I feel like the literary world has turned political. Writing has turned political. And I quite frankly HATE politics. I hate having to be politically correct. I don’t read Young Adult novels so that I can get dowsed with politics. Does every book have to have an agenda? I read for the sake of reading. I don’t read FICTION because I need help dealing with bullying or my self-confidence. I read Young Adult FICTION because I like it. I read SELF-HELP books because I want to better myself or work on an area where I might be struggling—like learning how to set boundaries or self-confidence issues.
I realize that there truly is nothing new under the sun, but just about every female main character I’ve read about recently has had the same struggle. They start out popular, mostly because they’re BFF with the most popular girl in school. Yet they have an understanding of how fragile their relationship is with this girl. And inevitably they do something that upsets Miss Popularity and they become a social pariah and target for bullying and harassment. Ex: What I Didn’t Say, Confessions of an Angry Girl, Torn, and of course Speechless which was the straw that broke the camels back. Seriously, this is not a new topic and while I’m usually okay with repetitive topics, sometimes a girl reaches her limit. And that limit is reached much more quickly when it’s a major plot line in every other book. ARGH!
I also realize that I’m different from a lot of people I know. I’m completely okay by myself. I won’t say I struggle with self-confidence issues in the way that a lot of people do. Do I have insecurities and things that I struggle with, yes, of course. And maybe my frustration comes because I have a hard time understanding things I haven’t experienced. I haven’t experienced large high schools. My high school was categorized as a 1A school (the smallest category in our state). I graduated with 40-60 people in my senior class. I knew all of the upperclassmen when I was younger and most of the lowerclassmen when I was older. And while there were some cliques in my school, we still socialized across all cliques. I might not have hung out with EVERYONE outside of school on weekends, but when I was paired up with someone on a project or had to sit beside someone in class, none of us ignored anyone else because we weren’t from the same cliques. We all talked. We all socialized. We all got along—for the most part. So I have a hard time understanding cliques in the way they’re constantly portrayed in young adult books. And I especially have a hard time understanding people who have their worlds turned upside down because they’re no longer part of the “popular” clique.
I’m not trying to beat up anyone who had a different high school experience. I’m not even trying to say that some people don’t experience the exact same thing we read about over and over in young adult books. I only say all of this to say that I feel like it’s becoming a cliché and I’m pretty sick of reading about it. Conflict is what drives a story, sure. But can we get some different conflicts? Where are my strong female characters that don’t care about the popular girls? Where are the girls that are happy with who they are despite what clique they’re from? Where are the girls who don’t feel the pressure to conform to popular opinion and social hierarchy? I know they’re out there. They do exists. And they are sorely lacking in young adult literature these days (or at least the books that have landed in front of me recently).
And I even get tired of the love triangle sometimes myself. There are other politically correct ideas that are popping up all over young adult literature these days that are also a source of frustration to me and completely past the point of becoming clichéd. Bullying, harassment, low self-esteem, problems setting boundaries…these are all truly difficult topics and things that we usually need help fixing if we’re dealing with them. But please people…don’t go to YA fiction to figure out how to do that. Go find some good self-help books. Talk to someone—a parent, teacher, counselor. Find a good therapist—doesn’t mean you’re loony. Seek God. Find something to get involved in and be a part of. Get help by all means. But don’t read fictional books for advice. That’s like telling people to watch soap operas for morality lessons.
*Sigh*…okay, rant over. For now.