you probably want a relatable protagonist. Contemporary/realistic fiction is about growing up, learning new things, so the protagonist you’re reading should be relatable. Someone who you can connect with. If not relatable, at least realistic. You want real problems, real emotions, not some sort of barbie-doll plastic mold of a teenager.
(disclaimer: I don’t read many realistic fiction/contemporary books and I also do not analyze the characters a whole bunch so I’m sorry that that part was super short)

In a fantasy or adventure or basically anything that isn’t a realistic fiction book, I think that it’s a little different. Of course, you want a teenager who acts like a teenager, once again a thirty year old-acting teen is prooooobably not the best character, but I feel like there’s also certain ways you want a teen to act. You know, you don’t want a damsel-in-distress teen (unless it’s the beginning of the book and they get an arc) because you don’t want to read about other people helping the protagonist. They’re the protagonist, you want to read about them doing their own things! Usually, in a book you’re looking for a strong, determined, loyal* character who can hold their own and who is the star of the story, not some sort of side character while the action is taking place somewhere else.
*this is something I see in a lot of characters in books but obviously not all of them. Keep reading, more on this below.

But then, there’s a type of character we haven’t talked about. A type of character that a lot of people seem to love (I actually don’t fit into that category, something I’ve discovered recently). Morally grey characters are not really your typical YA protagonists.
Why?
Here’s the thing. There’s one trait that sets them apart from characters I discussed above: loyalty. Oh, also things like a moral compass…okay there are several things. Man, that sentence sounded dramatic and now I have to go add things to it.
Anyways. People love these ruthless, grey characters because they’re different. I think. I’m not one of these people so maybe I shouldn’t be speaking on this. But I had to add this in here! So onwards I go. Morally grey characters are different and oftentimes these really strong characters who are willing to do anything to get what they want which can be an admirable trait. And they can just be plain, downright fun.
Gosh, I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore.

Well, that’s a wrap on this post! Again, sorry for the content, it definitely wasn’t up to my usual level of chaos over here on my blog and wow maybe I should stop apologizing and actually just write something I’m proud of but nope I’ve been busy (and yet if you asked me to name a single thing I did this week I’d probably sit there staring at you (or my computer screen) blankly.).

Just a reminder to everyone that there is one week left to enter the giveaway for ‘A Bite of Revenge’ by Setayesh Kazempoor. Check out my post where I interviewed Setayesh, and then head on over to enter the giveaway! You can also find the giveaway here and the goodreads page for this book here.

What do you think of this post? Do you agree with me or have some different opinions? What sorts of things do you enjoy seeing in your protagonists?
As always, thank you so much for stopping by–it means the world! Everyone, please, stay safe and keep on reading!